Foster a TEAM Attitude and Culture

What happens when you are part of a team, but are excluded from giving input or receiving information? The team ultimately fails. It is not that easy to foster a team culture- and sadly, human nature is at the heart of the problem.

We all have opinions on how things should be done and what we should do to succeed. Those who are like-minded tend to bond together; it is very satisfying to have your opinion validated by others. We all want to be “right.” Those who do not share our views are often shut out—and they form their own exclusive group(s)—with people who are like-minded. These splintered factions fuel their own agendas by the notion that others are “against them.” They build passion for their cause when there is a common “enemy.” It is so sad when people fabricate this “us against them” mentality.  Unfortunately, what ensues are closed-door meetings, which leave the other group(s) understandably suspicious. If there was ever any trust, it erodes. Respect for each other goes by the wayside. Even worse, communication with all team members starts getting very selective and may even stop. Does this sound familiar?

This happens in teams of every size unless you can all foster a culture of openness and finding common ground first—in order to move forward, which should be everyone’s goal. There must be open discourse and an agreement to disagree. Ground rules for the team must include sharing everyone’s ideas and ultimately working together to progress. Respect for each other must be maintained; if we devolve into name-calling that just fuels more division. What is the point of that?

Some say we need to be “adults” about this, but children are often better at collaborating than adults. So maybe we should think about what it was like to be a child and not have any preconceived notions about each other. Don’t shut doors, but be open to learning new things.  If everyone on your team felt this way, you’d be way ahead of the curve.

Has Business Etiquette Been Left in the Dust?

Technology has certainly changed the speed and the way we do business. We no longer have to wait for the mail to arrive –or even to receive a fax. Proposals and contracts are sent and signed electronically at dizzying speed. However, with all this time efficiency, common courtesy has suffered, because we don’t have to meet face to face. Anonymity and speed have undermined the need to build relationships. Whatever happened to just being courteous and “nice?”  

There are many examples of a plain lack of common courtesy, but the number one irritation that nearly everyone has experienced at some point: you receive a phone call for information – this could be from a potential customer or a co-worker. They want it immediately. You rearrange your schedule so that you can get it done in the time requested. You follow-up to make sure the information was received. Then—you never hear from them again—even after several emails and phone calls. Nothing. It would be “nice” just to have them acknowledge or say “thanks, but no thanks.” There really isn’t an excuse. It takes seconds to email a short but “nice” reply.

Some think that in business you don’t have to be nice. But consider that all businesses are owned and operated by people, and we are all human. We all have feelings. If you treat someone poorly, what will happen the next time you need their help? Why gamble with thinking you will never see or need them again. It’s a small world. It does not take much to be courteous. If you’re a manager or team leader, set a good example for those who follow you: Do the right thing and be courteous in business as well as your personal life. You’ll never regret it.

The Design & Engineering Olympics– Expanded and Funtastic!

Here’s a great event that has something for everyone. It:

  1. Provides a series of team challenges, not just a single competition. This keeps things moving quickly and keeps energy high.
  2. Has a variety of types of challenges—some that are more physical and some more mental. This increases the appeal, because there is “something for everyone.”
  3. Requires a high level of interaction and collaboration. They are true “team challenges”—not activities that rely heavily on the skills of a few.

Introducing: The Design & Engineering Olympics. It is a fun and engaging competition that is a series of three design and construction competitions. These range in complexity from simple to more complicated and also have varying deadlines.

In each contest, the teams are given the materials, tools, objectives and a deadline.  With each subsequent contest, the challenge gets more difficult. Each competition is scored differently. This encourages each team to understand the measure of success, and plan accordingly.

For this 2.5- 3 hour event, there are three competitions that you would select from the following list:

