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Summer is right around the corner, if you have done the same company picnic for years, why not try something new? Here are some suggestions to get your employees excited about your annual event…

Trail Challenge

Many of our State and regional parks have fabulous trails that have suffered with budget cutbacks. Why not have your group clear a section of trail AND enjoy an Orienteering challenge all at the same time? End up at a reserved picnic site for a barbecue.

Music Festival Talent Show

You can hire a local band or DJ—and/or draw from employee talent. You might find some American Idols within your ranks. Additionally, if you are going to invite families to the picnic, ask them to join in the fun. Some of your employees have children in performance groups and bands. Why not give them an audience? You could also add Karaoke, but for those who cannot sing, also have a Lip-Syncing contest. There are lots of great things you can do around music and dance.

Sandcastle Competition and Clambake

Everyone loves the beach, and this is an easy thing to orchestrate. Kids can get involved too. There are local caterers in beach cities that can do a clambake or something that is perfect for the beach. IF you want something a little more unique—call us about our Sandcastle Wars event. Really fun!

Photo Car Rally

If your employees and families are driving to the picnic, you can have them start from a central location and hand them the Car Rally instructions. This is a number of sites on the way (and not on the way) that they can drive to. When they get to each location, they need to take a photo of their family doing something fun. This proves they got to each location also. Each photo is worth a certain number of points. The sites that are out of the way should be worth more points. This is NOT a race, but a fun way to get to the picnic. Friends can team up for fun. You should pick sites that are unique, scenic and interesting.

Survivor

Yes, we do offer our version of Survivors!, but you can also plan a very simple Survivor event yourself. This is perfect for a small group in a park or at the beach. This can include cooking the meal, making a shelter, making a water filtering device, and playing some fun games. Just use your imagination. Ok—you could hire us to do it also.

Softball Tournament

Even if you don’t play baseball, it is fun to watch, plus you can ask family members if they’d like to be on a team. For larger companies, you can form teams early and make up an elimination schedule. There are reservable ball fields with adjacent picnic areas in every city. IF your company is small, consider challenging your neighboring companies to a tournament. If you can group together, it saves money for all of you—on the rental and on the food too. Baseball equipment is not expensive, and often times people have their own at home; ask them to bring it.

Golden Gate Park

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area and are trying to appeal to families, this is a very unique venue, that is not only a great picnic site, but offers a ton of family-friendly options. There’s boating on Stowe Lake, hiking on Strawberry Island (both are next to two reserveable picnic areas). See the bison, go to the museums, the Rose Garden, the Japanese Tea Garden. There is so much to see and do. You can have your picnic in one location, give people a map, and let them go and enjoy. There are “hidden statues” all over the place. Have a family statue hunt.

Safari West

If you are anywhere near the Santa Rosa area, check out this unique venue. It’s a wild life preserve that offers tours on “safari buses,” barbecues, and has plenty of space for picnic games should you want to add that to the mix.  

Corporate Games provides the most creative and unique games for company picnics—for families or just for employees. Our facilitators know how to get everyone participating! Call us, email us for a Quick Quote or see Team Building Adventures on this website for more information.

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Is your boss someone who:

  1. Micromanages

  2. Does not provide feedback or only negative feedback

  3. Does not ask for your input or ideas

  4. Changes priorities and projects without reason

  5. Is not supportive

  6. Takes all the credit and is not part of “the team”

  7. Has a dictatorial style of managing

Basically—does not communicate well or treat direct reports with respect. 

            In our experience in training managers, there are a number of reasons for this unfortunate behavior. Mainly it boils down to a lack of training, being overly self-centered, fear of failure or sheer laziness.  Sometimes people simply say “S/he’ll never change.” So then do you just hope they will either get fired or pass away? When your manager is the owner of the business, that is unlikely. What can you do to change things? It all boils down to communication. Here are some ideas, do’s and don’ts…

  1. One-on-one meeting over coffee or lunch. There are a number of reasons to meet in public--  it puts people a little more at ease in a social setting and people have to be nice. In a closed office setting, it feels more formal and a really bad boss, might just cut off your ideas. Whatever you do, think about what you are going to say and how you will say it before your meeting. Keep it casual and solution oriented. For example:  I’ve noticed just how much everyone likes to share their ideas about the project. Is there a way we could have a brown bag lunch once in a while to do this—with you there too? Don’t expect miracles or immediate change. But what this does is to start “planting seeds.”

