Building a Spirit of Community

The Midwestern chapter of a national philanthropic organization in the Kansas City area, and its satellite offices in neighboring communities, were having their annual staff retreat at the Kansas City Zoo. 

The organization’s goal was to bring their staff together from the various offices and create an environment for them to learn more about each other. Another goal was to foster teamwork among the various offices.  This is the one time each year when many of them have a chance to meet face-to-face and strengthen their relationships.  At the retreat, they learned about the organization’s vision and how each office and their particular role fits into that vision. 

Two years prior, the DiSC Classic Profile was introduced to the group.  They enjoyed it a great deal, and the director said they were still talking about that session. She wanted to build on what they had done previously.

There had been a fair amount of turnover in the staff over the past two years, so there were some who were familiar with the DiSC model, and many who were not.  Luckily, there was a list from the previous session with each participant’s name, and their DiSC Classical Pattern.  It was decided that the DiSC Classic Online 2.0 Profile would be used as pre-work for those who had not previously experienced DiSC.

The Online DiSC Classic Profile was used as a team-building tool to introduce staff members to their own styles and the styles of their colleagues.  By focusing on behavioral style differences, there was a discussion about the value each person brought to the organization and what they needed from their coworkers in order to be successful.

There was a three-hour team-building session the morning of the retreat.  Prior to the session, the group did some introductory exercises focused on their organization and its mission.  They work with clients suffering from a debilitating illness, so they setup stations for staff member to experience the effects of a physical disability.  For example, at one station, participants wore bulky mittens and tried to tie a child’s tennis shoe to understand how it feels to lose your fine motor skills.

Following that, was the session on DiSC.  An overview of DiSC was presented since many of the participants had already taken the DiSC Classic Profile.  After the introduction of the DiSC model and the four dimensions of DiSC, the participants did some fun exercises by breaking into their primary style group.  Each of the participants received a DiSC Button for their primary dimension, D, i, S, or C.

In their DiSC groups, the participants had several items to discuss, such as coming up with three words that described their group, etc.  One of the items was to design the ideal car for their dimension.  The “D” group came up with a convertible HumVee, and the “i” group developed quite a fun pictorial representation of their vehicle, including a stretch limo (for lots of friends) with a hot tub on top, etc.  The “S” group had something practical, like a Ford sedan, and the “C” group complained they did not have enough time to complete the exercise as they wanted to check various consumer reports before making their decision. 

There were various animals chosen for each of the groups, as the retreat was held at the zoo.  All of the exercises incorporated a zoo “theme” and prizes were given away throughout the morning.  That added to some of the fun for the day.  Part of the exercise was to tell how their animal represented their group.  The “C” group was warned that they would probably not like the animal selected from them and that they were free to choose another animal more to their liking.  And of course, they did!

Then, everyone discussed the following scenario within this same DiSC group:
Imagine your group decides to go to lunch, to join others at a favorite restaurant.  (The team first decided on a restaurant everyone was familiar with and determined its location from the organization’s main office. They identified a main intersection on the way to the restaurant.)  Now imagine that you are approaching the busy intersection when you are suddenly stopped by huge boulders blocking the road!

The assignment: figure out what your group would do.  How would you solve this problem?  After several minutes of brainstorming, each group reported back with the strategy they developed. 
The “D” group said they’d leave the car and start walking.  
The “i” group talked about not wanting to let down their lunch dates, and needing to get to the restaurant to see everyone else they were meeting.  
The “S” group said they would probably go home and try lunch another day.  Why?  Because by the time they got to the restaurant, their table would have been given to someone else anyway!  
The “C” group had put together a plan to make sure they got to the restaurant safely, although they had many unanswered questions.

It was fun for everyone to see DiSC in action, once again. 

Next, one volunteer from each group came up and sat in one of four chairs.  The chairs were arranged like car seats at the front of the room, facing the audience.  The “D” was in the driver’s seat, the “i” next to that person, and the “S” and “C” were in the back.

Each person was asked to act out the scenario, assuming their natural DiSC style as a member in the car.  They had a good time with that!  Then another four volunteers came to the front, but this time they did something different.  The “S” was in the driver’s seat, the “C” next to that person, and the “D” and “i” in the back.  They had to act out the role appropriate to their new seat – so the “S” was acting like a “D” and vice versa.

This led to a group discussion on how difficult it is to act outside your normal behavioral style, and how uncomfortable it makes you feel.  It also led to a dialogue of learning to stretch our behavior and meeting others where they are.

After that, everyone brook up into groups by their DiSC Classical Pattern, e.g., Perfectionists, Creative Patterns, etc.  There were approximately seven patterns represented, as well as a couple of groups that were similar, e.g., an Agent and a Counselor together.  There was a review of each of the DiSC Classical Patterns represented in the group.  The participants then discussed a few questions to report back to the entire group:

  • What value do you bring to the organization?
  • What do you need in order to be successful?
  • When you’re dealing with conflict, how do you like to be approached?
  • What motivates you?

The goal was to get people acquainted with one another.  In order to facilitate that, new groups were constantly formed for a number of exercises throughout the session.  This kept the session lively and facilitated the participants’ ability to get to know each other better.  It also broke them out of their familiar “office” groups.

One small-group exercise included a discussion of what it means to build a spirit of community.  The participants also developed a list of what needed to stop happening in their organization, what they needed to keep doing, and what they needed to start doing to build a strong community.

As a result of the discussions around building a spirit of community, the staff had a follow-up assignment to bring their ideas back to their offices and focus on what they could stop and start doing.  The evaluations from the session were excellent, and the staff came away feeling a sense of community, as well as a renewed commitment to the organization and to each other.

DiSC Case Study from Inscape Publishing