  1. Quick Challenge (select 1)
    1. Marshmallow Shooter– each team must figure out how to construct a device that will shoot mini-marshmallows at least 30 feet—using PVC pipe.
    2. OR Rocket Launchers—each team needs to put together a simple Rocket Launcher (from a kit) and shoot off 3 rockets.
    3. OR The Ball Machine—each team needs to construct a pipeline of PVC pipe and connectors that are of varying diameters and curves—in order to create a tube through which 20 small balls will roll in the fastest time possible.
  2. Medium Challenge (select 1)
    1. The Tower—teams need to build a tower out of index cards and tape that is at least 20” in height. It must hold the weight of a full 20 oz. cup of water placed at the top of it.  
    2. OR Marshmallow Catapult—built from cardboard, rubber bands, string and a pencil. Teams must be able to shoot marshmallows 30 feet.
    3. OR 3-2-1 Lift Off!– an exciting rocket building and launching event. The rockets are made out of light weight foam and cardboard tubing. The challenge is to create not only a great looking rocket, but to design one that will fly the highest.
  3. Complex Challenge (select 1)
    1. Walking on Eggs– each team must construct a pair of shoes that can walk on eggs. The eggs are placed in the sole of each shoe. After construction is completed, all teams must demonstrate that 4 people on their team can walk 30’ in the shoes without breaking the eggs—in a spirited relay race. Plenty of cheering!
    2. OR Mousetrap Cars—each team builds a model “car” powered by a mousetrap. They must adjust the variables on the car and figure out, by trial and error, how to make the car go the farthest. The testing and adjusting are a lot of fun. The car that can go the furthest wins.
    3. OR The Trebuchet– This is a weighted-arm, catapulting device that flings tennis balls at a cardboard “castle.” Each team must build and test its own trebuchet as well as its own cardboard castle. In the final competition, each team will shoot at a different team’s castle (drawn at random). They have a limited time to knock down the castle with their trebuchet skills.

In the end all team scores are tallied, and the team with the highest cumulative score is declared the winner. But everyone has a great time creating these entertaining objects—as they practice collaboration and teamwork. And that’s the point!

Experiential Learning = Real Team Building

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 team activities to real work-related skills,” says Cynthia Shon, president of Corporate Games, Inc., which designs and implements corporate team building 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 and skills. 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 or phone all day, not dealing with people face to face. We’re losing important people skills. That’s just one reason why team interaction is so important.”

What is Experiential Learning? Not experimental, but experiential. This is an interactive exercise that allows the participants to learn by “experiencing” –as opposed to passive learning like reading or listening to a lecture. This is exactly what the best team building activities do. They are fun, but they are also business simulations. For example, the Corporate Games Building Bridges event is a team challenge that requires participants to practice the skills they need at work in order to succeed. This includes: 1) Brainstorming, 2) Collaboration, 3) Group consensus building, 4) Communicating with the customer, 5) Execution of a plan to meet a specific deadline, 6) Adjusting to change, 7) Quality of product, 8) Relationship building, and more. In other words, they practice and experience these skills and learn by doing.

A Letter to President Trump About Leadership Skills

Dear Mr. President,

Thank you for creating the biggest increase in government interest and participation that I have ever witnessed. If that was your goal in making America great, you have succeeded far beyond any expectations.  I hope you will read this letter, because I do have some solutions for you along with my observations.

As an American citizen, a small business owner for over 25 years, and someone who teaches leadership and team building skills to corporate America, I felt especially compelled to write to you versus just my representatives (to whom I have also sent correspondence). In my business, we always advise people not to gossip and spread negative ideas about others behind their back, but to speak directly to those with whom you have issues.  So I am writing you about my grave concerns about your honest desire to unite this country and whether you are even able to do it.

I’m one of the millions who did not vote for you, but I am hoping for your success. I am not a hardline Democrat, but a Centrist, who believes in the greatness of the United States and our system of checks and balances that insures “government by the people.” I was disheartened that my candidate did not win the election, but I believe in the office of the President of the United States, and that we should all give you a chance. My Republican friends assured me that all your posturing, bullying and tweeting was just campaign rhetoric, and that you would indeed be a different and very “presidential” person that we could be proud of. I have been waiting patiently for this person to appear. But so far, since January 20th, I have seen a reality TV personality treat the presidency just like his other TV show. This is what I have observed:

