Totem is a fun personal development tool that can be used as an effective team-building activity within the workplace! What makes Totem unique? Instead of bringing out our competitive side (as you see with most games), it harnesses the power of positive communication to help us identify and acknowledge the positive traits that we value the most in others.
The sweet and uplifting nature of this game can have a remarkable impact on the overall growth of an organization as a collective entity and for the individuals themselves. By coming together to reflect on one another’s best qualities and strengths, this game can benefit organizations through cultivating a positive and inclusive work environment, providing employees with a greater sense of social cohesion, and sparking motivation.
More specifically, it breaks down barriers in communication to facilitate better collaboration between team members by helping them build trust, strengthen their connections, and to learn how to communicate more effectively with each other. For individuals, those who possess a stronger awareness of their positive traits can be more confident in their abilities. They also have a better understanding of how to leverage their personal resources to tap into their full potential in and out of the workplace.
In our interview with Training Consultant of Rock Family of Companies, Fletcher Raftery shares a detailed explanation of how she organizes a successful team-building activity using Totem. Based on her personal experience with this game, she provides tremendous insight on different ways to play this game, how to get the most out of it, and most importantly, how it can benefit your workplace!
Totem Team: What do you love the most about Totem?
Totem is adorable! I really appreciate its ability to allow our users to share feedback and experiences thoughtfully and creatively.
Totem Team: What makes Totem different from the other games or activities that you’ve brought into your workplace?
So different! This is a low-key, thoughtful experience. I’ve never facilitated another activity that has brought literal tears to people’s eyes – happy tears, that is :). It truly is “the feel good game!”
Totem Team: How was your experience with Totem? How did you play this game with your team?
We’ve facilitated this activity a couple of different ways but the most common is very similar to the suggested method in the box. The only modification is the sharing of the “why” behind the chosen card:
Everyone at the table draws ~7 cards from each deck; the animal cards and the quality cards. One person at a time takes turns to be “it” for a round.
Using one deck at a time (the animals are usually first), everyone picks the card that best represents the person who is “it.” They pass their chosen cards over to be displayed in front of the “it” person. One at a time, each person describes the cards they chose and the “why” behind it – specific examples encouraged.
Once everyone has shared, the “it” person chooses 1 card that they best identify with and discard the rest. They repeat this process with the second deck of cards. Once they have chosen both 1 animal card and 1 quality card, they stack it in front of them like a totem and announce what they are; “I’m the Knowledgeable Fox!” The next person volunteers to be “it” and the process continues.
Totem Team: Based on your own experience, what are the benefits of bringing Totem into the workplace? What value has this game brought to your team?
I genuinely think that people appreciate all the gifts that their teammates bring to a group, but expressing it is often difficult. Totem provides the words and “feels” to help coax out one’s true interpretation. I think the reflection/debrief can be incredibly impactful as well! Did you notice any trends in the cards you received? Were any surprising? In a conversation about brand development, were your cards on brand? If not, why not? A lot of room for self-reflection.
Totem Team: Do you have any tips or insight to share on how to play this game with your team or how to get the most out of this game?
Of course! A couple of considerations:
a. Consider the tenue of the group you’re working with. How long have they been working together? Often, the longer they’ve known each other, the more meaningful the discussion.
b. Time! Facilitating it with the above instructions takes more time than you might think – specifically due to the sharing of examples. Everyone has a story they want to share and the stories are amazing! They also allow the feedback to be more concrete – we all love examples and the “why” behind a decision, right? I’ve clocked the activity at ~15 minutes per person with a group of around 8 folks.
Due to the time, if I’m facilitating a series of team building sessions with a group, I’ll often start each with 1-2 Totem rounds, completing them in segments. I have also met with a group for 30 minutes, once per month and we exclusively played Totem for 4 months. Lots of options!