This is a popular activity used for showcasing situational leadership, communication under pressure, trust etc. In brief, the situational leadership activity is done as below.
Equipment needed: Teams of 3 people each, 50 paper cups per teams, tables/work areas, open space so that teams can work without disturbing each other.
Instructions to participants:After dividing participants into team of 3 people each, ask each team to select one person as worker and two people as managers. Hand over the equipment(50 paper cups) to each team). The objective for the teams is to build the highest tower possible with the cups given. Give the team around a minute to decide the heights that they want to build up to.(For calculating height, one cup height = 1 floor for ease of execution). Once the teams have decided the heights, note down each team’s self estimated targets on a flip chart. The teams will get a total time of ten minutes for the construction phase. Bonus Points can be awarded to teams finishing within time, this helps in ensuring the group[ stays on track with respect to time and adds a bit of pressure ideal for bring out many of the debrief points. If teams are able to build higher than their original targets, bonus points can again be awarded to ,make the activity more competitive and interesting.
Give the teams a minute or so to plan before starting. After the planning phase, as they are ready to start, give two final instructions “1. Only the worker is allowed to touch the paper cups, 2: The worker would be blindfolded during the entire activity” There would be points deducted or penalty imposed for managers touching the tower.
Debrief Points : Did you succeed in achieving the target? What was the objective? How did you start about building a tower? How did the managers communicate to the worker during the building? Was one more aggressive than the other? If so, was there a question of trust when you heard the instructions? What could have been done better to improve the tower?
And using the participants’ responses, these can be related to work place scenarios which would enhance the learning.
Couple of variations which could be used are to give all the instructions in the beginning itself and then give some time for planning, this ensures a better chance of the groups succeeding in the building phase. Another would be to add additional constraints, like “Worker can only use one hand for construction”
Simple and easy to set up, the situational leadership activity brings out some powerful learning themes, which can be related to by most of the participants. Do try it out next time! 🙂