How the Words “Touchy-Feely” Undermine Important Work of Groups
I have a few soap boxes that I stand on when I work with groups. One soap box involves time spent on supporting healthy human interaction. I think it is important to carve out time on the agenda for people to get to know one another better and strengthen their connectivity. When people complain that they do not want to participate in any “touchy-feely” exercises, it bothers me. I am bothered because somewhere along the line those folks were probably introduced to some poorly facilitated team-building exercises or these activities are held so rarely that they do not support strengthening group relationships.
When I think about what contributes to ineffective groups, it is typically not because they are not fulfilling their assigned tasks. Ineffective groups are largely made up of people who have little connection with one another. Without that connection, they do not communicate or work well together.
One finding from Google’s mega study on the characteristics of high-performance teams, suggests people who work together need to get to know one another on a more personal basis. This practice goes against a predominant paradigm in U.S. organizations where some think your personal life and work life must be completely separate. I am not suggesting you share your personal journals with each other, but I do believe that sharing some things about yourself builds relationships and connectivity with other people. It is this connectivity, this web of interconnections and interrelationships, that supports a group’s resilience when issues surface that challenge relationships.
Using the words “touchy-feely” invokes silly, childish, and inappropriate activities. It immediately undermines the intentions of team-building activities. However, even though it is a hot button for me, reacting to these words is a much different matter. I use this as an opportunity to explore what the meaning is behind the statement from the person. Perhaps the person is nervous about sharing a bit about themselves in any exercise. It is always their choice what and how much they share.
Do not let these words drown out the importance of carving out time for team member interaction. You are investing in the group’s resilience and ability to bounce back from future challenges if they have a stronger connection with one another. Have a little fun, we all need it.