LME for off-site team building

Here’s another interesting and useful field report from Tom Hickok at DoD. Thanks Tom.


I used the leadership metaphor explorer (LME) cards yesterday in a team-building off-site. The group that I support in the Department of Defense environment almost doubled in the last few months, from about 18 to about 30. The off-site was planned to be largely a fun event for this group, with pizza lunch with time afterwards to socialize and relax. But there was a team-building exercise at the front end and I used the LME cards as part of it. The design of the exercise was for the division director to make some comments about some changes ahead. The purpose of those comments was to get the group thinking seriously about change/change management.

When the director finished speaking, I followed on his talk with the theme of “initiating change within a sea of change.” After a word about the purpose of teambuilding, I asked the 23 participants to browse the cards, and pick one that they related to in some way, or spoke to them about the challenges/opportunities ahead. They did that, and reconvened, with chairs arranged in a circle to allow good face to face contact. I asked them to share briefly about why they picked the card they did, and any brief story behind it. Everybody shared willingly, without extra pressure. A few people shared about parts of their personal background that were previously undisclosed. Others talked about their work goals. Comments after were very positive about the experience.

Some things to note: 1) The LME exercise was compressed to about 35 minutes because we started as lunch approached, and I didn’t want to start a hunger strike, so I assured them at the beginning of the length of the exercise :)) 2) My design consideration in having the whole group share instead of breaking into sub-groups was to help facilitate relationships across the whole team. Also, the limited time didn’t really support a two step feedback process (small teams to large teams). 3) I kept the sharing very short due to the time constraints. We could have productively shared much longer (at least another hour), I believe.

I continue to be impressed with the versatility of the LME cards at drawing people out to talk at a significant, or even profound level, in a short period of time. I appreciate the chance to use the cards, and I think they are very ready for prime time. I even had colleagues ask me after the exercise where they could order the cards (one wanted to use them in her church, which has a new leadership team).

Tom Hickok

About Charles J. Palus & David Magellan Horth

Charles J. Palus & David Magellan Horth are Senior Fellows at the Center for Creative Leadership. Many thanks to Steadman Harrison III, CEO of GO Innovation.com, and Senior Associate for the Center for Creative Leadership.
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  1. Pingback: Systems Skills for Managers course at Virginia Tech | Leadership Explorer™ tools by the Center for Creative Leadership

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