3 workshop methods to dissolve resistance among teams and foster better collaboration

Jackie Colburn
6 min readMay 20, 2024


Layoffs, burnout, reorgs, hybrid work protocols — these are just a few of the major challenges the workforce has come up against in recent years. Unsurprisingly, many people are feeling fatigued from the constant shifts and, as a result, are more resistant to trying new things. This reaction is normal, but it has a direct impact on ideation, innovation, exploration, and other creative work that’s increasingly important due to the fact that adaptation is the only way to stay alive amidst continuous change. So, what can leaders do to help get their teams unstuck and move them forward?

As a facilitator, I spend a lot of time working to unify, empower, and activate teams — from the dispersed or fragmented, to the remote or disengaged (and sometimes a combination of a few of those factors!). In facing some of the resistance that comes with teams that are fatigued, I’ve found that a few methods in particular empower them to do their best work and I’m sharing them with you today!

3 Methods to Counteract Resistance Among Teams

One of the most important steps for addressing resistance is to help people connect with one another. In my experience, the best way to do this is to bring them together for a collaborative workshop. Really push for this to be in person, as it’s easier to stay disengaged and disenchanted from the other side of the screen. Gathering for a collaborative session will foster more alignment and camaraderie amongst your team, and build empathy and humanity.

But what should be the focus of the workshop? And which activities will help your team get unstuck and excited to explore?

Here are a few methods I love to use to accomplish that:

1. Establish the Team’s Purpose:

Does your team have a clear understanding of why they exist, who they serve, and how their work ladders up to the big picture? You’d be surprised by how many teams struggle to articulate this even when the organizational purpose is well defined. That’s why my first step in working with resistant teams is to rally them around a clear sense of purpose. Without it, teams are less motivated and efficient, and more likely to waste time and energy spinning out.

Check out this post for a step-by-step guide to running this type of collaborative workshop. It has my directions for crafting a purpose statement — you’ll be able to copy and paste it right into your own agenda.

2. Run an Assets & Liabilities Exercise:

Assets and liabilities is an exercise I often facilitate with teams to drive a shared understanding of what’s working for and against the team. It’s also an excellent way to take an inventory of all the work the team has done to date, creating shared understanding and alignment.

Here’s how you run this exercise:

  • Have one person own the whiteboard (it’s probably you if you’re the facilitator/leader), writing the words “assets” and “liabilities” at the top with a dividing line drawn vertically between them.
  • Next, capture the contributions that others share. I like to crowdsource items for the assets column first because they tend to be positive and help maintain an optimistic energy in the room. Ask the group for examples of things that are known strengths, notable efforts or proof points, and anything that’s working or has worked in the past that the team could leverage or learn from.
  • From there, move on to liabilities; the things that might get in the way, opportunities for growth, what to watch out for, things that could harm the team’s efforts, or things that didn’t work before. I always like to note that something can be both an asset and a liability, and is worth examining from that lens.

At this point, you may see a natural 1:1 ratio across columns, or you may not. That part isn’t as important as getting the team to align on the lists laid before them, and creating a shared understanding for the state of the state.

Laying this foundation is an excellent jumping-off point for the work ahead, so this can be a useful method early in your workshop or meeting.

3. Set Goals Together:

Teams tend to get into a lot of trouble when they get too far down the road without first clarifying their goals, or when they’ve lost sight of them. That’s why it’s critical to get everyone on the same page with regard to objectives and metrics.

My go-to method is an approach developed while I was at GoKart Labs called Playing Field. Through this method, success is defined by the participants in terms of good (single), better (double), and best (triple), with the bonus category of home run! Those milestones can refer to interim goals that happen en route to a home run, or different versions of success that range from most realistic to most ambitious.

Here’s how to run this exercise:

  • Sketch a baseball field on the board, marking the single, double, triple, and home-run bases, then set a time horizon for the exercise (if you’ve never heard of time horizons, read this short post).
  • Ask the group to define what success looks like based on your time horizon. Maybe it’s 12 months or 3 years. By that time, if they do everything right and achieve what they set out to do, what do they want to say is true? How will they know they’re successful?
  • To capture their answers, you can go a couple of different routes. If there’s a lot of divergence in the group, known introverts, or serious politics that would deter someone from contributing, let participants work independently first. Either pass out sticky notes so individuals can write and add their suggestions to the board or give them a printed version to work from. Then, you can call on each person to share Post-It notes or drafts.
  • If the group seems copacetic, you can skip straight to capturing inputs by having participants shout out their answers. Either way, make sure everyone’s ideas are represented on the board to give the group a starting point in the discussion.
  • Ask the team to define success metrics for important items (e.g. how will they know they’ve reached the goal they set?), which will require group consensus and buy-in. And that means fewer surprises and misalignments down the road once the work has begun.

This method is divorced from any specific nomenclature, so feel free to use my format or whatever template your org uses already to define your success criteria. You don’t have to do something different for the sake of doing it differently — the important part is that you collaborate as a team on what success looks like and start defining the path to get there.

What’s Next?

These methods are some of my favorites and can absolutely be used together or separately depending on your goals or time restrictions.

Once you’ve completed them, make sure you also leave time to figure out how you’re going to work together. Define roles and responsibilities, make a plan for collaboration and meeting cadence/check-ins, and agree on the tools you’ll use and how you’ll store and share files. These are tactical, logistical things, but agreeing on them will help you maintain momentum around the work before you adjourn. Be sure to record them somewhere where everyone can access the info.

My hope is that trying a few of these methods will help get your team out of the weeds, dissolve or soften resistance, and re-energize the group. And that’s key to unlocking their best work and moving the team and the business forward!

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Jackie Colburn

Weekly resources for facilitators and leaders. Learn tips and methods to run better workshops, accelerate teams and uncover new ideas. www.jackiecolburn.com