How to Get Your Team Members to Talk

As a team leader, have you ever gone into a meeting and asked for feedback and no one wanted to say anything? This can happen for a lot of different reasons…. Sometimes people are concerned about repercussions; others do not know how to “complain” without hurting feelings; some are intimidated in a group setting; etc., etc. How can you overcome these issues and get communication from everyone that will be productive?

  1. Level the Team Playing Field—Let everyone know that all their ideas and thoughts are valid, and that they are all equal members of the team when it comes to sharing ideas for teamwork efficiency. Since they are the ones doing the actual work, their feedback is essential.
  2. Give Time to Think in Advance- It is too difficult and often stressful for people to be put on the spot: “What do you think about X?” Give them some advance communication about the meeting and its purpose. If you do not want to give them an “agenda” beforehand, at least let them know you would like them to think about _____ and bring their ideas to the meeting.
  3. Ask questions on how to improve specific items. “Some patients are complaining about the wait time. What can WE do to improve on this?” This puts the emphasis on the issue –and not asking to single out team members who may be causing the problem (though this may be revealed in discussion). You want solutions, not blame.
  4. Give positive responses for all ideas put forth. Nothing will shut people up faster than a negative comment. If people are risking judgement of their ideas, you as the team leader need to at least thank them for sharing. Make note of all ideas that are brought to the meeting.
  5. Follow-up with team members on actions that will be taken as a result of their team discussion. If you do not do this and things never change, people will start to feel that these kinds of sessions are a waste of time.
  6. If you try this and people are still silent, try again after a week or two. Don’t give up.


How to Make Team Building Lessons Last

You had your team meeting. You hired a wonderful consultant, who was great with your team and helped them to improve communications and boosted team spirit. The feedback was great and people even started using new ways to communicate with each other back at the workplace. Over the course of the year, however, everything went back to the way it was before. What happened?

Having a team building activity or communications training is a great way to get people to feel more comfortable interacting and working together. It opens the door to change and improved efficiency. However, people do not change their behavior in one day. It took years for them to establish the habits they have; one day is not going to undo a person’s “modus operandi.” Yes, they may start to use new techniques, but it is just like listening to the wonderful motivational speaker: you feel pumped up and ready to take on the world — for awhile.

The answer to sustained improvement in team performance is regular feedback and reinforcement. Doing this once a year is not enough, and you will continue to start at square one if that is all you do. In order to maximize the lessons and small changes brought on by the initial team building session, we suggest the following:

  1. Thorough debriefing of the team building session—and its impact on what happens in the work place.
  2. Regular team meetings in person or by teleconference—either monthly or quarterly. These meetings should always revisit team goals for improvement, what has been taking place, giving recognition to those who are making efforts to change/improve/embrace the communication methods or processes taught at the team building session. Find out what people felt was/is useful and how it is improving personal and team performance.
  3.  Management must acknowledge the importance of improving teamwork skills. If it is not perceived as being important to the leader(s), the team members will not pay much attention to it either. There is no point in throwing a lot of money at “team building”—if there is not effort to sustain and improve.


The mark of a great team is continuous improvement. A team building activity or workshop is not a quick fix. It is a door-opener to new ideas, behavioral changes and processes. In a single session, a good team building company can get your team to look through this door to the possibilities on the other side. It is up to management to insure that they go though it and continue on.


“The Name of the Game”- team building exercise.

This fun, thought-provoking activity comes straight from the Pepperdine Graduate School of Business. It was used during student orientation with great results.

Divide your group into teams of 4- 10 people. Each team draws a word or phrase out of a hat. These can be words that support your company mission statement, or words that describe great teams; you can use the words listed at the end of this column. The challenge is that each team needs to create a game that will illustrate the word or phrase selected. The game should be relatively easy to play, and take 20 minutes or less. Teams may use art items to create game materials if necessary. Participants should draw upon their own experiences and brainstorm with their teammates in order to come up with a game. The time frame given for design and creation is anywhere from 1- 2 hours. In the final hour, each team presents its game, and everyone gets a chance to play it for a brief period.

An easy example: “Clear communication” – the difficulty and importance of this is easily demonstrated in the old game of “Telephone”—where one person whispers a phrase to the next person, and that person whispers it to the next person in line and so on. The last person to get the phrase usually hears something that has little to do with the original phrase.

Creating a game makes perfect sense as a team building exercise, because designing something is an engaging team activity, and a “game” is something that we all have experience with. Additionally, it is not that easy to connect a concept to a game, but requires good brainstorming and group problem solving— all which are elements of a solid team building exercise. Explain to your group that they should be very open in their thinking; games take many forms— board games, playground activities, game shows, things like Charades, etc., etc.,

Here are some words you can use for your group:

The Written Word (Poorly written= easily misinterpreted)

Ask the Stupid Question (what happens when we do not ask)



“Two heads are better than one.”

Failure to plan= plan to fail

Call us if you have questions about this activity: 800-790-GAME.