There are so many reasons to include juggling at your upcoming team development session. To juggle successfully you need coordination, resilience, timing, discipline and to keep tweaking a method until it finally works; all key components of being an innovative team member and a powerful self leader. Juggling is an effective tool to develop these areas and the learnings from this exercise are readily transferrable to other scenarios.
Teams like yours, with big missions to achieve, need to be able to “roll with the punches” and bounce back in the face of failure, turning these failures into powerful learning opportunities and uncovering innovative solutions. Learning to juggle is quite easy – in theory – but much harder in practice. It comes with a fair share of failure; this is a natural and essential element of learning. Being resilient in the face of failure is the hallmark of a powerful self leader.
Integrating juggling into your team development day can be particularly useful where teams are struggling to “grow” and have become stuck in a particular way of thinking. In a room of 30 participants, you’ll likely find around 2-5 can juggle already at the beginning of your session. By the end of a 30 minute juggling session, you’re likely to find that 20 people can juggle and the other 10 know the theory and are close to putting it in practice. What a boost in confidence your team will take from seeing their ability to learn and achieve new things in a short space of time! This is especially true when that lesson is then applied to something they believe they could never achieve. Self leaders understand that it can be positive to take risks, try new things and to reflect on progress so far.
You may be planning a team development session to try and tackle a team in conflict – you are not alone! Juggling can be a very effective activity to introduce to take the edge off of tensions. As well as focusing attention in the physical body, instead of having your team being too “up in their heads”, juggling can lighten the mood during potentially uncomfortable situations.
In fact, juggling has been demonstrated to have a positive impact on mental states. Nakahara et al (2007) investigated the effects of juggling on women with anxiety. Patients who were undergoing 6 months of conventional anxiety treatment were split into two groups. Over three months, half completed additional juggling sessions for 10 minutes a day and half did not. At the end of the 6 month period both groups had a reduction in anxiety but the juggling group scored significantly lower on standard tests of anxiety and depression than those in the non juggling group. The authors believe this may work in a similar way to eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) therapies or may be because of its similarities to exercise meditation and yoga. Mindful and calm team members make for more powerful self leaders who can more effectively communicate with their colleagues.
Of course, you want your team to be healthy so that they can continue to make waves in the world. Juggling makes for a bit of light exercise that can break up mental tasks and give your team a boost of energy. As it mostly focuses on co-ordination in the arms, it won’t leave participants gasping for breath but they will definitely get their stretches in, bending down to retrieve balls regularly!
It has been demonstrated that learning to juggle also grows the brain. Draganski and team (2004) scanned the brains of 24 people, split them into two groups and taught half to juggle. After three months of practice their brains were scanned again and they found that grey matter had expanded in the brains of jugglers in the mid-temporal region (senses and memory) and the left posterior intraparietal sulcus (motor co-ordination and visual attention).
Driemeyer (2004) and team followed this up to explore how long it takes for changes to take place. In their study the same grey matter expansions were found as early as 7 days after learning to juggle, and once again reduced after participants stopped practicing. The quality of juggling performance had no impact on the size of brain changes – indicating that simply learning something new is what changes the brain.
Scholz (2009) and team found that juggling changes white matter too. After 6 weeks of juggling practice, participants had increased grey matter but also grew more white matter in a part of the parietal lobe (compared to a group who did not learn to juggle). This area of the brain is involved in connecting what we see to how we move. This happened for all jugglers, even if they could not juggle well yet. Scholz suggests that simply learning a new skill is good for the brain, even if it is not mastered.
There are many benefits to including juggling during team development sessions, not least the fact that it’s fun and a great way to get creative juices flowing.
If you would like support in developing your team into a powerful group of self leaders, or are struggling with any of the scenarios we have recommended using this tool for, The Self Leadership Initiative provides bespoke training and workshops to Charities, Universities and Corporates. Get in touch today to discover the Self Leadership Initiative experience for yourself.