  1. A rush to reverse everything that the last administration painstakingly put into place—without any pause to understand any of the details. This is extremely reckless and juvenile– not presidential.
  2. The immediate ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, except for those where you do business. This ban caused chaos and fear nationwide. There was no plan, no explanation, no roll out. Those trying to follow your order were confused and not prepared at all. You claim that you needed to surprise people so we would not have a flood of immigrants before anything was in place. You further state that it was for our safety, which is your first priority. The terrorists who have staged attacks here did not come from any of those countries. Those involved in 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia, who is not on the list. You were not considering the safety of people who had green cards and Visas, nor their American families. I don’t believe you are even aware of what it takes to get a Visa to visit the U.S. People apply; spend hundreds of dollars, wait years. Many are denied, but go through the process again and again, because their families are here. This executive order is not only against everything this country stands for, but it was poorly executed without any thought or plan. Again—not presidential.
  3. Your modus operandi seems to be strong-arming everyone and every entity to agree with you or face the wrath of your tweets, bullying and negative comments, ignoring, banishing or firing. Yes, this works on reality TV, but the real work of governing the United States is not to get ratings. You seem intent on monopolizing the headlines—no matter what. Is any press good press? Like a bull in a china shop, you bellow and thrash about when unimportant things like the number of people attending your inauguration are reported. Are you doing this as a diversion? This tactic takes the focus off of other important issues, which perhaps you are surreptitiously working on. Maybe you hope you can just sneak some things through without anyone noticing, because we are so caught up in these other tantrums, which are definitely not presidential.
  4. Your Cabinet selections are for the most part senseless. Why pick people who have no expertise in some of these areas –like Betsy DeVos or Ben Carson? It appears that it is so you can easily manipulate them. Because, of course, you will just fire them if they don’t follow your lead to the letter. Your other picks clearly demonstrate your intent to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency, deregulate important safeguards for consumers, let big business have much freer rein, and along with your right hand man, Bannon, give discrimination a green light. You accused someone of “pay to play” during your campaign. Many of your cabinet picks seem to be just that as well.
  5. You appear to have a policy of isolationism. The time for that is long past. Everything, every issue is global. What we do affects every country. What other countries do affects us. You derided NATO as being obsolete and threatened to ignore our longstanding allies, then later reversed your position. This kind of behavior makes everyone uncertain. Is stoking fear your primary purpose? You keep bullying companies to bring manufacturing jobs back here. You talk about more taxes/tariffs on goods produced elsewhere. You certainly have not studied the total situation and do not have a grasp of the consequences of these actions. Automation has taken away more jobs than overseas factories. We cannot produce quality goods at competitive prices in many industries. If you impose taxes on things like autos made in Mexico, we Americans will be the ones to pay. Currently, what we get in dollar benefits from our trade with Mexico is nearly equal to what they receive from us. You make it sound very lopsided, and that is not true. We all depend upon each other—all over the world. It isn’t as black and white as you make everything out to be. But the fact that you took absolutely no time to study the situation or get advice from many sources—before making calls and decisions – is not presidential. You are acting like a Dictator.
  6. Your actions these first few weeks in office have been more divisive to this country than any president before you. The rallies, the marches, the protests… and yet you fail to hear your people. Instead you take a stand and make threats. A prime example is your threat to withhold federal funds from California. The State of California pays more to the federal government in taxes than the amount received back. Making idle threats does not endear you to Californians. In other instances, you are ignoring your own people; you are baiting them; you are inciting and inviting hate. What happened to your “promise” to unite the country? That should be at the top of your agenda. The fact that it is not is disturbing. You seem to be fueling fear, hatred and discontent: everything that drives the plot of a television show. “The Boardroom” is not the Oval Office. Not presidential at all.
  7. Making false statements. This is something that is very troublesome. As Commander in Chief, you should not be making claims that cannot be supported or can easily be proven wrong. As an example, your statement that many terrorist attacks go unreported or “under reported” –in order to shore up your claim that the media is against you: “You’ve seen what happened in Paris and Nice. All over Europe it’s happening. It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons and you understand that.” News organizations have reported extensively about terrorist attacks around the world, including the two in France mentioned. Neither you nor your spokesmen offered a single example of an attack that had gone unreported to support your accusation. This is a thinly veiled attempt to discredit the press that makes it seem like you are “grasping at straws.” This is just one of many instances in which you made quick, off-the cuff statements without any consideration for the truth. Your words do matter.

We are a nation populated and built by immigrants. Every success we enjoy is on the backs and sweat of immigrants. We are stronger if united. Your statements and plans serve far less than half of all Americans—and therefore undermine this unity. This can be substantiated.

It is impossible to please every single person, but it is possible to represent the majority of us on all issues. However, this means that the majority will not be the exact same group of people for every single thing. Just because you threw out a lot of campaign promises in your quest for the presidency, not every person wearing a red hat wanted every single thing you mentioned. And in fact, some Democrats were in favor of some of your ideas, though they did not have any details on how you expected to achieve them. The group of people that supports bringing jobs back is different from the group of people who supports repealing Obamacare, which is definitely not a majority. You cannot just assume that everyone who voted for you is totally in favor of every single campaign promise and that every campaign promise is backed by a majority of Americans. I guarantee that is not the case. Since your inauguration, you seem to be acting under that assumption—that you must fulfill every campaign promise immediately to keep your base cheering. The alarming rate at which you are signing orders is just raising more red flags about your ability as Commander in Chief.

