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Ripping up paper ... for team building!


Employees will laugh-and realize that communication is a two-way street.

We're just, ah ... team building! (Photo: Africa Studio/stock.adobe.com)

Editor's note: Management and business guru Bob Levoy shared his wisdom over decades with veterinary associations, Fortune 500 companies and more. He passed away in 2015, but we ran into this great tip of his-like all his advice, short and sweet-on our website and had to share. We miss you, Bob.

Liven up your next team meeting and drive home the importance of client communication by trying this exercise, which requires only a blank sheet of 8.5-by-11 paper for each participant.

Ask your participants to pick up their sheet of paper, hold it in front of them, close their eyes, and follow your directions. There are only two rules: no peeking and no questions. Give your team the following instructions while you carry the steps out yourself with your own sheet of paper. Pause in between each step to allow time for team members to comply:

1. Fold your sheet of paper in half.

2. Tear off the upper right-hand corner.

3. Fold your paper in half again.

4. Tear off the upper left-hand corner.

5. Fold your paper in half again.

6. Tear off the lower right-hand corner.

When everyone is finished, say, "Now, open your eyes. If I did a good job of communicating and you did a good job of listening, all of our sheets of paper will look alike."

Here's the kicker: It's highly unlikely that everyone's sheets will match. This is funny, yes, but it's also the jumping-off point for a discussion about two-way communication. Some of the participants might say, "You didn't let us ask questions" or "Your instructions could be interpreted different ways."

This should lead you into a conversation in which you emphasize how important it is to have your clients repeat instructions in their own words. This way, team members can immediately clarify any misunderstandings. Discuss with your staff how you could initiate these conversations-then have them do it the next time they're speaking with clients.

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