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  • Writer's pictureBrett Jaffe

7 Team Building Activities to Help Climb the Lencioni Trust Pyramid

If you run a business or any semblance of a team, buy and read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. Today. Now if possible.

Trust is the foundation of all highly functional teams. In his book, Lencioni takes a reverse approach to show how an absence of any aspects of his pyramid, starting with an absence of trust, leads to an inattention to results.

The football quarterback must trust that his receiver is running the right route, since he must often release the ball into open space far before the receiver gets there. The NASCAR driver must trust that his pit crew that his wheels don’t fall off mid-lap. The employee who trusts his leader will be more open and honest about his concerns and actions.

It all starts with trust.

For the purposes of this article, we are going to address vulnerability-based trust, which is a much deeper confidence that you can be vulnerable with your teammates. This type of trust allows you take risks, ask for help, admit mistakes, or confront other team members without fear of retribution or resentment.

Some of the best exercises is about self-awareness and communication and are most visibly exhibited through a tool called the Johari Window:

The Johari Window has four “panes” of awareness cross-referencing things you do and don’t know about yourself with things others may or may not know about you. The goal for these exercises is to move items from your Blind Spot and your Hidden area into the open window on the top left.

Here are 7 sample exercises you can use to help build team trust:

  1. Personal History Exercise Purpose: To move items from your Hidden area to the Open window. Activity: Have each team member answer 5 questions about their personal lives. Sample questions include your hometown, first job, worst job, number of siblings, greatest fear, or something that nobody else knows about you. Each person will share this publicly with the rest of the team (leaders included). This is a great way to start a team building day.

  2. One Thing Purpose: To move items from your Blind Spot into the Open window. Activity: Have each team member write down the most admirable trait for each of the other people on the team. Go around the room person-to-person and have each person reveal that trait to the selected individual. Next, have each team member write down the ONE THING each person has to START or STOP doing for the good of the team. Follow the same process, person-to-person, having the other team members reveal that one thing. Lastly, have each individual make their “one thing” commitment for that year based on feedback from the team. Have each member review their “one thing” quarterly to see how they are progressing. You should conduct this activity annually.

  3. What Makes You Tick Purpose: To move items from multiple windows into the Open window and improve team communication so team members approach each other differently to succeed in work and personal interaction. Activity: Have each team member complete a DISC and Driving Forces profile assessment. Bring in a trainer to review what the assessment means and the best way to communicate with different personality styles. The trainer will run through exercises helping explain personality traits, strengths, weaknesses, and a plan on how potential clashes can be alleviated. One additional idea is to post the DISC profile graph in a visible place (i.e. outside each person’s cube) to make it easier for others to communicate with them.

  4. Three Truths and a Lie Purpose: To move items from the Hidden area to the Open window Activity: Each team member should write down on 4 pieces of paper three truths and one lie about themselves. The lie should be somewhat believable. Go around the group and, one at a time, have each member read the truths and lie in a random order. Once they are done, the rest of the group should discuss as a team and try to uncover the lie. This one is often a lot of fun!

  5. Blind Drawing Purpose: To focus on communication and interpretation of instructions. Activity: Divide team into groups of two with each member of the team sitting back-to-back. One person should have a picture (i.e. and elephant standing on a ball) and the other should have a pencil and paper. The person with the picture provides instructions to the one drawing using only adjectives and directions (i.e. you cannot tell the person to “draw and elephant on a ball”).

  6. Perfect Square Purpose: To focus on communication and leadership styles. Activity: Gather your team in a circle and have them sit down. Provide blindfolds. Provide the group with a long piece of rope tied together at the end. Instruct them to form a perfect square without removing the blindfolds. You can vary the difficulty by randomly instructing a team member not to speak, or let them come up with a plan ahead of time before the blindfolds are put on, but then once the blindfolds are on nobody can speak, etc… You uncover several different leadership styles with this activity.

  7. Problem Family Tree Purpose: Self-Discovery and a means to see how often seemingly small issues, when combined with other seemingly small issues, can create larger problems. Activity: On a piece of paper, instruct each team member to write down a specific major problem they have at work. Make sure it is not directed at a specific person, but rather a procedure, product, or non-human problem they believe exists. Below that, have them wrote down two things they think cause that problem (again, making sure to not mention specific people). Draw a line from those ideas to the main problem much like a family tree. Continue this process as far down the “tree” as they can go. Discuss the results as a group.

These are just a few of hundreds of possible activities you can use with your team to open up communication and build trust. Run trust-building exercises on a regular basis and incorporate other social events outside of the work environment.

Trust Building is part of the EOS process and can also be done separately with training, assessments, and other exercises.


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We take businesses through a process of Vision, Strategy, Execution, and Impact through a combined approach encompassing meeting facilitation, teaching, 1-on-1 coaching, and consulting.  There are some key business tenets found in major operating systems including Scaling Up and EOS along with unique needs of each business where we draw from various strategic sources.



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