personality tree exercise

    • For any group size. This interesting activity will take 30-60 minutes.
    • Split the group into teams of three to five people. Explain first that there is not necessarily any psychological correlation between what you are about to ask the group to do, and the personalities of the group (probably.... it's a bit of fun).
    • The purpose of the activity is to develop personal self-awareness, to develop mutual awareness among the teams' members, to stimulate feedback from other team members, and generally to assist team-building and bonding through getting to know each other better. The activity helps Johari Window development, which is a useful reference model for the teams. The exercise is simple: Issue each team of 3-5 people with colored pens, markers, or crayons, and a sheet of paper per team member (A4 is fine, bigger sheets are great if there's enough room and some big marker pens or paints and brushes).
    • Each team member's task is to draw or paint a tree on their sheet. The tree must include root system, trunk, branches, leaves, buds, fruit, flowers and thorns.
    • After (or before - the choice is yours) the trees are drawn use this 'key' to ask the participants to think about their trees in terms of their:

      • roots = their life influences and beliefs
      • trunk = life structure and particularly aspects that are quite firm and fixed
      • branches = relationships and connections, directions, interests, how they spend time
      • leaves = information and knowledge - and sources thereof
      • buds = their ideas and hopes for the future, and their potential
      • fruit = their achievements
      • flowers = what makes them special, their strengths
      • thorns = challenges, threats and difficulties

    • Ask team members to share and discuss their trees and interpretations with each other within their teams. Emphasize the usefulness of empathic listening and non-judgmental feedback.
    • The duration of the exercise is flexible depending on the type of people, and the need, benefit and willingness for sharing personal feelings. Adapt the key above to suit the areas of discussion you seek to encourage, for example you could add birds and bees to the situation to represent temporary 'partnerships' or travel or holidays; or you could add windfall dead branches and leaves to represent discarded 'baggage'; or change 'leaves' to mean 'skills', 'buds' to mean opportunities, etc. You can remove items altogether if they are not relevant to the situation.