This activity helps every leader chart his or her company’s history and significant milestones.
- To encourage participants to take pride in their organizations.
- To remember the contributions of those who came before us.
- To identify qualities that will be useful for leadership development.
- To recognize ways that we are similar to and ways that we differ from one another.
- To recognize, by seeing history laid out what enormous barriers we have overcome (and what we still have left to do).
- Hands-on activity
Draw up a timeline on banner paper showing significant events in the company’s
history in advance. Include its founding date, points of growth or decline, addition of significant staff people, citations in the media, and so on.
- Felt-tip pens (fine-point)
- Stars or dots
Choose a room large enough to accommodate the timeline. People will need to read it and add to it.
It is important to help your team understand where they have come from and what lies ahead. Looking back on the history of the organization and what people accomplished during its growing stages can be very inspirational.
The timeline can be placed ahead of time in another room if available. This will ensure that noone is distracted as you carry out other activities.
Step By Step Procedures
- Introduce the activity by asking everyone to tell how their families record their histories. Write brief responses on the flipchart. For Instance, here are some frequent responses that might come up:
We have a family Bible in which we record births, confirmations, marriages, and deaths.
We have a whole chart that lists our family’s genealogy.
My mom saved all of my school papers and put them in a scrapbook.
I have recorded my grandfather’s impressions of growing up.
I don’t do anything, but I would like to someday.
“For those of you who do not record your history, these are very interesting ways to do it.”
“The early histories of some communities in the United States, for example, were written by members of the prevailing religious group. People who were of another religion who played important roles in building the community were deliberately left out of some of these early. The contributions of some people (most notably women and minorities) were not fully recorded. Would our company history go toward making a difference there?” Group responds.
- Introduce the idea of having a company timeline. Say, “Help me to put up this timeline that records some of the outstanding achievements in the company.”
“Pick up a few dots or stars, and go around and read the chart. Mark ANY achievement that “resonates” with you. We’ll take about 20 minutes to do this; don’t worry if you don’t get to do it all. Start at different points in the timeline, so that you won’t all be at the same place at the same time.”
- After about 20 minutes, ask participants to go back to their seats. Say, “I would like one volunteer at a time to go to a highlight on the chart that was particularly moving and share why this is so.” Ask one or two more volunteers to do the same. If it hasn’t come out already, be sure to probe for an understanding of how recently things have changed for the company. Ask, “Are any of these achievements related to the history of leaders in the company?”
- “Now, I’d like each of you to take a red felt-tip pen and mark three events with your name on the timeline that is from your own history— events that made you proud of being part of this company. Or, if you are new to the company, mark times when you demonstrated leadership in another company.” “For example, you might have been the first person in your family to graduate from college, or your daughter won a national science prize, or you received an unusual promotion. Be sure that at least one achievement is YOURS!” When participants are done, ask for some of their highlights. (Encourage cheering or applause)
- “Now take a purple felt-tip pen and put your name on the timeline at a date when you expect to make one important leadership contribution to the company over the next five years.” Allow time for volunteers to share.
- Wrap up the activity by posing this question for discussion: What was the value of doing this timeline?
Take time shortly after conducting this activity to reflect on how it went, how engaged the participants were, and what questions they raised. Then, make notes that include how much time you actually spent on the activity.