  2. Don’t gang up or make a habit of complaining about the boss to others. This could come back to bite you, and it does nothing to solve the problem—though it is human nature and makes you feel good for the moment in “group misery.”

  3. Ask for a review. It is standard practice to give employees reviews, but sometimes they seem to fall by the wayside. Doing this opens up the conversation and allows you to find out what your boss is thinking. 

  4. Have a department picnic, offsite or team building activity—with the boss. You are all people, and this type of event will put you on a more level playing field—at least for a period of time. It will also help you get to know each other better, and that will translate into easier conversation in the workplace.

  5. In trying to help your boss be a more effective leader, write down one thing s/he could do to make the team more efficient and the workplace more enjoyable. Be reasonable and realistic.  Tell your boss you have an idea that would increase everyone’s productivity—and quickly tell him or her know what it is—in a casual tone. It is better to do this in person unless you are an excellent writer and know how to couch it in very acceptable terms.  However, you are just testing the waters at this point, and anything in writing may work against you if you really have a bad boss.

  6. WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS—but before you seek relief from HR, try an anonymous letter and/or book. Be positive in the letter (i.e. you are a friend who is trying to help). You might consider sending a short book that is fun and easy to read: “Zapp! –the Lightening of Empowerment” is a very good one for managers.

 

It all comes down to your ability to communicate well. Think about the “desired outcome” before you act or speak. Consider the personality of your boss and what motivates him or her. This means getting to know them better; what is that person's professional experience and history; where did s/he come from; and what prompted that person to take this job? Don't just react, consider your boss's point of view, approaches that could work —and then proceed accordingly. It's more time consuming, but it can be worth it in the long run.

 

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What is the most important thing you will ever do in life? It’s Communicate! Team members who do this well can literally increase their team’s effectiveness. Yet something so simple can be very elusive as well as inconsistent. It is made even more difficult by the speed of technology and the tools we have: Facebook, Twitter, email, texting… all fast, shorthand ways of sending information. If we don’t use the same language or shorthand codes, if we assume the others receiving information can “fill in the gaps”—there is plenty of room for error.

Here is where we can all learn from basic journalism principles. In any given communication, you need to make certain that these questions/facts are clear. It can save a lot of time, money and headaches.

  1. Who – is there an action required of someone? Sometimes, we cc lots of people and it is not clear who the message is being directed toward. Or when you send a request to several people, are you expecting all to respond? Just one person? Make sure this is clear.

  2. What- are you requesting something be done and if so, what is it exactly? Is the message just “fyi” or do you want a response or action?

  3. When- if you are waiting for an answer or if there is something occurring that is time sensitive, you need to make sure the date and time or timeframe is included.

  4. Where- if there is an event or meeting, where is it taking place? You would not believe the amount of time wasted from back and forth emails requesting a location or address.

  5. Why- if it is not clear as to why something is occurring, or why a request for action is being made, make sure to include an explanation. Example: “Please send jpg of company logo.” If a person does not know why you need it and when, the resolution of the file may be wrong for the application and it may not arrive in the time frame that you need. It would be better to state: “Please send high resolution jpg of company logo today. Needed for a trade show booth that is being designed for an event next week.”

  6. How- if you are asking for an action and it is not clear “how” then you need to explain. Example: “Please send copy of company logo today.” What if that person decides to fax you a copy when you are asking for a computer file?

For many reading this, it may seem basic, but EVERYONE forgets to include at least one of the facts most of the time. If it helps, provide your team with a "form" that lists these six items for every team communication. If we just took a moment to make sure our messages are complete and cover the above facts, we would all be much more effective at what we do. Yes, after a “conversation” is started or if you communicate regularly with the same group and have certain facts already established, you can take shortcuts—but when you initiate a communication, start with all the details.  

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Do people on your team work in silos? How can you get people to start working and thinking like a team rather than a group of individuals that separately contribute to one goal? If you’re the team leader, it is easier than if you are a relatively new member. In this short article, we’ll look at it from both perspectives.

