The First Time I Took a Group to Miki Island

There has to be a first time for everything, right?   At least to learn and grow, make progress, and move forward, which are all very important values for me.

I have been working with team-building in some form for more than twenty years now.  For several years as part of building CEVT’s Connected Car and UX organization, I was lucky enough to be able to focus on it as a part of my daily work.

Now, since focusing full-time on training, I have combined the material that I have in team-building into a structured (but configurable) class called Be a Better Team.

I am very happy with the frameworks that I use in it:

  • Susan Wheelan’s Integrated Model of Group Development (IMGD), assessed by the Group Development Questionnaire (GDQ)
  • Belbin Team Roles, to define the softer, non-technical roles in a team, that are essential to team success (as well as increase performance, results, and work satisfaction)
  • How and Why We Misunderstand Each Other, including the Culture Map, to introduce human psychology, communication challenges, cultural differences, and tools to solve

But I was also missing something…. A way to pull it together for teams to be able to learn through experimenting and experiencing situations similar, but abstracted, from daily work.

This was why I was so thrilled to learn about and develop a relationship with Oussama Labib and Aeqlia, who solved exactly this gap for me (you can read more about filling this gap in an earlier blog).

Now, for the first time this week, I had a chance to pull all the previous frameworks of Be a Better Team together (IMGD/GDQ, Belbin, and HWWMEO) with Miki Island.

We kicked off our journey together a few weeks ago, with an extended meeting from the team’s regular weekly meeting.  With that, we talked about IMGD and the stages of a team.  They discussed where they likely were, recognising both a need and a desire to improve.


With that, they had homework:

  • to complete their individual Belbin self-perception, as well as observe each other (and collect input from other key stakeholders).
  • To answer the GDQ about where they were in team development
  • To watch HWWMEO to learn about potential personal conflict causing reasons, and what to do about them

Before we met, I had an individual coaching session with each team member to review their personal Belbin assessment.  We had good discussions about how each person saw themselves, how and why others might have different interpretations, and particularly about what might be in conflict.  Where might someone be compensating for another?  Or trying to be someone they are not because they thought others expected it?  Or, where might they have a hidden talent that they didn’t recognise or appreciate in themselves?

This week then, we came together in a long session as part of their offsite.

We reviewed the GDQ assessment, which didn’t introduce too many surprises, but gave concrete tasks and improvement areas, specifically in building what I call the Team Charter (a living document that defines the team – vision, mission, purpose, members, stakeholders, values, metrics, goals…).

We put together the Belbin Team Roles, mapping out all the possible roles and whether they were Preferred, Manageable, or Least-Preferred.  

There was fantastic insight with it, both in acknowledging gaps that existed and how that contributed to the overall team’s effectiveness, as well as allowed some conversations that could otherwise have been much tougher without the abstraction of the framework.

The team spent time around the gaps, working out plans for the short and long term in how to work with them.

They also recognised areas of strength in others, and had good discussions around how they could work more effectively in dividing up and sharing work.

Then, they had a chance to try Miki Island.

Particularly on a dreary November day in the Northern Hemisphere, the team was already eager to travel with the first mention of a tropical island and the mojito that would be waiting on their arrival.

They jumped into the game, with the strong desire to win and do well that they always had as a driving force.  But, they also quickly fell into the traps of their past dynamics and roles, resulting in an outcome less than they desired.

 A quick debrief, tying it into the IMGD and Belbin discussions from earlier, and they were eager to try again.

It was fascinating to see the results, naturally in surviving Miki Island, but more importantly, how they pulled together as a team.  How they shared and collaborated, how they were able to question one another, and work as a team, rather than a constellation of individuals.

We spent the last hour together clarifying and summarising the actions that they would take out of the day to continue their development.

I can’t wait to meet with them next time, to follow-up the actions that were identified from the frameworks, but also to see if they have maintained the new dynamic that came from truly working as a team.

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