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Seminar Topics: Team Dynamics (faculty module)

The Corps leadership projects operate the same as project teams in business and industry.  It is important for students to know how to work effectively as a team, both as a member and as a leader.  This Module is designed to help students form, develop, and manage effective teams, and to build skills as team members and leaders.  There are many good books and manuals in print that can be used to supplement coverage of this section.  Some you may wish to consider:

  • Pocket Guide (cost is under $10/each):
    • The Team Memory Jogger: A Pocket Guide for Team Members, 1995,GOAL/QPC. Available from GOAL/QPC at 1-800-643-4316 or
  • Full-size Texts (choose either of the following):
    • The Team Handbook, 1988, Peter Schotes & Brian Joiner
    • Radical Team Handbook, 2000, John Redding.

It is recommended that this topic be covered as soon as Leadership Teams have been formed.  You may use any or all of the topics covered in the Student Learning Module—some may be covered as a group; others may be assigned to students to do on their own.

Topics included in Seminar Topics: Team Dynamics (student module):


After Leadership Teams have been formed, the first task is to facilitate the development of a strong, cohesive team.  The purpose of team building is to form a more supportive, trusting and cohesive group. This can begin with the use of simple team builders.  They are simple techniques used to reduce anxiety and get everyone excited and energized. Team builders can set a positive tone for the meeting, help build relationships and motivate people to participate. Team builders can help an established group learn more about how to work with each other, solve problems and be more effective.  Use any of the following as an initial team building activity at the beginning of the semester.

  • AUTOGRAPH SHEET: Participants are given a sheet with various traits on it.  The objective is to find a person in the group who fits one of the descriptions and get that person’s autograph next to the trait.  When making up the list, be creative, but include traits pertinent to the group.  Each person may sign each sheet only once.  Here are some examples:

Likes broccoli _____________
Balances his/her checkbook ______________
Has been to a fortune teller ______________
Speaks another language _______________

  • DO YOU LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR: The group stands in a circle with room in the center.  (Best if played with groups of 20 or more.)  One person begins in the circle and says to an individual in the group, “_________, do you love your neighbor?” The individual pointed out can either say, “Yes I love my neighbors _______ and _______, but I REALLY love people ___________ (wearing green, from CO, etc.)” or “No, I do not love my neighbors ________ and _________.”  If the individual uses the first phrase, all members of the group with that characteristic must find a new spot in the circle at least three spaces from they are standing.  The person with no space (last person remaining) becomes the caller.  If the individual uses the second phrase, his/her two “neighbors” must switch places with one another.  The group members move in quickly to “lose” their spaces.  The last of the two becomes the caller.
  • HOG CALL: Break the group into pairs.  Each pair must choose two things; a machine and an animal.  They then have to decide who is which.  The pairs then divide up on opposite sides of the room.  Everyone must close their eyes (if they feel comfortable), and by making only the noise that their character would make, they must find their partner.  When they find their partner, they can open their eyes and wait until everyone else is done.  Note:  When conducting an activity with eyes closed, have the group raise their hands in front of their chests as “bumpers,” and have at least one person (facilitator) acting as a spotter. 
  • BITE THE BAG: The team is instructed to form a large circle.  The facilitator then places a brown grocery bag in the center of the circle.  Each member must pick up the bag with his/her teeth while standing on one foot with both hands held behind his/her back.  After the entire group has successfully completed this task, the facilitator cuts one to two inches off the top of the bag.  If a team member touches the floor with his/her foot (or any other part of the body), the member is disqualified.  After each round, more of the bag is cut.  The last team member who successfully picks up the bag without falling, wins!  This exercise, similar to a reversed limbo contest, can be a lot of fun and a great icebreaker for new team members.
  • CATCH ME IF YOU CAN: Players should be paired up.  All players divide into two lines (facing in) shoulder to shoulder, with partners facing each other.  Participants should be given approximately 30 seconds to look at their partners, taking in all details about the individual.  The leader then instructs the two lines to turn and face away from the center.  One or both lines has 15-20 seconds to change something about their appearance (i.e. change a watch to different wrist, unbutton a button, remove a belt, etc.).  The change must be discrete, but visible to the partner.  The players again turn in to face each other and have 30 seconds to discover the physical changes that have been made.  Players get to interact with each other and have fun!
  • HUM THAT TUNE: Each person in the group is given a small piece of paper with the name of a nursery rhyme or other song written on the paper. (i.e. “Row, row, row your boat,” “Rock-a-bye baby,” etc.)  All of the people who are given the song must hum that tune and fine everyone else singing the song.  They then form a group.

