4 Engaging Techniques to Improve Team Learning

Create Project Management Training with a Focus on Fun and EngagementNo matter how informative the content of a project management training session is, employees won’t benefit from the content if it’s not engaging. In order to get the most out of your training investment, project managers should use fun, interactive teaching methods. Here are four examples of training techniques that help teams learn better.

  1. Involve Corporate Culture

    Every business has a specific culture among its employees, services and leadership. Training that doesn’t take the organization’s culture into account can come off as boring and out-of-touch. Chief Learning Officer (CLO) magazine recommends that managers engage employees through understanding and adopting the corporate culture as their own.

    "Understanding a company’s cultural strengths, then effectively tapping into the energy and emotional commitment those strengths engender in employees, provides incredible momentum to accelerate transformation," CLO explains. "Learning leaders can instill a sense of employee pride and commitment. Look for ways to connect workers to something larger than a new policy on paper."

    Using culture as a tool is a subtle but powerful leadership technique that can bring people into the conversation. This can mean appealing to pop culture—a marketing firm implementing metaphors or examples from "Mad Men" - or the office culture. Integrating culture into training reinforces a sense of community, but it can also be played for humor. Does the office have a notoriously small kitchen? Is there a row of coveted parking spaces in the lot? Use these as corporate "in-jokes" to reinforce the content of your presentation.

  2. Take Advantage of Simulation Training

    It doesn't matter how important the information being taught is if it’s not put into practice. Simulation training allows you to teach, test and improve your team’s habits for quick decision-making in high-pressure situations without the risks of an actual crisis.

    Customized simulation training solutions engage a team more than standard presentations because they force employees to learn and apply the information in real-time. With multiple team-based training sessions, simulations can give your team experience by testing how they’ll work under accelerated timelines. For example, by turning weeks into minutes within the realm of the simulation, the ticking clock function of simulations allows employees of a pharmaceutical company to balance Food and Drug Administration approval deadlines with website redesign projects ahead of launch within a span of a few hours. This allows employees to have real experience about prioritizing one project over another and managing time and resources.

  3. Leave Room for Improvisation

    While practicing a training exercise or presentation is important for effective execution, Tom Yorton, CEO of Second City Communications, explains in Training magazine that leaving space for improvisation in your presentation can be an excellent tool for engaging a diverse team. Yorton suggests starting light and negative. Discuss ten bad team management ideas that people have experienced. This can be fun and will bring people into the conversation. From here, you can talk about why these didn’t work and bridge the conversation to new ideas that will work. Everyone’s brains will be firing on all cylinders as they improvise fresh ideas.

    By using the same techniques that improv comedians use, Yorton argues that corporate managers can think better on their feet, be more receptive to new concepts and come up with cost-effective solutions that are out-of-the-box. This method engages employees because it’s focused on participation from everyone and thinking about concepts from different angles.

  4. Incorporate Cross-Training or Cross-Teaching

    It’s important for team members to understand their own roles. Set some time aside during your training to allow each member to teach or explain their role and how it affects the other employees. Not only will this improve communication among team members, but increased understanding can help streamline tasks through the project. Rather than burdening the project manager with questions, team members may be able to better communicate issues directly among one another.

    Cross-training or cross-teaching improves interaction among team members in multiple ways. Not only do they get a chance to learn about other positions, but they’re also involved as presenters within the training session.

    Think back on the most memorable lectures, classes or training sessions you’ve experienced. Chances are, they hooked you because they shared certain qualities: entertainment, a feeling of inclusion, hands-on practice or improvisational exercises, to name a few. Take these qualities to heart and make them a part of your own memorable management training.

Using MBTI for Project Success

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) can be a useful tool for identifying ideal team behavior for project managementProject managers deal with numerous factors impacting success, including budget constraints, stringent timelines and technical issues. Yet one of the most common issues is communication breakdowns among different personality types on the team. By identifying and codifying different personality types, project managers can enhance the effectiveness of their teams, balancing team member strengths and weaknesses, and improving the overall project outcome.

Based on the work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is the most widely used personality assessment tool. It enables people to identify their natural preferences that guide decision-making, determine how they gather information, structure their lives and understand how they derive their personal energy.

To determine their MBTI type, individuals complete a multiple choice questionnaire that asks them to choose their preferences in a wide variety of situations. The results translate into a four-letter type, based on four dimensions, each with two preferences: Source of Energy (Extraversion or Introversion); Information (Sensing or Intuitive); Decisions (Thinking or Feeling); and Structure (Judging or Perceiving). For instance, in terms of how one makes decisions, some people use a more logical, objective thought process (called “Thinking”) while others focus on the impact the decision will have on the people involved (called “Feeling”).

Navigating personalities


The brain dictates how an employee engages with projects and approaches his or her responsibilities. Psychological type preferences can either complement each other, actively supporting success, or interfere with progress by clashing with one another. We’ve all been on teams where one or two personality types dominated; it can be very unpleasant and undermine the success of team’s effort.

But it’s not just about individuals getting along. Preferences don’t only clash or mesh with one another - they can have degrees of harmony or dissonance with the project itself. For different types of projects, different personality types can be a real asset to the team. In her article "Optimizing Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Training: Practical Applications," Jennifer Tucker, Ph.D., outlined the ranging personalities that can impact success.

For instance, some projects are more externally-focused, and can draw on the strengths of extraverts. Other projects may focus more on possibilities, not just the facts. Intuitive types are a real boon in those situations. Likewise, having Feeling types on a project that focuses on the consumer can help the team really understand the end-user in a way that a Thinking type - who relies on logic and objectivity - might miss. A project in the beginning phases can benefit from the Perceiving type, who is open to new information, and resists quick decisions. But, then again, when you need structure and closure, the Judging type is your go-to person.

Planning projects around personalities


For leaders, the trick is to discover the balance that benefits the project and mitigates risk. Managers have to decide how to utilize each personality to their project’s advantage. For example, teams that lean toward introversion may lack the continual communication needed to maintain support from senior leadership. On the other hand, projects heavily influenced by Perceiving types might struggle with expectation management, such as meeting proposed deadlines. To find the right balance, managers should pick team members that bring both preferences to the table, engaging stakeholders while making swift project decisions.

While leaders can benefit by applying personality types to project management, the MBTI isn't the only tool for determining team selection. With the right balance of personalities and effective communication skills, managers can identify individuals who bring the necessary experience for a successful project.