March 7, 2007

The compliments wall

An exercise which I often use in team sessions is the compliments wall. This is a simple exercise which you can do in 15 to 30 minutes with a team. You can view it as simple strengths focused 360 degrees feedback exercise. The exercise helps people to get a clearer view on their own strengths and the strengths of their colleagues. Furthermore, it creates energy and strengthens relationships and trust. It works like this. Hang a flip over sheet on the wall with all the names of the team members on it. On the top of the sheet you write:

“WHAT DO WE APPRECIATE IN EACH OTHER?

Then, invite everyone to take a marker pen and to write whatever compliments (and however many) they want under the names of their colleagues. When, after maybe 15 minutes, everyone is ready doing this, you can look together with the team at what has been written. It may be interesting to talk a bit about some of the compliments. As a facilitator, I usually focus on one thing per person that catches my attention and ask a few questions about that compliment like: “Who wrote this compliment?” / “How did/ do you notice this person has this strength? / “What do you appreciate about it?” / “What makes it important /valuable for you to have a colleague with this strength in the team?”
Often, the responses are quite enthusiastic. Complimenting people directly and accepting compliments can sometimes be awkward. But with this exercise this usually quite easy and pleasant. After you've done the compliments wall exercise you can, of course, easily use it for other things. For instance you might invite people to look at the compliments wall and to approach a colleague with a strength which compliments their own strengths and invite them to help them achieve a certain goal.
Here is an example of a compliments wall.

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