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Pressure, Meet Play: A Guide to Picking the Right Game (Part III)

A great team creates more value than the sum of its individual parts. To achieve this status, we must set up each individual for success. A team can’t function well if its members don't have clarity on their own role, which includes understanding the importance of their work at different levels of the organization.

So what can teams do to make sure each person has clarity on their role, value and impact?

In the second part of this series, we covered the Traditional Retreat – 3 pressure points that build a strong organizational foundation. When a good plan is combined with compassionate, thoughtful leadership (see Part I), teams are prepared for success.

But how do teams celebrate together and ensure the work continues to be meaningful?

In this article, we cover 3 final pressure points that strike an important balance between process and results. Individuals need to validate their feelings, thoughts, and actions. Organizations need to improve their operation and value proposition.

Let’s dig in.

Value and Appreciation

At the intersection of “What” and “Feeling” is Value and Appreciation. When individual contributions are fully trusted and utilized, people have the space to flourish and show off their talents without the fear of being micromanaged.

When workspaces are experiencing Value and Appreciation as a pressure point, people may lack a sense of worth or acknowledgement. As simple as complimenting someone for their work sounds, it’s amazing how many employee successes we take for granted and how often letting them go unnoticed can affect dependability or performance over time. This is true for individuals who have just joined a new team as well as for senior employees who have been with the team for many years. Encouraging behaviors and praising positive results will cultivate a caring community that attracts like-minded individuals.

To address this pressure point, we suggest games that allow for creative expression like a Scavenger Hunt. Open-ended search prompts can range from whimsical (i.e. find something blue and larger than your head) to sentimental (i.e. find something that represents your superpower). By honing in on a desired conversation, scavenger hunts bring forward stories about people and their state of mind. As an added bonus, the game gets people out of their seats and exploring their environments through a new lens. Perhaps nothing is more powerful than empowering people to be curious and appreciate what’s around them.

Clarity and Complexity

At the intersection of “How” and “Thinking” is Clarity and Complexity. When people communicate genuinely and have strategies to address conflict, leaders will benefit from a team that coordinates well and leans into the systems in place.

When workspaces are experiencing Clarity and Complexity as a pressure point, it’s likely that people are uncomfortable with the current processes. That discomfort might be due to a minor clarification needed to unblock progress, a major structural issue with the way information flows through the team, or anything in between. When everyone knows who to talk to and where to go for help, teams can tackle any problem with confidence.

To address this pressure point, we suggest games that challenge players to communicate over different mediums. Visionary is one of our favorite customizable games. Like the popular game, Pictionary, players attempt to communicate an image. Whereas in Pictionary, one player knows a secret word and tries to draw it as fast as possible while their teammates guess, in Visionary, one player is given an image (the stranger the better) and has 2 minutes to describe it to an active team of drawers (who don’t get to see the image).

The goal is for the original image and drawing to look as similar as possible, based solely on the Visionary’s instructions. To be successful, teams will have an underlying system that helps the describer share more details in less time. Inevitably, the image comparisons will never look identical, which offers moments of levity between real reflections of how to improve.

Impact and Legacy

At the intersection of “Why” and “Acting” is Impact and Legacy. It can be very difficult to push through a project or moment of adversity when you don’t see how your work matters long-term. Reflecting on success can boost energy and keep the team focused on the right things.

When workspaces are experiencing Impact and Legacy as a pressure point, people seek a greater sense of pride or accomplishment over the outcomes of their efforts. Those terms mean different things to different people. Some want work to be seen and felt, while others want work to look and feel right. There's no right answer, but not understanding the range of perspectives will be costly to everyone involved.

To address this pressure point, we suggest games like Telestrations where players quickly get to see how their contributions affect an outcome. We particularly love this game because it’s easy to learn and activates everyone in fast-paced rounds. Based on the concept of Telephone – whispering a word or phrase around a circle – Telestrations adds drawing and time pressure dynamics.

Alternating between drawing a word or phrase and guessing what it is from the drawing, players pass dry-erasable booklets around for 1 rotation. To avoid a lot of waiting, every player starts with a booklet and different start words. At the end, each person reveals the progression of drawings and guesses in their booklet, usually resulting in some hilarious misinterpretations.

There are plenty of clever ways to debrief this game for learning insights, as well as opportunities to play virtually through free web apps like Gartic Phone.

Pathways of Validation

Regularly valuing people’s contributions, showing why they matter, and practicing communication skills all validate a team’s process and results. Organizations thrive when they have managers who can celebrate and promote success while encouraging colleagues to strive for more.

With so many different learning and working styles, no workplace is the same. Neither are games, which makes them effective spaces to simulate scenarios, as well as reflect on attitudes and behaviors. Whether you are an individual contributor, team leader, or professional facilitator, we believe in adding play to your toolbelt. Just remember, the magic is in the game setup and debrief.


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