Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Biggest Loser -- Team Selection Process

A benefit of our wellness program that I did not anticipate was the team building effect. We only have 250 employees, all but five of us are in the same building, and we work a lot in teams, but still people tend to get to know the folks they work closely with and not others. When we started offering the exercise classes, we received feedback that people appreciated getting to know their coworkers and this had a positive effect on their work. (I take four early morning classes at work each week and can vouch for the fact that you get to know the people you shower and dress with pretty well.)

Of course, the TV show is team based, and that’s the model we are mimicking. We wanted to keep the teams small enough that it was not too challenging for them to plan to meet. We decided on eleven teams of nine. First, I recruited team leaders. They had a special role to play.
Team Captains agreed to:

  • Participate in a meeting to choose their team
  • Serve as the team’s cheerleader and check in with each team member at least once per week
  • Remind team members about activities (HR sent appointments to all participants) and pass along information if a team member does miss an activity
  • Assure all team members post their weight weekly and submit their homework
  • Coordinate the one hour session with a trainer each team receives
  • Encourage folks to maintain their food diaries
  • Alert HR to any issues/concerns they become aware of
We also suggest some optional activities. For example, arranging for the team to eat or exercise together and arranging for the team to review their food diaries together and do some meal planning.

The next hurdle was actually selecting the teams. First, I asked all participants to forward any special requests to be placed on a team with someone to me. I put everyone’s name on an index card and noted their requests on the back of the card. Now what? I didn’t want the HR staff to put the teams together; and I didn’t want to traumatize anyone by having them be picked last like I was in elementary school when we played pickup games.
I arranged a meeting for the team leaders and had them pull a number out of a hat when they entered the room. They took turns selecting their team members based on the number they selected. 1 – 11 and then 11 – 1. A couple of the team leaders sent someone as a proxy, so I instructed them that they had to choose themselves in the first round. Before we got started, I had everyone raise their right hand and repeat after me, “On my honor, I pledge not to disclose the order in which people were picked, and not to divulge who wanted whom on their team.”

As the team leaders selected someone, they flipped over the card and noted any special requests. Most were worked out as we went, but we reviewed them again at the end and made a few final swaps. The whole process took 30 minutes. It went so fast I doubt anyone even focused on who was picked last.

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