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Team Skills

The next step is to help students develop team goals, roles, ground rules and ways to work effectively with each other.  The following exercise is designed for use with the Team Memory Jogger  and can be used for this purpose, and should be done as soon as Leadership teams are formed.

Team Success Factors

  1. Well defined team member roles and responsibilities (see TMJ chapter 1)
  • Taking responsibility; following through on commitments; contributing to discussions; actively listening; getting your message across; giving useful feedback; accepting feedback easily
  • Assignment: complete and discuss checklists and exercises on pp. 6, 17, 18, 24-5, and 27 in TMJ.  Discuss ways to ensure that all members assume all these responsibilities; reach consensus, and record.
  1. Shared Team Purpose and Goals  (see TMJ chapter 2)
  • Purpose Statement (Shared agreement on what and why)
    • Provides team foundation and focus; defines team succes
    • Purpose Statement should be clear, understandable, brief, and inspirational
  • Goals
    • Goals provide Purpose specifics
    • Goals should be specific, measurable, and challenging
    • Should have team, individual, and stakeholder (customer) goals

Assignment: Review guidelines on p. 35 in TMJ, and write your own team Purpose Statement (brief, concise, inspirational) and goals for the semester. Remember to make goals specific, measurable, challenging. Include customer goals (i.e., what you hope the participants in your team project will get from the experience); Individual goals should include Performance Goals (e.g., grades,) and Growth Goals (e.g., learn effective team skills, etc.).  Discuss, reach consensus, and record.

  1. Established Ground Rules (TMJ, p. 53)
  • Guidelines for how the team will operate and how members will interact
    • Should be developed by consensus and enforced by all
    • Vary from team to team, but should include team expectations for attendance and participation; how team will allocate tasks and make decisions; basic conversational courtesies, etc.
  • Assignment: Read and discuss TMJ pp. 53-56; Draft a set of ground rules that include team expectations for attendance and participation; how team will allocate tasks and make decisions; basic conversational courtesies, etc. What will the team do to enforce the ground rules?  Discuss, reach consensus, and record.
  1. Productive Meetings (TMJ, chapter 3)
  • Many meetings are a frustrating waste of time when people leave feeling like nothing was accomplished
  • This can be avoided with a few basic team practices and tools—see TMJ p. 73 checklist
    • Meeting Process (TMJ, p. 74): Plan-Start-Conduct-Close-Follow up
    • Agenda (TMJ, p. 76): Items to be discussed; by whom; desired outcomes; time; evaluation
    • Meeting roles (TMJ, p. 80): Meeting leader; notetaker; timekeeper 
    • Evaluation (TMJ, p. 85)
    • Logistics (TMJ 58) When, where, and how often will the team meet?

Assignment: Review chapter 3 in TMJ and discuss how your team will implement these meeting tools.  Agree on meeting logistics and record.  It is recommended that team members rotate meeting roles; discuss how your team will manage rotation and what tasks will go with each role (e.g., it is best for the meeting leader to prepare the agenda and lead the team through it; timekeeper makes sure all items are covered in time allocated; notetaker records minutes, etc. Who will be responsible for meeting evaluations?)  Discuss how the meeting leader(s) will work with the team leader to manage the meeting process (especially the planning and follow-up steps).  It is important to maintain copies of all meeting agendas and evaluations—when and where will this be done?  Discuss; reach consensus; and record.

  1. Complete and Compile all of the above into a useful and accessible format for use throughout the semester.
  • Refer to the remaining chapters in TMJ for guidance on team problem-solving and decision making; conflict resolution; and other useful team tools.
  • To supplement this 1 hour exercise, you may also assign Effective Meetings.

Other Team skills important for effective Leadership Projects are covered in Student Modules, and may be assigned and discussed as desired:  Feedback: How to Give It and Receive ItBrainstormingConflict Management and Resolution, and Time Management.  Note that the Student Learning Module contains exercises for practicing these team skills and for understanding students’ own strengths and weaknesses as team members and leaders.

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