You have time to change and become the president that I think you want to be—and the one our nation hopes for.                             Here is a short list for your consideration:

  1. Be open to critiques. Honestly, ask others who have worked with you how you can become a better leader; what are your strengths and weaknesses. Be clear that you are seeking their true opinions—not “oh, you are perfect.” Try to build upon the positive and work on the skills that you may be lacking.
  2. Do not make snap decisions—which you may regret later. When you have to reverse your decision, it just makes you look incompetent. Take time to get to know the people and the issues. Use the first months to assess everything. Talk to everyone. No one wants or expects you to turn everything upside down immediately. Doing so just creates wariness, insecurity and does nothing to build trust.
  3. Do not fail to reverse decisions that turn out to be wrong—just because you think that would be a sign of weakness to say you were wrong. It is worse to be wrong and not have the guts to admit it.
  4. Treat everyone with respect—and that includes people who do not agree with you or perhaps did not support putting you in a leadership position. Do not discredit or belittle those who challenge your ideas. The mark of a great leader is one who leads by example, works with others to achieve results, and ultimately turns naysayers into supporters –who will help. This takes time…
  5. Have patience. This may be one of the most difficult things to master and use effectively. Even if you believe you have the greatest solutions, if no one is following, supporting or listening, you’ll achieve very little results.
  6. Grow a thicker skin. As a leader, you will never please everyone. Those who oppose your ideas may not always communicate gracefully or well. Do not take it personally. It is not worth the time or effort and will only make you appear immature and vulnerable if you do.
  7. Show some humility and compassion. You consistently place yourself above everyone. You are human just like the rest of us. The time for honoring yourself will pass quickly enough. Your self-aggrandizement just makes people hope that time happens as soon as possible.
  8. Consult experts on the issues. There are people who know better than you, since they have studied for years and have expertise that you lack on a myriad of subjects. They are in the best positions to advise you and you should follow their lead.
  9. Don’t delete information that does not support your programs. A case in point is the information on Climate Change being stricken from the government website. This makes you look even more like a dictator and someone who ignores scientific, proven facts.
  10. Stop Tweeting. These reactive statements about anyone who appears to oppose you makes you look immature and does not help your image at all. Refrain from these knee-jerk reactions.

The world is watching. Most of your constituents will not take the time to offer suggestions to help you succeed. Yes, you will get “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” letters. Most of these will do you no good at all. I am appealing to you directly, which is the approach that we instill in all leadership classes.

 

Very sincerely,

Cynthia Shon

President, Corporate Games Team Building

This letter was sent to The White House on 2/8/17

Ideas for New Team Leaders

If you are new to leading a team, or perhaps your team has changed: different members; a change in the number of teammates; new goals. It’s a great time to take a moment to reflect upon how to unite the team for best efficiency, performance and results.

Here is a short list for your consideration:

  1. If you have managed a group before, what do you think your team members would say about you and your leadership style? Try to build upon the positive and work on the skills that you may be lacking.
  2. If coming in to lead a new team, do not make snap decisions—which you may regret later. Take time to get to know the people and the issues. Use the first month to assess everything. Talk to everyone. No one wants or expects you to turn everything upside down immediately. Doing so just creates wariness, insecurity and does nothing to build trust.
  3. Treat everyone with respect—and that includes people who do not agree with you. Do not discredit or belittle those who challenge your ideas. Be glad they are trying to contribute to solutions. The mark of a great leader is one who leads by example, works with others to achieve results, and ultimately turns naysayers into supporters –who will help.
  4. Have patience. This may be one of the most difficult things to master and use effectively. Even if you believe you have the greatest ideas, if no one is following, supporting or listening, you’ll achieve very little results.
  5. Grow a thicker skin. As a leader, you will never please everyone. Those who oppose your ideas may not always communicate gracefully or well. Do not take it personally. It is not worth the time or effort and will only make you appear immature and vulnerable if you do.
  6. Smile. The power of a positive countenance is immeasurable.

