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Don't Be Afraid - Go To The Dark Side

Diversity in the workplace
Diversity in the workplace

Try this question at your next team-building retreat: “Suppose our group wanted to win an award for being completely dysfunctional – what would we do?”

Sometimes, people get tired of thinking about best practices. When that happens, flip the question: ask about the worst.

Taking a short detour gets people warmed up. You’ll be surprised by how many answers you get – and by how energized people are.

Your Job, Your Life | A CNBC Special Report
Your Job, Your Life | A CNBC Special Report

If you ask the dysfunctional team question, people will say things like this:

1) “We’d gossip. Wait – we already do that. I guess we’d gossip more.”

2) “At meetings, everyone would try really hard to sleep, but the leader would keep waking us up with her insistent snoring.”

3) “No one would participate; we’d roll our eyes, mutter to ourselves and, at random moments, laugh hysterically.”

You can vary the question, depending on topic.

For instance:

MANAGING: “Suppose you wanted to be the worst manager in the synthetic resin industry?” Possible response: “I don’t know a thing about the synthetic resin industry.” (Ok, that’s a good start!)

JOB INTERVIEWING: “If you wanted to sabotage your next interview, what would you do?”

STRESSING OUT: “How could you make yourself even more anxious about your upcoming . . . written exam, oral exam, dental exam, ear, nose and throat exam, complete physical, comprehensive, head-to-toe autopsy?'

Sometimes, just by entertaining these questions, you begin moving in the opposite direction.

Tip: Every now and then, brainstorm worst practices. It’s an easy way to start. Most of us have impressive experience.

More Executive Strategies:

Consultant, author, speaker, and founder of express potential® (www.expresspotential.com), Paul Hellman has worked with CEOs, executives, and managers at leading companies for over 25 years to improve performance and productivity at work. His latest book is “Naked at Work: How to Stay Sane When Your Job Drives You Crazy,” and his columns have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post and other leading papers.

Comments? Send them to executivecareers@cnbc.com