A few years ago, at the recommendation of a very valued board member leading our personnel committee, Visually Impaired Preschool Services (VIPS) worked with Jeff Peden during a 90 day Team Building Workshop. Our goal was to assist our 30+ member staff from three different locations, in two different states, to come together as one team instead of operating as three independent offices. There were territorial issues to overcome, communication barriers due to distance and lack of collegial support among various agency functions. Jeff started off by helping us through process to verbalize and address three targeted outcomes defined by the group as a whole:
- To learn to care for and improve ourselves as individuals so we could better care for our clients;
- To get to know each other on a more personal level as schedules and distance can be a great hindrance; and
- To improve the channel of communications from top to bottom and vice versa by learning skills for comfortable and safe communication.
Jeff’s leadership and expertise helped us through a process which ultimately met all three of our outcomes through various entertaining and engaging exercises inclusive of all team members. It was “fun” learning about each other, sharing information, understanding roles, and learning tools to hold each other accountable to meeting individual goals. Barriers were brought down, friendships developed across state lines, non-traditional partnering occurred across areas of function and communication became much more comfortable. During the process we identified what VIPS team members felt were the characteristics of a great team:
- Clear Expectations
- United Purpose
- Having fun!
After the 90 day learning, we gathered as a team, independent of Jeff, to use the characteristics consensus and our new communication skills to come together and define our Core Values as one agency. We then constructed what we call the “VIPS Code of Conduct” and it is now posted in every office. This Code contains a list of action statements which define how we will treat each other through team partnerships, during communication and throughout all other interactions.
That Code of Conduct was taken even one step further and used to develop a self-evaluation tool to be used during annual review. The evaluation tool helps to assess each team member’s success in operating under the Code of Conduct and exhibiting the Characteristics of a Great Team Member. This tool also allowed team members to discuss their evaluation of the agency success at supporting this “defined culture”. So this important Team Building exercise transformed into a culture and value support system and measurement tool.
Several years later, we are still employing the techniques learned from our time with Jeff Peden.
Diane M. Nelson
Visually Impaired Preschool Services