   As a leader, you can:

  1. Hold regular team meetings to share projects, ideas, ask for assistance.
  2. Encourage team members to collaborate rather than simply go it alone or ask for your advice.
  3. Get to know each other on a more personal level. You are all people. Even something as simple as all sharing what you did over the weekend helps to bring you closer by making everyone more “human.”  
  4. Have some fun and levity at your meetings. One of our clients incorporates one of our quick, simple “Team Minutes-to-Win-It” challenges at each of their staff meetings. It lightens things up, increases the energy and boosts camaraderie—all within minutes. Or—you could assign one person to tell their best joke each week, or tell about the funniest thing that happened to them last year. It does not need to be complicated. You just want to increase communication and interaction.
  5. Celebrate success. If anyone on your team has achieved something noteworthy, make sure everyone knows it. Acknowledgment is easy—and as simple as a blast email or a quick round of applause from everyone. These congratulatory recognitions do not have to just be for work related things. It can be personal success or milestones as well.

  As a team member, you can:

  1. Offer help to another team member. If someone is overwhelmed by a big project, what can you do to help them? Be aware of what is going on around you. Help might be as simple as emptying someone’s trash can—or getting them coffee when you are going to get some.
  2. Ask for ideas or advice. If you are designing a new process or having a problem, ask a team member for their perspective and ideas. We all think that everyone is too busy and you don’t want to bother them. But you could approach it this way: “Do you have time for a cup of coffee with me? I’d really like to bounce an idea off of you.” Even if the person says “no.” You are still opening up a conversation and fostering more of a “team mentality” just by this simple act.
  3. If you don’t have regular team meetings, then suggest to your boss that it would be a great idea. They don’t need to be frequent, long or tedious—but could certainly help to build good working bonds among the team members as well as make the workplace more fun, human and interesting for all.
  4. Bring food. There is nothing that attracts and brings people together like good snacks. Great for breaking the ice with new team members. You can certainly do it for special holidays, but anytime is just fine too.
  5. Celebrate success. I put this on both lists. You don’t have to be the boss to give others recognition.

We know lots of organizations that have a yearly meeting that includes a team building activity. This is great, but it does not have the impact of regular team interaction. The big, fun team building event should augment your team building efforts –that take place throughout the year at your team meetings and office celebrations.  

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If you’re having a holiday party, consider this fun and easy team activity. “Cocktail Concoctions” challenges teams (6-8 people per team) to create “designer drinks.” And it’s easy! You just need to supply glassware, plastic cups, mixers, fruit, craft items (pipe cleaners, beads, toothpicks, colored paper, scissors) and a variety of alcoholic beverages. Each team will mix up either an alcoholic cocktail or a non-alcoholic “mock-tail.” They select glassware and may decorate it with fruit, umbrellas, or whatever they create to enhance the visual appeal of the drink. Give them only 20 minutes to do this. You don’t want them to create and sample drinks for too long.

For judging, they provide one example of their drink in glassware, decorated as much or little as they want. Their drink should also have a name. Each team must also provide samples of their beverage in small, clear plastic cups-- for tasting. In some cases, the employees create these drinks and their spouses or guests do the judging. Simply provide paper ballots for the judges to cast their vote for Best Cocktail and Best Mock-tail.   

Simple prizes can be awarded to the winning team(s).

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We have been to lots of different company picnics –and have seen it all. From the kid that lost his parents to the fantastic family event with a pirate theme, your company picnic requires more planning that many think.

Here are a list of things that you should consider in the planning stages of your summer event:

