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Many planners would like to incorporate a team building event into their meetings. After all, people are taking the time to be together away from work, so you should take advantage of this rare opportunity and do what you can to have them interact, get to know each other better and bond as a team.  Unfortunately, a packed agenda often makes it difficult to find the time. Here are some things you can incorporate right into the meeting to create interaction and also help improve the meeting content.

  1. “Group Questions”

A speaker always asks if there are any questions, and sometimes people either can’t think of one or they are too shy to raise their hand and ask. After a speaker has finished his or her presentation, ask each table to talk amongst themselves for a couple of minutes—and come up with at least one question for the speaker. If the group is large and time is sort, just call on a few tables (who really  want to ask their questions). Everyone else should write their question(s) on a card and these will be collected and handed to the speaker. These can be addressed later or even in a meeting follow-up newsletter. This gets people talking to each other and discussing the content.

  1. “Presenter Feedback”

After each presentation, ask each table to write on a 3 x 5 card some concise feedback for the presenter. The two questions they should answer: 1) Would did you like about the presentation?; 2) What could the presenter have done to make it more effective? Presenters should not feel uncomfortable about this. It is done so that we all learn from each experience. Additionally, this gets people at each table talking to each other about the meeting content. They will also consider what might be good to change or keep in their own presentations-- if giving one.

  1. “Common Bonds”

Before the meeting commences tell the participants to introduce themselves to the other people at their table. If seated in classroom or theater style, it is more difficult, but you can still do this. During the first day of meeting, they need to find out one rare or interesting thing that everyone at their table has in common.  The more rare the better. At the end of the day, they have to write this down on a 3 x 5 card—with all their names at the top. The best ones will be picked and read the next day. You can even give a prize to these “teams.”

The idea is that you get people talking to each other. You can see there are simple ways to incorporate it right into your meeting—without having to set aside a substantial period of time. No, it doesn’t take the place of a great team building event, but at least it is more than having people just sit and listen to speaker after speaker—without any interaction among the attendees at all.

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One of the greatest problems in corporate America is that we promote people to leadership positions –simply because they have been there for years—not because they are good leaders. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the high tech industry. Engineers are hired for their knowledge and skill at writing code or designing, but they do not have any training to lead or manage a group.

You can invest in training courses and lectures but there is nothing like actual hands on experience. This is where team building exercises—the right ones—can be invaluable and very effective. Not only do they allow people to practice in an upbeat, supportive atmosphere, but if mistakes are made, there are no dire consequences. People can learn a lot about leading, managing  people and about themselves.

What makes a good leadership exercise? There needs to be a…

  1. Team and a designated leader. There’s no leader required if there are no people to lead.
  2. Challenge/problem for the team to solve.
  3. Deadline for executing a solution.
  4. Some scoring process to determine the level of success.
  5. Debriefing and constructive feedback for the leader and the team.

Interestingly enough, many team building exercises have nearly all these elements. Where many fail is the last point—debriefing and feedback. Sometimes people are having so much fun with the exercise that someone says, “Oh, they don’t really need a debriefing.” Unfortunately, when this happens, you are losing a great deal of the value provided by this type of event.

Here’s a great example of how a simple, fun team exercise can become a leadership training tool…

After dividing your group into small teams of 4-5 people, have each team designate a leader. Ask the team leaders to come forward so you can brief (only them) on the challenge. Hand each leader:

  1. 20 sticks of spaghetti
  2. 1 yard of masking tape
  3. 1 yard of string
  4. 1 marshmallow

Tell them that their teams must design and construct a tower using only the spaghetti, tape and string—that will hold the weight of a marshmallow skewered at the top. The structure must be at least 24” from the table top to the bottom of the marshmallow; the taller the better. They can’t use any other materials. The leaders are responsible for guiding their teams to success.

The leaders can take notes and ask questions, but ultimately must go back to their teams and provide them with the above instructions verbally.  They will also have to organize their teams to work as effectively as they can within the deadline.

Provide time checks as you go. When the time is over, measure the towers to determine whether a team has succeeded or not. Some teams will not have a standing structure at all.

Then ask key questions:

  1. Was your leader clear about the challenge?
  2. Was your team organized or just working at random? Organization could mean, identifying tasks or obstacles, allocating time for each task, deciding upon division of labor, or any number of things.
  3. What did your leader do to help the team succeed?
  4. How would each leader characterize his/her team—in a few adjectives?
  5. What could the team have done differently to increase their level of success?
  6. What could the leader have done differently to help the team increase their level of success.

