Personal Shield – An Exercise to Build a Strong Team

To build a strong team you need more than just documented ways of working (WoW). Having a defined process, definition of done and clear understanding of the roles we each play within a team is important, and alone will not make a team successful. A team is more than the sum of its parts – and great teamwork arises when team members know and care about each other personally..

In this post I wanted to share the Personal Shield exercise as a way of helping teams learn the strengths and motivations of others, and how each person contributes to the team.

The shield uncovers four different areas:

  • Strengths – Expertise and skills. These can be areas the team already know about or hidden skills that you would like to share and could contribute more widely to the team.
  • Support – Areas in which you wish to grow or would like support improving. Calling these out helps make other team members aware of your desires and be better able to offer assistance.
  • WIIFM (What’s in it for me) – Why are you part of this organisation and team. What motivates you as an individual. How are you personally invested into the success of what you are building together.
  • Interests – It is proven that individuals interact better if they connect at a personal level. Knowing someone’s interests helps when it comes to discussing the fun stuff.

To start, it is a good idea for the facilitator to show their own prepared Personal Shield to help set the scene as an introduction. Here’s mine (filled in using MIRO) 🙂

Explain to the team that to become stronger it helps if we get to know each other better, what we consider our strengths and skills, which areas we would like support with, and a bit more about each other personally.

Then hand out the personal shields. Either printed or shared electronically (templates below).

Give each personal 10 minutes to complete theirs. Check in at the end to see if people still need some more time and offer up an extra 5 mins if required.

Once complete, ask each team member to walk the rest of the team through their personal shields. Allow 20 mins for this, depending on team size.

 An alternative approach can be to pair up the team members and interview each other to complete the shield. Then take turns sharing the shields with the team with the interviewer telling the group about their colleague.

To close you can ask:

  • What was something you learned? 
  • Where can we support each other?
  • What surprised you?
  • Any obvious commonalities?

Always a good idea to check in and see if the team found this exercise useful, I bet they will!

Finally you can thank people for sharing and reinforce the purpose of this exercise is to learn more about the strengths and motivations of each other and connect at a deeper level. This will help us become an even better team.


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