Monday, May 13, 2013

Team "Ice Breaker" - Affirming Strengths

I recently attended a day-long retreat with the my coworkers, members of the Department of Social and Natural Sciences at Franklin University. To begin the retreat, the facilitator did an "ice-breaker" activity that I thought was well-conceived and motivating. I'll describe the list below and share what happened for me in the activity.

The Activity: Identifying Peer Strengths
In this activity, each member of the group takes a turn receiving feedback from their peers for one minute. When it is your turn, all other members of the group share a strength or positive characteristic that they have noticed in the individual. This goes on for one minute, and the individual writes down all of the comments from their peers.

This kind of activity is unique and important because it takes what is called an "appreciative" stance - it focuses on what is working, on the positive characteristics of an individual or group, their strengths. I have done similar activities before, and I very often come away from the activity feeling energized and affirmed.

My Strengths
According to my coworkers at Franklin, the following are my own strengths and positive characteristics. I'll write them out as I wrote them during the session. They might not be totally cohesive, but you will hopefully get a feel for the strength of the exercise:
  • Resilient
  • Funny, friendly
  • Positive
  • Creative, solution-finder
  • Persistent
  • Flexible
  • Adaptive to changing environment
  • Student-centered
  • Organized
  • Articulate
  • Forward-thinking
  • Warm/welcoming, friendly
  • Not antagonistic
  • Hard working
  • Thoughtful
  • Good whistler*
My Thoughts on the Experience
This was a good way to reaffirm some of the things that I might do well. It helped me see how I am perceived by my peers, somewhat, and helped me to recognize some of the things that I didn't realize I was good at.

Of course, to move forward successfully, we must also address, manage and correct our weaknesses and problems. However, in my experience, by focusing most of my energy on the positive and on the things that I do well, I achieve a more positive identity and am able to move forward using what comes more naturally to me.

I definitely recommend trying this activity out at a team meeting - it is a good way to help reset the focus of the organization, particularly when a spirit of negativity or criticism may be pervasive.

* This comment was made by my coworker whose office is next to mine. I hope I am a good whistler, mainly because I do find myself whistling often during the day. Actually, I once had a college roommate who was angry because I would whistle in the morning as I prepared for classes while he was still asleep. If you are reading, former roommate, I apologize.
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