  1. Who will be attending? Just employees, or will there be spouses and children?
  2. Aside from eating, will you provide activities for the attendees? If so, you must make sure to gear these activities so they appeal to the participants. If there are going to be lots of kids, for example, make sure you have games and things for them to do.
  3. Is everyone expected to arrive at a certain time, or will it be more like an Open House, where people can just show up any time? This is important if you are going to have games or events. You need a critical mass in order to have the games be successful. If people are just coming and going, it is hard to get the group all together.
  4. Don’t have a team building event for the employees if their families are going to be present. A family picnic should be for everyone and not split people off from their families.
  5. When people bring their children, they expect to spend time with them. Make sure any activities can be enjoyed by both parents and their children. It becomes a bit tricky if there are adult games where small children can’t play too. In this case, it is best to have separate games that are geared toward kids—in which the parents can help and cheer their kids on. Kids ALWAYS want to play. It is the adults that you have to “sell.”
  6. Make sure that parents stay with their (small) children. They cannot simply tell the kids to go and play and expect someone else to look after them. If you have a company or group of employees who are running games for children, they are running the games—not keeping an eye on every child.
  7. Prizes—everyone likes to “win” something. Even if it is as simple as a Pinata. Consider having a Pinata for kids with candy. Have a raffle for adults with a few nice prizes or gift certificates.
  8. Think about having a Treasure Hunt for the entire family. Use plastic eggs and put goodies and coins in them. Everyone can go and hunt, but families must hunt together. A nice, simple, fun activity that anyone can do.
  9. See the picnic site ahead of time, before reserving it. It should have trees for shade, enough picnic tables, a lawn if you intend to do games, clean restroom facilities nearby.
  10. Ask about any other groups reserving the picnic site next to yours at the same time and date. You don’t want to be surprised with a group that is blaring music right next to you, for example. So checking on who might be there and what they will be doing is important.
  11. If you intend to use a lawn for games or picnicking, make sure the park does not have the sprinklers going off when you are setting up. Just ask about it. Most city parks and their personnel are very accommodating.
  12. DELEGATE! One person cannot plan and execute a big company picnic by him or herself. We have seen it happen with disastrous results. Put people in charge of the various aspects of the event. Food, furniture rental, activities, site reservation. There should be a different person for each of these items, or one person could get pulled in a million different directions on the day, and there is a lot more chance for things to go wrong. Do it by committee, and make sure there are clear roles and responsibilities.
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Some team activities are very simple in concept, and you might think “I can create it myself.” It’s fun and fulfilling to design “games.” So if you are considering creating an event for your company meeting, here are some helpful hints that we have learned in our 22 years of experience.

Do’s

  1. Know the people who will be participating and plan an activity that would appeal to them. For instance, a young, active group would not be as interested in a sedentary activity as something more active and possibly outdoors. Also, some events appeal more to men than women (paintball is a good example) and vice versa. Consider what people like and what they are good at.
  2. Plan your activity to be no longer than about 3 hours. Something shorter is fine, but there have been some people who think an all-day scavenger hunt is fine. Your participants will be tired and ready to do something else after 2.5-3 hours.
  3. Keep it fun and engaging. You’ll lose momentum if people have to wait around “for a turn.” Try to design your event so that everyone can and must participate. That is what a team is about.
  4. Err on the side of being simple rather than too complex. Sometimes people who design events think “oh, everyone knows that ,” when in fact they don’t. For example, one of our clients wanted to create some improve scenarios for her group. She wanted people to converse using only famous lines from movies. Many people are not movie buffs. Additionally, when you put too many clever twists into an event, you must ask yourself whether or not you think your group can solve the clue or deal with the change. They must have some degree of success, or people get discouraged and your event takes a negative turn. When in doubt, test your game on a small group of friends or business associates.
  5. Run through every possible pitfall and create a failsafe for each one. For example, if you provide written instructions, make sure they are clear. If any part of your instructions can be interpreted in a way that is not what you are trying to communicate, rewrite it so it is clearer. Then, post helpers in key spots to make sure the participants are going in the right direction.
  6. Make sure everyone celebrates in the end. You want them all to leave on a high, energetic note.

Don’ts

  1. If you have created a puzzle or clue for people to figure out as part of your game, do not get freaked out if they don’t get it immediately. Part of teamwork is learning to solve problems together. Give them some time to work on it. If they don’t get it within a reasonable period, then give them clues. Don’t do it for them. That just makes it look like you don’t think they have the ability to figure it out—and it takes the fun and joy out of solving it together.
  2. Don’t change the rules midstream –especially if other facilitators are giving instructions too. This only confuses people and it makes you and your assistants look disorganized.
  3. Don’t take it too seriously. What keeps people engaged is when an activity is fun, interesting and entertaining.
  4. Fail to plan. Know what is supposed to happen at every part of the activity. It helps to write down a timeline (what are people doing when). For example, if the event requires people to build something—after two hours, where should they be in their construction? Nearly done?
  5. Fail to give yourself enough time before the event. Most team activities require some set-up. Make sure you provide enough time to easily bring in and set-up materials needed. If you have to post clues or post people in various locations, make sure you have more than enough time to do so—and that everyone is in the spot they are supposed to be in.  
  6. Prizes. Everyone likes to win something. Even if it is a simple token like a gold medal. Bring prizes!

Lastly, if you have a good idea and what some help turning it into a great event, call us. We create custom activities for our clients all the time. We can take an Indiana Jones theme and weave a fun activity into those dry breakout session. This can enhance learning speed, make boring content memorable and the meeting a lot more enjoyable.  

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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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