The most effective way to get thoughtful answers is to provide these questions to each team in written form. Ask them to discuss and write down their answers. Tell them to be open and honest. Then, when everyone is finished, facilitate a sharing of their answers.

In the end, remember to congratulate those who have been successful and recognize the team with the tallest tower.   

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Corporate Games has started a new "advice column" --to help answer your questions on how to handle team dysfunctions. We do this on the phone regularly when people ask us what is the best way to solve their specific team issues.

Send an email to Info@corpgames.com with your question/problem and receive an answer from us. We have over 20 years of experience in team building and we'll give it to you straight; no sales pitch and we'll tell you if we don't have a suggestion.

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During a long meeting, your attendees need to be "re-energized" at times. And since they are meeting face-to-face, you should take full advantage of it and get them interacting. This will ultimately make it easier for them to be a more effective team. 

If the weather is nice, get them outside and give them a short but fun team challenge. Here's one that is easy to do indoors or out, and you don't need elaborate equipment to do it...just some space.

Give each team of 8-10 people four sheets of newspaper: 2- are from the regular news; 1 is from the comic section; 1 is from a full page advertisement (like Frys or a car ad). Instruct the team that their challenge is to get everyone from point A to point B (which is a distance of about 30 feet away-- which you can mark with chairs if you don't have cones or other markers) without stepping on the ground-- only stepping on the newspaper. HOWEVER- only up to 3 people may stand on the plain newsprint sheets at any given time; only two may stand on the sheet of advertising at any given moment and only one person may occupy the comic strip sheet. They will need to figure out how to get their entire team across the 30 feet, keeping these rules. Yes, under these guidelines not everyone will be able to go at once, and one person will need to work his/her way back to the rest of the group (so they can get across) --also stepping only on the newspaper. They need to make sure they don't tear the newspaper, and that can be a challenge in itself. If you have time to buy materials, you can also use  different colored or sizes of hula hoops,  24" square foam pads (usually for kids' play areas), giant trash bags or large sheets of cardboard. You just need to make sure that two out of the four items are similar and the other two are distinctly different. You can use markers or colored tape to distinguish them. Also, newpaper does not work well on a thick lawn or sand.

Give the teams time to strategize before starting the "race." It takes communication and a clear plan that everyone agrees to. People will be up, moving around, trying different ideas and working together in a fun, spirited yet short event. They'll go back to the meeting invigorated and having learned something about their teammates.

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There is a very wide range of activities that people refer to as “team building” these days. Nearly everything that is done in a group is referred to as team building—even things like going to a ball game together. However, this is incorrect. And because so many things are categorized as such, you’ll see some people push back and question the need or relevance of “team building.”

First, selecting the right activity is key. "You must tie teambuilding activities to real work-related issues," says Cynthia Shon, president of Corporate Games, Inc., which designs and implements corporate teambuilding events. "When people don’t see that relevance, they don't understand the value of participating. When you make the connection to work situations, participants realize the exercises can impact workplace issues. They can even discover something about themselves. It's not always easy to be a team player. We're often in front of a computer all day, not dealing with people face to face. We're losing important people skills. That's just one reason why teambuilding is so important."

Who communicates the value of a team building exercise? Though a team building company can do this during an event, the strongest statement will come from an executive within the client company. When management states its importance, why they have included it in the meeting agenda, and their expectation of mandatory participation, it gets people to think of the team building event differently; more of a training and less as a “meaningless game.” The person who is leading the meeting is the best candidate to make this announcement—just prior to the team building activity.

Corporate Games devises teambuilding events based on the needs and vision of the business or group. Some groups just want to create a fun experience, others may want to improve communication, leadership skills, build trust, dissolve cliques or teach conflict management. The list of possible goals is actually very long. Every group is different. When selecting a team building event, being candid and honest with you team building vendor is crucial. Give as much information as possible about the group, the location, the agenda, your goals –as well as providing information about past team building activities if any.

In summary,

  1. Gather as much information as possible and share this with your team building provider.
  2. Select the right activity after receiving your vendor’s input and suggestions. You know your group better than they do.
  3. Communicate to participants the reason for the event and its importance—before the start of the activity.
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Most of the time, people just don't like to "make waves." They like to feel their team is "harmonious" and everything is going along well. However, when the status quo is never challenged, it can actually be very detrimental. Change is all around us, from technology to the landscape of our cities. If we aren't open to new ideas, we just set ourselves up for failure.

