How well do you know your team mates? Party time!

I was a newbie on a team which was there for couple of years. I met them once at an annual meeting.

– Do you know Oxana, my colleague asked a team member, as an introduction when we met for dinner.

– Yes, he said.

– Yes, I confirmed. He knows “office Oxana”. He does not know “after 8pm Oxana”.

We all laughed.

We often spend more time with team members than with our family members. Considerably more, when projects are intense and demanding. Yet, we tend to know one side of the person’s story. Some choose privacy, and are very much protective of that. I understand that. They might have met someone who took advantage of their vulnerability. Some open up easily and are OK to let others know other dimensions they live in. There are also those who make sure everyone on the team knows about the lattest trick their puppy did. And that is also fine.

The degree to which people open up depends on their history and character. The extent to which it affects a project depends on the project environment and the project manager. As the Winter Holidays approach and end-of-year parties are being scheduled, I aspire to use this opportunity to get to know eachother and to learn what makes people tick. Careful party planning is warranted if you want it to be appealing to both introverts and extroverts.

I tailor make it each time for each team and remain prepared to adapt. I have a couple of ideas in my sleeve from which I choose, depending on the stage the project is and how well the team members know eachother. For new teams, “two truths and a lie” is fun, especially if you announce a prize for the person who “catches” most of lies. For team who worked together longer, I choose fun challenges, where they get to “work” with team members they have less interaction with during the year. One game is to have them design solutions in the shape of fairy tales. You would be surprised by the springs of imagination. In multi-cultural teams, it is interesting to ask each team member to bring a gift specific to their country/culture. It can be a song, a dish, a story …. . Also, if decorating a Christmas tree is something you do in your cultures/the team’s culture, decorate it together. No need to cut trees. I use a flipchart and post-it notes in different shapes on which each team member gets to write a New Year wish or more for him/herself and for the team. Have fun!

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