Want to learn more about your co-workers, say how they might behave when they’re behind? Challenge them to a friendly game of Scrabble — or Words with Friends.
There’s a lot of leadership lessons to be learned from playing board games or their respective mobile apps, according to Monica Wofford, an Orlando, Fla.-based leadership development expert and author of “Make Difficult People Disappear.”
Board games are often long and detailed, just like the execution of a business plan, Wofford said in a phone interview with The Oklahoman on Tuesday. Moreover, they may pit contestants head-to-head or involve multiple players or teams — just like typical businesses, she said.
Either way, “you can see how people react to losing or stress,” if they’re innovative, risk-takers, ambitious, competitive, impatient, methodical or look for shortcuts, Wofford said.
Oklahoma professionals agree.
Tulsa leadership development consultant Jean Kelley said she, after her wedding 34 years ago, learned a lot about her new family by playing Monopoly. “I learned who has to win at all costs, who not to give the role as banker, who won’t take a risk, who’s paranoid, who’s impulsive, who lies, who gives up in the face of adversity and who quits early because they know they can’t win,” she said.
Teresa Moisant, owner of Moisant Promotional Products, said she played a lot of Monopoly as a child and grew tired of a couple of older kids who were always changing the rules to benefit themselves. “I used to say to myself that someday I’d be the one making the rules, but today I vow that I’m not going to do to my employees anything I don’t want done to me,” she said.
Tim Hast, principal of Encore Life Skills LLC in Edmond, said he’s learned much about life strategy by playing games. “Solitaire teaches you how a decision to play this card over that card right now might mean the difference between getting stuck, or being able to play all the cards and complete the game,” Hast said.
“I was the last person in the world to get the Angry Birds app for my phone,” he said. “But the game served to remind me that what seems like an impossible situation is possible, if you take the time to figure out a strategy and not give up.”
Vive la difference
Jane Sutter, chief executive of the Boys and Girls Club of Oklahoma County, said her staff plays board games with kids because they know many don’t get the opportunity at home. “Board games,” Sutter said, “teach children the importance of patience, taking turns, being a good loser and strategy.”
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from playing board games, Wofford says, is that your competitors, much like your coworkers, aren’t so much difficult as different from you. People need to learn to spot and manage their colleagues’ various behaviors and be fascinated, rather than frustrated, with them, she said.
I’ve experienced this myself. By playing Scrabble with my identical twin, I’ve learned patience. The deadline-driven journalist in me wants my sister to just make a decision already. But the analytical, process-driven, retired science teacher wants to take her sweet time to come up with a word that uses as many tiles, and gains as many points, as possible.
Meanwhile, I’ve learned not to discount other players. Literally proving there are many different ways to look at things, my daughter Jessica —from age 6 on—could spot words I didn’t see in Boggle, in which players attempt to find words in sequences of adjacent letters on a plastic grid.
Like in the game of Clue, people, Wofford said, give us clues all the time about their behaviors, including who they are, how they operate and what type of personality they have. “Pay attention, participate in the game and learn how to manage their behaviors,” she said.
As in the game of Life, workers make choices, such as accepting promotions that will influence their paths, Wofford said.
“Real life is about choosing. It’s not random,” she said, “and more than a roll of the dice.”
Solitaire teaches you how a decision to play this card over that card right now might mean the difference between getting stuck, or being able to play all the cards and complete the game.”
Principal of Encore Life Skills LLC in Edmond