Consider this: you probably know at least one married couple who has a habit of arguing loudly -and it causes people to be uncomfortable because of it. But they have still been married for years. Then there is the couple who are relatively quiet and agreeable and seem to have a great marriage. All of a sudden they get divorced. More often than not it is because they failed to communicate to each other what their issues were-- whereas the couple that argued communicated frequently and had learned to resolve their issues.

This isn't to say that you should argue vehemently with your team members, but what I am trying to impress is that communicating your differences -rather than just going along to keep the peace- is very important to the health of the team. It also uncovers new ideas and solutions.

So, how do you go about getting comfortable with conflict? More on this subject in the next blog post.

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More Effective Meetings= More Effective (and Happier) Team

 

One of the most common complaints we hear from “corporate America” is the time they feel is wasted by attending internal meetings. It breaks up the day, takes up valuable time from completing one's regular workload, they don’t understand why it is necessary, and ultimately changes nothing. In short, why did they have a meeting at all?

 

If you are managing a team, then your ability to have effective meetings is critical to your success as a manager and the ultimate effectiveness of your team. And really, it is not that difficult to do. The problem is that most managers are not prepared and don’t take the time to do what is necessary before the meeting.

 

Here are the basics of what you need to do in order to have a successful meeting:

  1. Communicate with the team (all meeting participants) well in advance of the meeting -not the day of...
    1. Date, time, place, length of meeting -so people can plan accordingly
    2. Purpose of the meeting
    3. What will be accomplished by the end of the meeting
    4. Any “assignments” for participants in order to prepare for the meeting. You do not want to blindside someone by asking for information or a report that they do not know they need to present.
    5. Provide the agenda --in advance, not at the meeting. This allows people to think about the subject before the meeting rather than being put on the spot for an opinion.
  2. Start on time. Do not make those who come at the appointed time waste time by waiting for others who are habitually late.
  3. Restate the purpose of the meeting, the process you will use, and expected outcome (“The budget for marketing will be decided”—for example).
  4. Control the meeting. This is where a lot of managers fail. Keep track of the time and stay on time. If participants get off topic on a subject that has no bearing on the discussion, suggest that you make a note of the issue and table it for another meeting. In fact, one of the best ways to do this is to estimate, in advance of the meeting, how long each subject or speaker will need. If you can provide these details to the participants before the meeting, they will also know they are to make their point in 5 minutes (or whatever time frame you set)—not 50.
  5. At the end of the meeting, verbally recap the meeting content and state the decisions made. Provide assignments to participants for “next steps.” You will have a stronger team if members are engaged in the process. They will also be more likely to want to attend meetings if they are an integral part of it. A manager should not do all the work and then just tell the team what is going on.
  6. Follow-up with an email to all participants, restating the meeting summary (or minutes if someone took them), next steps, time frame, etc.. Thank people for their time and participation.

 

Lastly, some teams meet on a regular basis just because they have always done it that way. Ask yourself if the meeting is beneficial in any way. If not, either don’t have the meeting, or figure out how to make it beneficial. Consider combining meetings so there are fewer of them, but more impactful. No one wants to meet for “no apparent reason,” but unfortunately, people in corporate America often do.

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Corporate Games recently received an interesting set of cards to review: "What Do You Think"-- from Kobrinica Press. It is a "deck" of 125 thought-provoking, discussion-engaging cards that pose interesting, sometimes very personal scenarios/questions. We tried it with friends, family and co-workers and everyone found it fun; the cards did prompt some great conversations that were personally revealing.

An example of one of the cards: "If you could have any talent or skill that you don't currently possess, what would you choose?"

Here's another one: "You're at your future in-law's house eating dinner. You're just about to finish a bowl of soup when you see a dead cockroach at the bottom of the bowl that obviously is not supposed to be there. Do you say anything?"   

Some of the questions/scenarios are even more personal and strange, so if you were to use these for a company meeting, we would definitely go through the cards and pick ones that are more appropriate. Some of them are really meant for "family conversation."

However, we did find the idea very good and we suggest that you can take it a step further...

1. Divide your group into small teams of 4-6 people. Give each team one of the cards to read and discuss amongst themselves.

2. Have each team present their card scenario to the group and give a summary of their group's discussion.

3. Have each team create their own scenario card and write it on a blank 3 x 5 index card.

4. Collect these cards and shuffle them. Hand one to each of the teams, making sure that no team gets their own card.

Fun, interesting, revealing and an effective team activity as well as ice breaker!

