by Michael Holland    

You’ve just finished a tough business call with a very rude, obnoxious person.  Now you are off to attend your team meeting.  Any guess as to the climate you’ll help create for that meeting?  Well social psychologists know very well what will likely happen.

A team, like an individual, will follow the environmental cues found in the room.  As living organisms a team reacts to the environment.  Social psychologists have studied how adjusting the major stimulus in the room – the team members themselves – impacts team performance.  The stimuli is adjusted using a method/concept called priming.  There’s a lot of psychobabble that can define priming but an easy example is to watch someone’s face as you mention the following words/phrases:  sunshine, sand, smell of salt water, calm breeze.  Most people will immediately think about a nice time at the beach, feel the warmth of the sunshine and crack a small smile.

To prime your team discussion – and get you out of your funk from the bad phone call – start your team meeting with a short exercise.  In a lightening round, ask everyone for the best thing that has happened to them so far today.  The energy in the room will increase and more importantly, the latent cognitive capacity of each team member will be awakened enabling discussions to be more insightful.

Be sure to play around with the question to match up to your team’s functional work (customer service, finance, technology, ion implantation, etc.)