The objective here is to introduce the context of balancing life and juggling priorities while introducing team members to each other. This exercise is ideal for groups of 5 to 15 people and requires about 15 to 20 minutes. The materials you will need to have on hand are a watch, a bag for the objects or big pockets, and five different objects to juggle, including a ball of yarn. Hint: Objects should be of differing size, shape and weight. Avoid hard objects that may injure team members or round objects that will roll away from the group.
Use a space large enough for each group to stand in a circle. Ask the team members to stand in a circle shoulder-width apart from each other.
With the objects in your pocket or in an opaque bag,
Explain the rules:
- Say a person’s name first, and then throw the object to that person.
- The catcher will say “Thank you, (name of the thrower)” to the thrower.
- The catcher says another person’s name and throws the object to a new catcher, who continues to say “Thank you, (name of the thrower).”
- Once a person has caught and thrown the object, he or she folds their arms across the chest to indicate they already had a turn.
- The group will continue the process until the last team member throws the object back to the facilitator.
Start the process and continue one round. After one round, ask the team members to stand on one leg if physically able.
Begin round two with the team members standing on one leg. Repeat the process with the object thrown around the circle in exactly the same order as before. When the object returns to you, continue to throw it to the first catcher for a second time around the circle, continuing to state the name and saying thank you.
After the object is approximately one person beyond the first catcher, throw another object (#2) into the circle to the first catcher.
After object #2 is approximately one person beyond the first catcher, then object #3 is introduced to the first catcher. Continue to introduce objects until all are in play.
Continue throwing around the circle until object #5 comes back to you. Once all the objects have been around the circle once, hold onto the objects and stop the process when you have all the objects.
Debrief and Summarize
When you once again have all the objects, debrief the activity:
- What happened?
- Who stood on only one leg for the entire time as I asked? If you didn’t, why not?
- How did you compensate for not being able to hold your leg up? Did you use your teammates for support or other sources?
- Did you practice self-policing? Did you decide that you could be more productive doing it your own way instead of how you were told to do it?
- Was anybody cheating? How we play is typically how we work.
- Were you more or less productive on one or two legs? (People usually find they are more productive when balanced. If unbalanced, it is hard to handle their priorities and they tend to drop the ball.)
- What happened to the names and the thank-yous when more priorities were thrown your way? (Civility may go out the window under stress.)
- What happened when you threw the object at somebody before saying their name or without saying their name? (They usually drop it or are not ready for it. We need to let people know when we are sending things their way so they can better prepare for handling it.)
- What happened if the ball was dropped? Did somebody else pick it up? Did the ball sit in the middle of the circle with team members ignoring it – or was it addressed and dealt with?
- Did the volume in the room increase? Do you usually laugh at your mistakes or have a sense of humor about a stressful situation?
- How did you handle all those priorities flying at you at once?
- What happened with the ball of yarn? (It unravels.) Do things sometimes get unraveled as they go along?
- How else can you compare this activity to your workplace or home life?
Contributed by Gail Howerton
If you like this activity, check out my book, Team Energizers, for 49 other team activities!
For more information about how to lead your team in the virtual environment, use these resources.
KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF | Master, CSP is a high-stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator. She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 27 years. She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action. Her latest book, 123 Ways to Add Pizazz to a Panel Discussion was published in January 2021.