For more information about "What Do You Think?"-- www.kobrinicapress.com

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You have a small meeting and want an ice breaker activity for about 20 minutes that gets people talking to each other. You have no budget and no time. Here are four quick and easy ideas:

1. Give everyone a small card (half of a 3" x 5" index card-- or use a Post-It) and a pen. On the card, it has "Ask me about:"-- and people need to fill in the card. They should write something that they know about outside of their career, like maybe a hobby-- or raising a child-- or something they did for a job in high school. You get the idea. They tape the card onto the bottom of their name badge. This gives them something to talk about when they meet each other.
2. They draw a picture on a 3 x 5 index card-- that represents something that is important to them-- and they tape it to the bottom of their name badge. Again-- when they meet each other, they have something to share.
3. You hand out small cards to people to put on their name badge. They all have different scenarios on them (this is more work for you). They all start off with "What would you do if...." and you have to come up with the odd social or work situations. Each person gets one and puts it on his or her name badge. Again, this is a jumping off point for discussion.
4. "True Lies"-- every person gets a 3 x 5 index card. They write three statements about themselves. Two are true and one is false. They should be fun, interesting facts. Then they share these with each other. The listener has to try and guess which statement is false. Always fun.
 
Whatever you do, the idea is to make is easy for people to talk to each other, because most people are not good at approaching strangers and making small talk. 
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Get Personal Outburst

--A fun, meaningful team ice breaker for a group of 20 or less

The purpose of an Ice Breaker is to get people talking, feeling more comfortable and having them learn something about each other. This rowdy ice breaker is also a great team activity.

     Split your group into two teams of ten people or less. Give every person a 4” x 6” index card and a pen. Instruct each person to title the top of their card with something that has to do with their own hobby or anything in which they have an interest and/or expertise. Here are examples:

Things Found at a Horse Show

Tom Hanks Movies

Famous Baseball Players

Things You See at Wimbledon

Gardening Tools

American Idol Contestants

… you get the idea.

     Then, underneath this heading, they are to list 10 things that are apropos. So, for example, if someone had their card titled “Gardening Tools,” they would probably list:

Trowel

Shovel

Hose

Wheelbarrow

Lawnmower, etc.

If you need an example, you can bring cards from the game of “Outburst”—found at any toy store.

     Once everyone is finished completing their card, each teams puts their cards facedown in a deck—then the fun begins. A member of Team 1 picks up the first card in their deck and reads the category to Team 2—who now has 1 minute to try and shout out all the 10 items listed under that category. They must start within seconds of hearing the category; no talking about it for awhile. They may ask 1 question about the category if it is not clear what the writer intended. At the end of the minute, the team is told how many items they were able to match on the list—and also the writer of the list should be revealed. If you want to keep score, the number they got correct is their score. NOTE: a team may certainly yell out something that indeed is relevant to the category, but if it is not on the written list, it does not count as a point.

     Then, Team 2 takes the first card from their deck and repeats this sequence for Team 1. Everyone is yelling during Personal Outburst. It’s fun, energizing and an interesting way to get insight into your teammates.

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We get a lot of calls from teams that want to do some form of team building because their team members are:

  1. Not working together; just ignoring each other
  2. “Back stabbing”
  3. The newer team members and the veteran team members are not getting along for a wide variety of reasons.
  4. Other cliques or factions within the team are undermining others.
  5. “Rules” do not apply equally to all team members.

… and lots of other problems.

 

People want to do SOMETHING to fix the situation or at least help it get better. They will call a number of team building companies, including ours, and ask for advice; looking for an activity that will solve their problems. However, when we tell them exactly what they should do, they often elect to do a fun, lighthearted activity that brings people together, but changes little.

 

This happens because everyone wants to avoid conflict, open communication and honesty. They want to find a “happy solution” to a problem that could potentially harm the team and the organization as a whole. Though the solution can include “feel-good” and fun activities, without some positive yet serious discussion, change is not likely to occur.

 

Yes, it means that in order to achieve a higher functioning team, some egos may get bruised, but everyone needs to feel like part of the solution. For managers it means that you don’t use “divide and conquer” tactic, where you get people to trust you while you pit them against each other. It means you need to garner support for “change” and bring the group together to provide solutions as a team. Ask the team to take an honest look at themselves and how well they operate together. Tell them there are no right or wrong answers – and mean it when you say that they won’t be penalized for sharing their candid assessments of the workplace.

