The Positive Leadership Game

February 6, 2014

By: YaLe Lim

Let’s face it: group work is tough. Working with others isn’t easy. How often do you find yourself caught in a team that is unproductive, unmotivated, or even toxic and harmful? As a Business student, I am involved in many group projects and assignments, and in all honesty, it’s not easy to work with people from different backgrounds, people with contrasting perspectives and ideals. Each team is different, and obstacles take on a multitude of forms. The question is, how can we, as team players and leaders, improve the status quo and deal with dichotomies that arise in a team?

I had the opportunity to learn just how to do that last week. During her Positive Links Speaker Series session, Professor Gretchen Spreitzer introduced the Positive Leadership Game (PLG), which she developed with Professor Bob Quinn, also from the Ross School of Business. The game is centered on the principle of structured brainstorming, and all attendees got a chance to try it. The instructions were as such:

  • Each person is dealt 7 cards
  • A “focal” person begins the game by describing his/her problem, issue, or opportunity (1 minute)
  • One at a time, the other players choose a card from their hand, read the suggested strategy, adapt it to the focal person’s situation, and describe how they think it would be helpful (30 seconds)
  • After all players have given their suggestions, the focal person selects the card he or she finds the most helpful and then explains why
  • The process is repeated with different members becoming the focal person
  • Points are awarded to the player with the best suggestion

That was how the game was supposed to be played, but not quite how it turned out! At the end of the session, Professor Spreitzer remarked how we had all come up with our own variations of the game, and made it even better in our little groups.

Personally, participating in the PLG was very energizing. Despite the set of rules to follow and the cards to use, people actually began sharing ideas from their own experiences. In addition, some players helped build on others’ ideas, and improved the quality of the suggestions. The activity was so collaborative, and a great way for people from different backgrounds to come together and bounce ideas off one another. Being the youngest at the table, I had the least leadership experience and fewest ideas. However, I received great advice from the ‘strangers’ at my table, and am very grateful for their ideas and suggestions.

Group work is not easy, but think of all to be gained from a successful collaboration– friendships, higher productivity, new skills and knowledge. I would highly recommend everyone try the PLG sometime. It brought me new perspectives for viewing the issue at hand—whatever the issue might be—and new insights to solving group-related problems.

I would like to end off this post with a special shout-out to the ‘strangers at my table’ – Tim, Grant, Angelle and Ryne. Thank you all for your help and advice!