A MUST DO Exercise for Winning Teams

By Jinny Ditzler

Founder of Best Year Yet and Thrive Global, Linked

Whether your team is a global business team, a small partnership, a non-profit, your marriage, or your family ~ this exercise makes sense and has proven to work time and again.

What I love about them is every person gets a say and a chance to make a difference. In this article are simple directions for the exercise and examples to show how it’s done.

I hope you give it a try. Whichever type of ‘team’ you’re on, all will be heard and it will make a difference.

No matter what role you play on a team, you can make a lasting difference.

For many decades we’ve worked with teams of all kinds around the world, and those that are the happiest and most successful think of this exercise as a Must Do. Why? Because this three-step process has power to dissolve costly issues such as a lack of accountability, alignment, honesty, and performance.

This exercise is based on our founding principle:

You already have all you need to succeed.

What that means is that every single member has wisdom to offer to the team’s success, so the responses to the three questions come from every member of the team ~ not just a few.

So what can you do? Begin by reading through this exercise and think about what could happen if your team did this exercise and then followed though. If you believe it could make a difference, present it to your team and let them know what you think ~ no matter what role you play.

This process is about learning from our wins and our losses. As George Santayana once said,

Those who cannot learn from past are condemned to repeat it.

Most teams have limiting behaviors that sap its ability to perform as a strong team. Moreover, everyone can see these limitations and their cost, but often don’t know how to talk about it or even what to do about it . So the elephant stays in the corner.

This exercise provides the solution to these hidden barriers by bringing them out in the open in a way that is authentic, safe, and productive.


1. What were our 3 biggest accomplishments in the past twelve months?

To gather all the wisdom in the team, be sure to have each person write down the three accomplishments they believe are most important before the team discusses answers to this question. Then go around the table and have each member share responses while one of the members captures them on a flip chart or white board.

The purpose of this first step of the exercise is to CELEBRATE what you’ve accomplished, not by handing out a list from the team leader, but by hearing all points of view. It’s magic.


2. What were our 3 biggest disappointments in the past year?

In the same way, ask this question and have each person write the three failures they believe were the most costly. Rather than a downer, the responses clear the air and give everyone a chance to give their view. Again, capture the responses for all to see.

The purpose of the second step of the exercise is to LEARN what from what didn’t work. Take time to have an initial discussion about the disappointments and their cost and possible lessons.


3. What one guideline would you recommend our team to apply?

Here is the way forward to find the most important lesson for the team. Before they begin to answer the question, suggest that they respond in this context:

If you were the boss of this team, what one guideline would you like us all to follow?

Asking the question in this way gives everyone permission to think like a leader. In other words, what one guideline would generate a positive impact if everyone followed it? Make sure everyone a chance to think about this one ~ no rush. As you’ve probably observed, team members do not think the same way. Give everyone a chance.

Before they start, let them know to keep their guideline to only 2 to 5 words, so it’s easy to remember and act upon. Here are a few examples ~ or come up with some or your own to demonstrate what’s needed.

  • Keep my promises.
  • Support others’ success.
  • Speak honestly ~ no gossip.

Then go around the table and have each member share their guideline while one of the members captures them on a flip chart or white board, numbering them as they go. Next have everyone choose the number of the one they believe will lead to the team being happier and more successful.

By a show of hands, capture the number of votes beside each guideline ~ only one vote per person. The one with the most votes is the team’s new guideline ~ alignment made easy! (If there’s a tie, have everyone vote for their favorite between the two.)

The purpose of this step is to APPLY what you’ve learned as a team. Be sure to take the first part of a meeting every month to have everyone score themselves on their behavior on the guidelines. Using a scale of 1 – 10, with 10 being the highest, each person scores how well he or she followed the guidelines in the past month. Ask members to share about how they did and their intention for the next month ~ excellent team building.

To have an impact the team needs to keep its eye on the ball for this guideline to work As with any game worth playing, track progress and keep score by averaging the scores of all the members each month.

As more start taking this rule seriously, you’ll see signs that the culture has started to become a winning team, in which delivering the results becomes . . .

The way we do things around here!

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