 

If you feel you can’t talk to them as a group, then start with a survey. Our Team Performance Survey is attached, and you can certainly modify it to fit your own situation and team. Once your team members turn in their survey (and these can be done anonymously), make sure you review the results with the entire team. It provides a way to start a meaningful discussion on team performance improvement.

 

In our next blog, we’ll reveal how we use the survey and continue the Team Assessment in order to get to REAL Team Building.

 


Team Performance Survey

Please rate your team on the following statements/attributes by placing an “X” in the appropriate box. A score of five is the best (or an absolute “yes”); one is the worst, with 3 being average or “so-so.”

 

Statement

1

2

3

4

5

1. Our team has open communication. We are open to hearing and discussing each other’s concerns.

 

 

 

 

 

2. We respect each other. I personally feel that I am a respected member of the team. 

 

 

 

 

 

3. We share credit for our successes as well as our shortcomings.

 

 

 

 

 

4. Management listens to our concerns.

 

 

 

 

 

5. Management is always open and available to hear my suggestions.

 

 

 

 

 

6. There is appreciation for each other.

 

 

 

 

 

7. We trust each other.

 

 

 

 

 

8. We have all the tools and training we need to be effective at our jobs.

 

 

 

 

 

9. I have clear direction on what is expected of me.

 

 

 

 

 

10. I feel comfortable giving my input and opinion to other team members.

 

 

 

 

 

11. My team members are glad to have my input and assistance.

 

 

 

 

 

12. I take time to assist/support my team members, and they take time to assist/support me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

13. If my teammates were asked to name a positive trait about me, I believe they would say:

 

 

14. If my teammates were asked what they thought I could improve upon in order to be a more effective team player, I think they would say:

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Is there something more than drinking to spread holiday cheer? Of course there is! Anytime you get your employees together, it’s a great opportunity to interact, have fun, bond and get to know each other a little better. It doesn’t have to be a full blown organized activity. There are some simple and very fun things you can do to engage people at your holiday party—whether a small gathering of 5 or a larger group of hundreds. Here are a few simple ideas that you can easily use:

 

For a small group of less than 20 people:

Holiday Speed Charades

Great fun during cocktails. Before the party, make up slips of paper with the name of a holiday movie or song on each one. “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “White Christmas,” etc. You can find songs or movie titles online. Put 8 slips in a drinking glass. You need one drinking glass per team. If you can’t find enough titles, you can have some duplicates, but it is better not to have too many. Divide the group into teams of 4- 8 people. Have each team either stand together or around a dinner table. Give each team a glass with the movie slips in them. At the signal to “start” one person on each team pulls out a slip of paper and uses gestures so their teammates will guess what holiday movie they are trying to convey.  Once someone has guessed, the glass with the movie slips is quickly passed to the next person, who must pick one and again, using only gestures and facial expressions, try to communicate the title of the movie to their teammates. This goes on until one team has gotten through all 8 of their movie titles. They are declared the winners—and get served first (or win a small prize).

 

Holiday Scrabble

This is a fun game that can be done during dinner or after. Each table represents one team, and you want to make sure that each table has close to the same number of people.

You can buy Scrabble Games to get enough “letters” for this event, or you can just make them using card stock paper and cutting out small squares. For place settings, spell each person’s first name using Scrabble tiles and put them just above their dinner plate. If there are people with the same first name, also provide a last name initial. 

 

For the game: ask the teams to make a “Scrabble crossword” on their table and using the letters provided by their names, they must spell as many words as possible. Give them a time limit of 3 minutes. At the end, the table with the most words (all connected) wins.

 

You can also have multiple rounds. For example, in the first round, every team must spell words that have to do with the holidays (i.e. turkey, feast, presents, Santa, gifts, etc.). Again, there is a short deadline of 2-3 minutes, and the team with the most words (all in crossword form) is the winner of the round. Other rounds could be “Company Products, Services and Trivia,” “Spare Time” (hobbies or what people do in their spare time), “ What’s on Your Desk.” The categories are endless, and you can even have the players make them up.

 

Fun team games you can play after dinner:

These are available at any toy department and are perfect for teams.

Catch Phrase

Outburst

Taboo

Trivial Pursuit

 

For mid-size groups of 40- 80:

Holiday CLUE

This is a fun mixer that starts during cocktails and finishes at dinner. It gives people a reason to mingle and talk to others. You can use cards from a standard Clue games from the store, or you can make up your own. Basically, each participant gets a clue card and a list of all the clues on the back of the card. The cards have either the name of a room, a weapon or a character on them. Participants mingle and compare cards during cocktails. On the back of their card, they check off the cards that they have seen from other participants (as well as their own). During dinner, everyone sits a round tables. The people at each table also can compare notes. Then, each table submits its Solution on paper (name of the Body, name of the Room and which Weapon was used to do the deed). The teams with the correct answer are applauded or win a small prize.

