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Drawing introverted team members out of their shells

I've just become a lead on a new team. The team is a little introverted and kind of hard to get to know. What can I do to draw them out of their shells and loosen up a little bit?

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You might think this sounds a little bit immature, but I have used party games on several occasions to help teams gel faster. No, I'm not talking about the kind of games that result in drinking beer through a funnel or flipping quarters into a shot glass, rather games that help team members reveal their personalities without making them uncomfortable.

One game I've used is something I call Fact or Fiction. In this game, you have everyone on the team list three unusual "facts" about themselves on a sheet of paper. One of the three is completely false, the other two are true. Each week in our team meeting, I would pick one or two members to "spotlight" and we would read their facts. Then, everyone would have to guess which were fact and which were fiction. We usually put it to a vote, then we would ask the team member to explain his/her answers. We even developed a scoring system to keep track of who was the best lie detector and gave a prize to the person with the most points when we finished.

If this seems too immature for your liking, you can always try using activities focused on particular IT tasks. A good source for these types of activities is Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great, by Esther Derby, Diana Larsen, and Ken Schwaber. It has a lot of activities that will challenge your team members to interact, get to know each other and produce something valuable in the process.

This was first published in April 2007

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