Gluten-Free Team Building

Layout 1You surely have noticed that many restaurants and food stores have responded to a discriminating marketplace and now offer gluten-free products. Gluten, for some people, inflames the digestive track making it difficult or impossible to absorb nutrients. According to, “gluten-sensitive people often have fatigue and headaches…” along with other disturbances. This is not about snacks.

You may know where this is going.

I’ve worked with many teams whose symptoms included fatigue and headaches. They were unable to absorb any more changes. I was called in to provide an alternative to their usual learning patterns to make some new improvements more digestible. One of the challenges faced by supervisors, facilitators and trainers is to create an environment where absorption levels are higher than the normal workday without creating malaise or fatigue. Facilitators and trainers want their audience to be attentive, learn as much as possible, and have a positive experience along the way.

Like any great teacher, facilitators must take advantage of the many ways that people learn and of the many factors that allow people to learn at all.

There are a few tactics I use nearly every time I facilitate long sessions such as workshops or retreats. My intention is to increase the odds that the content provided in the workshop will be absorbed as much as humanly possible by everyone present.

1. Peel back the personality onions. If teammates are to be effective together, they don’t have to like each other but it’s to their advantage that they know as much about each other as is allowable and relevant. It’s the facilitator’s responsibility to help foster those discoveries which is why I sprinkle every learning session with a variety of ice breakers that are specifically designed to help people learn more about each other. I plan for the interactions to be fun and inventive but not silly. I don’t like silly.

There are hundreds of appropriate ice breaker activities that will help to “peel back the onion” to reveal the diverse personalities, quirks, learning styles and assets each team member has. I prefer to use my own products when I can yet only if the ice breakers fit the team and the objective. I know I’ve succeeded in the execution of this tactic when I hear teammates say to each other, “I didn’t know that about you!”

2. Create an upset. About half way through the session, attendees must pick up all their belongings and move to a completely new place. Not only does this shake up the mind to see from a new perspective, it gets people moving. There is always someone who grumbles, which makes me smile. In case I didn’t already know, the grumbler was likely someone who resists change. That’s helpful information, which sends me a signal that I may have to keep checking on the absorption levels of the grumbler.

3. Pamper the learning styles. We all know that people learn information in different ways. For instance, I am not strong with audio learning. I learn much more effectively if I’m able to see and read information as part of the mix. Everyone is different. I try to provide a combination of reading, writing, touching and listening. When I plan my curriculum, I prepare to teach the same information two to four different ways using the different learning methods to let people have access to their most effective way to learn.

Those are just three of many tactics used in any good team building exercise. Good facilitators and supervisors use specialized skills to ensure a gluten-free zone and keep absorption levels as high as possible. With or without snacks.

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