 

For mid to large groups 40- several hundred

Share the Holiday Spirit

For every 50 participants, have one Christmas Tree (live or artificial) with lights. If you do this during cocktails, have tables around the room with craft supplies (paper, scissors, glue, ribbon, styrofoam balls, beads, etc.). Ask people to design and make holiday ornaments. Make sure they put their names on any they create. These are hung on one of the trees. People can make as many as they would like, but everyone should attempt to make at least one.

 

During dinner, a panel of “judges” picks the 3 most beautiful ornaments. These are announced and displayed after dinner. The designers of these are given a prize. The trees are either auctioned off—or given to charity (to a family that cannot afford a tree). 

 

If you have other company holiday activities that you would like to share, please send them to: Cynthia@corpgames.com and we can post them on our Facebook page – and list your name as the contributor.

 

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Whenever you are working in a team environment, you will have some members who are very committed to the project and pushing it forward, some who are going along with the project but not that crazy about it, and some who just don’t seem to care about the team or the project. Of course, you would get a much higher level of productivity and success if everyone was highly committed and motivated. So how can you make that happen, and whose responsibility is it?

 

The first thing to do is communicate with your team -together and with them individually. Identify the problem: lack of high level of commitment and motivation among team members. As a group they should answer these questions:

  1. Do you agree this is an area that could use improvement?
  2. What are the barriers to commitment and motivation?
  3. How can we remove these barriers—if not all, what about ONE?

 

Your team should come up with at least one solution to helping the situation and press them to agree upon it. Awareness by itself is a small step in the right direction. Some people do not even realize that it is a problem. Make sure that team members see that supporting and motivating each other is EVERYONE’S responsibility, and that together your could achieve much more if moving in the same direction at the same speed.

 

Consider using a visual to demonstrate this.  Something “simple” it can be a powerful example. For instance, think of your team as a bunch of sticks (you can bring 12-20 sticks to your meeting)—different lengths, shapes and thicknesses. These represent all the different members of the team—very diverse. Use a paper plate to represent a “goal” of the team. Some sticks can stand on end -a bit wobbly on their own and support the plate; some can’t do this at all, but either way, the plate topples over easily. Now, bind the sticks together and stand them on end. This represents commitment to the team. Together, they will provide a stable base to hold up the plate. (You may need to trim some of the lengths of the sticks in order to be more uniform—this represents having the same goal; not some loftier than others.)  

 

Everyone wants to think of themselves as good team players, but in reality, it is a very hard thing to do. Keep making it a topic of discussion with your team, and they can all work towards it together.

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When you were a child, didn’t you get tired of having your parents tell you the same thing over and over? However, as we have more “life experiences,” you have to realize the benefits of “over communicating.” This is because when small things slip through the cracks you cannot always cover them up. In fact, some small errors can lead to big problems, both professionally as well as personally. So make sure you think things through very thoroughly, question the details, and reconfirm more than once. It sounds very simple, but it’s not.

 

Here’s a case in point—when a potential client asks us to provide a team building activity for their group, we need to ascertain exactly what constitutes success for this client. For example, we once orchestrated an event for 1400 people in Europe. We had only three weeks to put every detail of the event in place, and participants had a great time. However, our client did not ask for our assistance in “marketing” the activity and we assumed that they were taking care of getting people to participate. Wrong. What little information given to attendees about the event plus very poor weather left many wondering if it was worth the effort or even necessary to be part of a team building activity. We ended up with very good attendance, but know that it could have been great if we had asked about this detail and questioned our client more thoroughly about what they were doing to generate excitement about the event. Lesson: Get your vendor partners more involved, and as vendors, be more involved in every aspect, because each part of the meeting affects every other part.

 

Don’t make assumptions! Just because you have an excellent activity for your meeting in place, does the space and venue really lend itself to the event? You need to consider what the best set-up is for the activity and can this actually be accomplished in the time frame given. If an air wall needs to be pulled or tables and chairs moved, is there time and will the venue’s staff take care of it when needed?  Ask the question. Sometimes hotel staff is not available to make these changes because of other meetings and commitments, and sometimes, what you are requesting is just not realistic (like turning a huge ballroom in 15 minutes).

