Team training: Creating connection despite physical distance
I shared my experiences on digital team training with Dialog – the magazine of the Ludwigsburg University of Public Administration and Finance. Background: I am a lecturer at the university and thus always have the opportunity to share new impulses to the professionals of tomorrow, and provide much needed inspiration.
In the second semester, the students of the bachelor program “Public Management”, are required to manage a project in a team. I had the exciting task of creating the foundation for collaboration with a team training session. Anyone who thinks back to group work in school, and university, probably remembers that such collaborative tasks, was by no means always worked on jointly. Instead, the burden often rested on the shoulders of individuals. These situations can unfold differently – by allowing a team to grow together mentally and having some fun along the way before commencing with the actual project.
Digital team training
In the past winter semester, I wanted to take a new approach and make the team training purely digital. Just to be sure: Face-to-face meetings can never be completely replaced. But with the right tools, you can still prepare individual students optimally for their joint task.
Team building – with play and interaction
The most important elements for team building are interaction and communication. I decided on a playful approach to strengthen the sense of community and team spirit. Different learning projects were used, which provided variety.
The important thing about this approach is that the team automatically grows together as a result of the knowledge gained. Unlike familiar get-to-know-you exercises, where the individual stands alone in front of the others, this one is about team dynamics. The students quickly realized that they managed the learning projects better and faster when they pulled together instead of struggling alone.
Team theory: creating a knowledge base
However, this playful approach by no means accounted for all the work. I also wanted to introduce the students to the theoretical side of team development. An exciting guiding question was the difference between a group and a team. We also took a close look at Tuckman’s phase model and discussed the famous terms Norming, Storming, Forming and Performing. Our theoretical topic was how to pass through the orientation, conflict, organization and integration phases as quickly as possible in order to efficiently find productive cooperation.
Team – an interaction of individuals
It is always good to remember in team training that a team consists of individuals. It is therefore important to crystallize personal strengths and weaknesses. For this purpose, the exercise called “team puzzle” was our tool with which the students could reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses. One important insight gained from this is who would like to take on which task in the project work. On this basis, we were then able to discuss the wishes and priorities of the team members together and work out rules of conduct for the project period. Tangible results of the team training are therefore obvious.
Digital team training: my conclusion
As mentioned at the beginning, personal contact ultimately remains irreplaceable. Digitally, however, the situation is nevertheless promising, because suitable tools such as white board solutions and break-out rooms can be used to create interaction and interpersonal closeness. What added charm for one participant was that she could learn in a cozy atmosphere instead of a seminar room, and that coffee was always at hand. For me, definitely an experiment worth repeating!
Click here for the complete German edition of the Dialog magazine: