Team Building

Throughout the season, camp staff members progress through various levels of group development. These stages are both necessary and normal:

Forming

Storming

Norming

Performing

Transforming

You can help your staff navigate each stage by exploring the following activities with them, using the tools and suggestions provided.

Forming

The Forming Stage is the polite, get-acquainted, ice-breaking phase of group development. This process begins the moment new staff members assemble. Members are just trying to identify who’s who, and where they fit in. This stage includes forming an atmosphere of safety, acceptance and avoidance of controversy, and is filled with guidance from the camp director. Get-acquainted and community-building activities are used in this first stage.

Activity–Wrapped Around My Finger

Using a Raccoon Circle (15 feet (4.6 meters) of unknotted tubular climbing webbing or rope), invite each staff member to introduce himself or herself to the group, and continue to talk until they have finished wrapping this piece of webbing around their finger.

Storming

The Storming Stage introduces conflict and competition into the formerly safe and pleasant work environment. This stage is typically encountered at summer camp around week two, when many staff members have reached their limit of sleeplessness. Suddenly, those things that didn’t matter begin to matter, and conflicts arise. Staff behavior ranges from silence to domination in this environment, and a director needs to utilize coaching to successfully move through this stage. While some staff members would rather avoid the conflict, it is important to build skills and show them how to cope.

Activity–Cross The Line

This activity requires partners of equal body size to stand on opposite sides of a line. With half the group about 3 feet (1 meter) behind one side of the line, and the other half of the team on the other side, the scene is set for a moment of conflict (of “us” vs. “them”) and talking about win/win, win/lose and lose/lose negotiation scenarios.

Each side of the team says the following greeting to the opponent: “There ain’t no flies on me, there ain’t no flies on me, there might be flies on you (point to folks on the other side), but there ain’t no flies on me!” and then boldly take a step toward the line (with just the right amount of attitude). The other side repeats this greeting, and takes a step toward the line. The first side now repeats with twice the attitude, and moves to the line, followed by the second side repeating its lines, stepping face to face with the other side.

The facilitator now says, “You have three seconds to get the person across the line from you onto your side of the line. GO!”

Typically, this phrasing results in a rather quick tug of war between partners, and usually a physical solution to the challenge. This provides an excellent opportunity to discuss conflict, challenges, attitude, negotiation and how to resolve differences. For example, you can ask, “How many partner teams ended up in a win/lose scenario, where one member obtained what was wanted (getting a partner to the other side), but the other member did not?” “What about a lose/lose scenario, where both members struggled, but neither one obtained the goal?” And finally, “Were there any teams that achieved a win/win solution, where both partners changed sides?” “What is it about our camp’s culture that so many staff members end up in win/lose or lose/lose scenarios, rather than a win/win solution?” “How can we fix this situation?” The next time you are in a ”cross the line” situation, what is the first thing you will do to effect a win/win scenario?

Norming

The Norming Stage of group development is typically a welcome breath of fresh air after the Storming Stage. Although the staff is not yet at the highest performing level, some of the bugs are now worked out within the group, and good things are beginning to happen. This stage of group formation includes cohesion, sharing and trust building, creativity and skill acquisition. The camp director provides support during this stage.

Activity–The Blind Trust Drive

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