 

Ask about every detail. Some of our activities require something as simple as a pen. Many hotels and meeting places provide paper and pens, but you can’t assume they will automatically have them for your activity. Ask them. If unsure, bring your own.

 

Don’t wait until the last minute and do push people for answers. Everyone is very busy, and sometimes people take longer than expected to return calls or answer questions. But you can nicely press them for answers. You do not want to find out that something can’t be done on the day of your meeting or event. You may step on toes if you have to go directly to the source for an answer (we all have to work through layers of people at times)—but it is better to get the answer and know what you have to work with when there is plenty of time to make adjustments rather than be scrambling at the “11th hour.” Apologize later for doing the “end around,” but assure everyone that it was in the best interest of the event’s success… and that reflects on all.

 

  1. Make detailed lists and ask questions about every aspect of the function.
  2. Recap in writing the conversations and agreements. Just because someone “said” something doesn’t make it so.
  3. Don’t make assumptions that someone else is taking care of it. Check and double check.
  4. Be supportive to all who are working with you (colleagues and vendor/partners). A positive attitude will get you more than finger-pointing. 
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In this roller coaster business climate, people need “team building” more than ever, but budget is a big concern. What can you do to get the best team building experience while saving money? Here are some options—obvious and not so obvious.

  1. Stay local and use community resources to save on site rental fees and transportation. City parks are excellent places to have team building activities. They are often either free or offer very reasonable rental rates for local businesses and residents. Community Centers have meeting rooms for rent at great prices, and some come with AV extras (screen, sound, projection). You can also have incredibly fun, effective team building events right in your own office complex. Use of the parking lot or lawn areas are options too.
  2. Be flexible on dates if possible. Just like hotels and event sites, team building companies have peaks and valleys in bookings. If you are willing to hold your event during slower times, the company will be more likely to be more flexible on pricing.
  3. Negotiate. What can be done to help the cost, if anything? Don’t be afraid to ask. Some of these items have helped our customers stay within tight budgets:
    1. Switching to an event that takes less time or staffing.
    2. Providing assistants to help set-up or run the event. This works in some cases, when “extra bodies” that don’t require specialized training are needed.
    3. More participants. Combine a couple of department meetings. It costs a team building company about the same amount of money to provide an event for 8 as it does for 20. 
    4. Barter. Can you offer the team building company a service or product in exchange for their services?
  4. Do-it-yourself. You can get manuals or books with team exercises. Additionally, some team building companies provide simple, small scale activities that can be custom packaged with a facilitator’s manual provided. It does require some time to go through the event details, and it takes someone with experience running events and giving directions. But many companies have people who are qualified to do this.
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What does it take to be a team? Just because you meet with or work with the same people on a regular basis does not mean you are a team. Can you transform a group into a team? Certain conditions must exist. Here are the primary requirements:

  1. A team needs a reason to be together. A common goal, project, or plan that requires forward movement and results.
  2. Team members need to be committed to working with each other to achieve the goal(s). This also means being able to cooperate and put aside personal agendas for the good of the team and its goals.
  3. All members need to contribute and be accountable. This does not mean they are all alike or contribute equally. However, it does mean that members are actively a part of achieving the goals established.
  4. Change and continuous improvement are what teamwork is all about. Stagnate, do nothing and the team will cease to exist.
  5. Leadership. This is the person or persons who will keep the team together, focused and moving forward. It is not a dictator so much as a facilitator and person who will insure that everyone is communicating and on the same page. It is the person who will gather results, help the team to analyze them, make adjustments and incorporate them into future plans.
  6. Time. More teams fall apart because people could not find the time to make it work. They did not see that the long run benefits were worth the time commitment.
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You may have used a professional team building company in the past, you may have organized fun excursions and activities for your group in the name of "team building," but how do you know if it is really working. If your goal is just to go out and have fun, then just about any social activity will suffice. However, if you are really trying to build a more effective team, a fun activity alone will not do it. It is going to take concerted effort over a long period of time.

After nearly 20 years in the team building arena, we see that there are all sorts of companies that purport to do "team building." Some companies do their own team building -- with varying degrees of success. But it is evident that "team building" falls into several different categories:

\Level 1: Party, picnic, excursion. These are fun, group events that are typically planned internally. They may or may not include organized games (like volleyball, bocce or picnic games). The result is that people get to interact with others that they don't know-- helping to increase camaraderie and create a better comfort level at work.

Level 2: Organized team building activity. These are events that are engaging and fun, but also require people to use the skills that they need to be successful at work: communication, group problem solving, building consensus, etc. It is a more pointed team building experience. It is a step up from Level #1, but it's value is highly dependent upon the person or persons facilitating the activity. If the facilitator fails to make the connection of the activity to the workplace, it is a huge opportunity lost. Good debriefing provides incredible value. 

Level 3: This is what we call "serious team building." It is a combination of training and practicing using relevant game activities. Encouraging participants to share their own experiences and ideas, brainstorming, listening and being committed to moving forward-- these are all key elements of a Level 3 Team Building program. If a team is having serious obstacles to working together effectively, we suggest a number of tools, including one-on-one interviews prior to a team building program. These "conversations" seek to discover the perpective of each team member individually. This allows a facilitator to understand the dynamics of a team and why they are failing, before trying to prescribe something that will help them. This is the most professional approach to team building.

Most businesses usually request a Level 2 team building activity. However, as the economy has become so uncertain and teams are "right-sizing" everywhere, companies are finding a greater need for a Level 3 approach. This is more hard-hitting, encouraging immediate change, and is longer lasting. It is also an excellent use of monetary resources and provides a better return on investment.  

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Scavenger/Treasure Hunts—when are they the right event?

When people call us for team building, they often say “we want something really interactive where people get to know each other better.” Sometimes that is followed by “What about a scavenger hunt?” These days, many are caught up in the intrigue and fun of reality TV’s “Amazing Race,” and “hunts” can be designed to have that theme and flavor. However, it is not the right type of activity for everyone, and sometimes they just defeat the purpose of team building and interaction.

 

Scavenger hunt-type of activities are great for:

  1. A group that would like to explore at new city, resort or amusement park while doing some team building at the same time.
  2. Moderately active to very active groups. If you have people that have trouble walking, it can deflate their spirit and their team’s spirit. Take pregnant and over weight people into account too.
  3. Learning to plan, coordinate and communicate. If these are your team building objectives, a hunt can be perfect.
  4. Providing variety in the tasks required.
  5. Getting outdoors.
  6. Having a less structured event, since people can choose where to go and when, what to do and how.

 

Do not choose a hunt activity if:

  1. Your objective is having people interact and get to know each other. A hunt splits up the teams for the most part. We do have some that require inter-team collaboration, but for the most part, the teams are operating independently.
  2. The design of it creates too much risk for participants. Do not allow participants to drive themselves around if the event fosters a “race” atmosphere. There are ways of making it safe while still being competitive. 
  3. Your selection committee loves the idea, but are not taking into account all the other participants. You want to insure that everyone feels comfortable participating and that they can.
  4. The area you are covering in the activity does not really lend itself to a hunt.
  5. Your group just did a scavenger hunt last year. There are so many team building activities to choose from; wow them with something new and unexpected. 

 

For more information on the wide variety of scavenger hunts available, contact Corporate Games at 800-790-GAME (4263).

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This is a fun way to start a meeting and an effective tool to start building a team. It allows people to find out what they have in common. When the exercise is over, often people will continue conversations about the shared experiences and interests that have been revealed.
   Here's how it works. Everyone stands in a circle. One person is selected to start talking about him or herself. The person can talk about their job, where they grew up, went to school, etc. All the other people are instructed to jump into the "conversation" by raising their hand --as soon as the speaker says something that they have in common. The speaker will point to someone (who has raised their hand)--to continue the talk, using the subject that they have in common as a starting point for talking about themselves.
   Try it! It is a great way to encourage "bonding." 
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Whenever we ask teams to choose a "leader," that person inadvertently believes that s/he must tell people what to do and how to do it. This is not the role of a good team leader. A team leader is someone who
1. Facilitates discussion among the entire team. Insures that all members have a chance to share their ideas.
2. Is able to summarize the wide variety of ideas from team members.
3. Helps the team to focus in the strategy session and not get side-tracked.
4. Facilitates the group problem solving process and brings the team to a decision on a plan of action.
5. Keeps track of time and deadlines and helps the team move forward accordingly.
6. May make some decisions if appropriate. In some cases, it will be a group decision, in others, the team leader will take stock of all ideas and make a decision. It depends upon the situation.
7. Insures that every person on the team understands the project and the plan in exactly the same way. This will avoid error, confusion and duplicated efforts.
8. Treats all team members with respect and makes sure to value each person's contribution.
9. Operates as a member of the team.
 
Great team leaders are people that others will want to follow.
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