A good investment: Hands-on learning for the team building experience.

Angela Woodrow
March 27, 2023

Recently, I helped an organization make good use of its time and talents.
An upcoming all-staff training for an organization I work with remotely needed some team-building activities. The Executive Director had his hands full of the usual day-to-day routines and responsibilities, as well as ensuring the agenda and activities for the annual all-staff training was applicable and easy for all to understand.
Requirement: activities for all staff to feel heard. Even those who are not primarily English-speaking.

I reviewed my resources and sent him 3 options to consider.
He selected an option needing a lot of 'pre-made' kits to successfully create a great learning experience. I told him not to worry-- I could create a ''workshop-in-a-box' for him to unpack the night before the training to 'plug & play' on the day.

I want to highlight the importance of asking for outside support for training. Often training and development of staff is not a 'budget line item' for small non-profits. Connecting with outside experts who will take the time to learn your organization's culture, mission and vision will ensure you are getting the best value for dollars spent on training equipment and support.

Hands-on learning is best for all. It creates a shared experience for all to discuss. 20 minutes to complete the activity and 20 minutes to debrief and discuss the results made for a successful and fun training activity.

Here are a few observations on the custom 'workshop-in-a-box' was so successful:
I have done A LOT of training. I have had many years of classroom preparation as an artist in residence. Knowing the rhythm and culture of the organization allowed me to create 10 team kits to facilitate learning successfully.

Also, as the Executive Director reviewed the contents of the custom 'workshop-in-a-box' via a zoom meeting the day before, he made a few modifications to the simple-to-follow instructions that created an important learning moment for all. He asked his directors to be present but not to speak at all during the activity. (This demonstrates the 'buy-in' from the top.) He wanted to highlight the importance of all the staff having input so he created a 'learning moment' where the department leaders had to listen and follow directions from their staff. Clarity around why this particular training for both directors and all staff was being used created more opportunities to learn 'hands-on' by altering 'the usual communication' to highlight how the teams can improve and grow.

He was able to think about this aspect as he was not trying to make the kits. Making the kits was not the best use of his time or talents. Were the kits 'amazing'? No. They were the essential 'bits and bobs' to facilitate discussion around the learning moment.

I can't emphasize enough the importance of discussion time to reflect and share feedback as part of the learning experience. The activity itself was a bit whimsical. (We all should remember not to take ourselves too seriously). Reflection is a powerful learning tool for the whole organization. The Executive Director valued the time and space for all to share in the debrief. Allowing the staff, who are usually just 'go-go-go', time to practice sharing feedback and observations strengthens the trust of team members. Honoring the practice of sharing feedback and vital observations in the day-to-day workflow is what makes an organization stronger. The customer benefits when the stakeholder trusts and is invested in making teamwork seamless.

This is what nourishes an organization. The practice of team building habits.
Asking for outside help with training and development is a good investment. No one can do it all.

I have a lot more thoughts about the importance of organizational growth and development for all--
and why hands-on learning is vital to strengthen organizational teams. I also have a lot of thoughts about training and development for volunteer boards. I will share them in future posts.

Because nourishing organizational growth and development is a good investment.


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