She split the class up into groups of 7 and we form a circle with our chairs. She hands us a sheet of paper with our tasked assignment – stranded in the desert.

Image result for team mountainI think this exercise has different scenarios also: 1) airplane crash on side of mountain 2) hikers lost in woods with someone injured or 3) boat sunk next to deserted island.

One common thing in the exercise is that there is a list of the limited supplies the team has at their disposal. Instructions: Figure out what you would do and how you would handle it. And you can only use your past experiences…no making up survival skills.

Now do you remember this exercise?

There is always almost immediate yelling, jousting for the chance to speak and certain division about who wants to stay put versus who wants to leave. At the end of the exercise our professor always read an experts opinion on how to actually survive in a scenario like the one she gave us.


There is one thing that she did that was different than any other place that I’ve done this exercise. She designated one person to sit outside of the group as an observer. She tasked that person to take notes and watch how team dynamics form from chaos to cohesion to chaos just by words and trust.

I remember being one of those outside observers. And because of it, and other professional experiences, I can now notice team dynamic issues that are consequential to progress towards a desired outcome.

You see, the exercise in class wasn’t about the daunting scenario more than it was about how a team makes decisions and individuals follow them. Here are the TOP 3 things that I learned about what’s needed for a team move forward well.

  1. Every person must learn the skill of vulnerability
    Some people are extroverted by nature, if that’s you, you don’t have to talk all the time. Be humble enough to notice who has the skill-set and invite them to talk. Remember, some people are introverted, and if that’s you, get out of your comfort zone and be vulnerable enough to speak up even if the outcome may not be exactly as planned. And yes, be willing to say “I was wrong, you were right.”
  2. Gain emotional awareness
    When making team decisions, knowing how each person is taking in the knowledge being shared is a vital skill. Body language doesn’t lie even though words may say different. Use what you’ve gathered to guide you in how to speak with an individual. One type of speech doesn’t fit all. Having emotional awareness makes it certain that every person’s knowledge and perspective is on the table and that they, at the very least, feel heard.
  3. Show honest transparency
    This can be understood in a few ways (ex. no hidden intentions, open about your feelings towards an idea or person) but the way I’m talking about is to have the mental skill and strength, if you are the leader, to not act like you are the observer only and know that you are an intricate part of the dynamics of the team itself. Some leaders like to reflect on how a team is doing objectively but often don’t factor in themselves. They unwittingly assume that what they’re doing and saying is the right way.You can be saying the “right things” in the way needed to move forward but if the team isn’t on that level yet you have to be honest and transparent in your reflections and assessment of the team to factor your actions in as well as a catalyst or hindrance. Come down and walk with your team up the mountain so they can understand what you were trying to yell from the top!

Wherever your team is at this moment…wherever you are in your leadership at this moment…however you are feeling at this moment… #PushForward


2 Responses

  1. Amen. Thanks for your keen insight and expressions on “Team Dynamics.” An eye opener, indeed!

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