Re-connecting with your ‘inner child’ as a winning strategy in teams.
‘Babies and children are more open because, to survive, they have to learn as much as they can!’
Are you just too adult?
As well as coaching, I love a facilitating team and leadership development events. The word ‘team build’ often has the impact of Marmite! Generating a high degree of dread for what the team might be asked to do! How many people say they ‘hate’ role play? Lots of reasons given, mostly based on the discomfort of performing, or feeling stupid, maybe looking stupid. Very normal ‘adult’ responses. Ones that often increase the older you get. So I ask, is being a grown up, stopping you from growing?
Think back, to the freedom of a favourite childhood game.
Here’s one of mine.
At about eight years old I wanted to be a show jumper, I never had a horse or riding lessons. That didn’t matter. I set up jumps of varying heights using chairs and poles. My brother would help me, and was supposed to time me, score me and commentate (frustratingly, he was only four yrs old). I would do the same for him. My Space Hopper was my horse! A lovely but sometimes stubborn creature that would occasionally refuse a jump! With some gentle encouragement though, my ‘horse’ and I would try again and usually succeed. I loved that game, the whole thing of taking what I had seen on TV and re-enacting it in my garden. I would have hours of fun working out how to create, build and fixing what didn’t work and then trying it out.
The honesty of children at play
Two aspects come to mind here. Firstly the beauty of a child absorbed in a game as they play alone. How they make the noises of cars, trains, light sabres etc., they move with purpose and have animated, blunt conversations with their imaginary characters in imaginary worlds. They have no idea of anything else around them. Mentally processing and rehearsing through play.
Secondly, when children play together. It’s not all roses is it? How often does it involve tears or tantrums? The sensitive stand out as much as the boisterous. They mimic each other, they copy adults, they laugh, they misunderstand, knees get cut, toys get broken, they sulk and yet very often want to do it all over again.
As studies by psychologist Alison Gopnik have shown, young children’s awareness levels are far vaster than an adults. They have a higher levels of neural transmitters activating in their brains in new situations than adults do. Babies and children are more open because to survive, they have to learn as much as they can!
The neurological and psychological impact of play and fun for teams.
The scenarios described above highlight what as adults we can crush; free, unencumbered engagement with ‘what if’ situations and problem solving. Toddlers and young children have the same needs to be accepted, heard, included and valued as adults. What they don’t have, before age of five is a high understanding of the judgement of others and social conformity.
The valuable outcomes of facilitated team activities
- Stimulates creativity – Imagining and predicting sparks new neural connections. Endorphins, dopamine and serotonin can all be released in ‘playful’ situations.
- Improves memory and remembering – Active over passive (eg listening to talks) tasks. ‘Doing’ is a more vivid experience, more readily stored and retrieved in our long-term memory.
- Generates feelings – Providing opportunity to understand and develop emotional intelligence. e.g. Having an adult tantrum, is a misplaced childish trait in the workplace.
- Enhances social connections and empathy – play, fun, and problem solving tasks can strengthen team bonds. Social connection is a key part in a person’s sense of well-being.
Need a quick ‘play time’ idea for your next team get together?
This can work in person and virtually.
Show the team pictures of 5 random items. E.g., A table lamp, a pen, a hairdryer, a computer mouse and a potato masher. Set a short time and have each team member come up with a brand new, unique use for each one. Take a vote on the favourite transformation.
Interested in a facilitated session with your team? Get in touch today.
Play allows you to see other perspectives, learn with and from others, see what makes others tick, know or test your limits. Play can be equally fun as it can be uncomfortable, yet because it is play it is the best place to work through the discomforts ready for reality.