Be a great boss to your team and set a good example. The holidays are a perfect time to reflect on being better…

  1. Create good will—not hate. It is up to all of us. This requires communicating—not isolation. “Peace on earth, good will toward men.” What does this really mean? Sometimes it feels like it means just to the people who are like ourselves—not everyone. Kindness doesn’t cost a thing, but unfortunately it is not always given freely.
  2. Remember that “Talk is cheap”—this is a positive statement as well as a negative one. You can use it for good or bad—it’s up to you. How often have you thought of something nice about a person—but failed to tell them? All the time. Why is that? Also—we are quick to recognize mistakes and slow to appreciate doing well. This is true at home as well as in the workplace.
  3. Whatever happened to just being happy to receive a gift? Now everyone is judgmental and returns things, exchanges things, etc. I can understand if the sweater does not fit, but the weird object d’art that someone chose for you—just graciously accept it and be glad they even took the time to think about you.
  4. Be glad that you are in a position to give. And remember that giving does not have to involve spending money. I feel sorry when I can’t give everyone what they would like to have at Christmas—including the expense expectations that I think they have. We all need to get over it. I should feel good about giving anything and not continue to figure out how much I spent or didn’t spend on each person. We can’t help it.
  5. We need to slow down. Too many fatal accidents and too many mistakes are made because we are operating at a faster and faster pace. This also increases stress and blood pressure. It would be a lot healthier if we gave ourselves more “cushion”—and not pack every day as full as possible.

Don’t Let Post Election Anxiety Hurt Your Team

It’s Thanksgiving– Keep Talking and Supporting Each Other       The election is over, but the uncertainty, divisiveness and questions remain. Colleagues, friends and relatives who are on different sides of the issues (and supported different candidates) are questioning each other’s intelligence, thought processes and whether they really know each other at all. Trust and in some cases civility have eroded, and our tendency is to withdraw from speaking to or even being with those who don’t share our opinions. But this is the worst thing that could happen. When we are divided and don’t seek common ground in order to move forward, we just make matters worse. This is sadly very evident in the rash of hate crimes that have started occurring across the county.

You MUST continue to communicate with all your co-workers. Your job and the effectiveness of your team may depend upon these people skills, which are now being put to the test. You should not isolate yourself from friends who don’t agree with you. After all, you may have spent years doing things together and building a host of wonderful memories. Is that worth just throwing away? No, it’s not.

How do you get past this? Time certainly will help, but “go high”—like Michelle Obama said, and reach out. Go and actively support issues that matter to you. Talk to your colleagues and friends. Share Thanksgiving with those you love. Maybe you can’t talk politics right now, but you can find positive things to share and to rebuild your relationships on.

For co-workers, talk about events that you shared, successes that your experienced together in the past, upcoming goals and how to reach them together. Steer away from what divides you at this time. The same for friends and family—talk about fun trips and occasions that you shared, what you are currently doing, fun hobbies, the kids, the holidays. Keep it positive.

IF you feel compelled to talk about the election, approach it knowing that the discussion could be negatively charged. So, you want to go into it with some “ground rules:”

  1. I would really like to hear your opinion on why you voted this way. Maybe I could learn something.
  2. Let’s keep it factual and unemotional if at all possible. Leave out words like “How could you…?” That is a put-down.
  3. Are there things that we actually do agree upon? What are they?
  4. And if it does get uncomfortable, let’s agree to table the discussion until we can talk about it calmly without so much emotion. You must realize that you may never have this discussion at all.

Remember that truly the most important thing you will ever do in life is Communicate. If we stop doing that, we will cease all positive forward movement—which is the key. Let’s work together to stay together and make progress– together.  “Thanksgiving” after all, is a word of action.

Good Leaders Can Use Conflict to Build a Great Team

Few things divide teams more than disagreement. We experience this in personal life as well as business and politics.  Poor leaders believe in creating problems and divisiveness by telling everyone how bad things are. They bully people into agreeing with their ideas and are dictators not leaders. Though people may follow along for a while, this is an extremely poor and disastrous way to lead a team—or a nation. For too long, many of our “leaders” have succumbed to digging in their heels and refusing to make any progress unless it was their way. Is this your boss? Is it you?

There will always be differences of opinion, and that diversity can make great teams if conflict is seen as a way to get the best results—not a “right or wrong” fight. Good leaders know this and promote this way of thinking. There MUST be communication and everyone should strive to contribute to that dialogue. Here is the mindset that will drive positive results and higher functioning teams:

  1. Build on what is positive first and find common principles. Do not simply tear down the past—especially if you are a new boss and have no history with the company.
  2. Respect your team members. Those who disagree are not “the enemy.” Many on your team may have more experience than you; don’t discount their contributions. Name calling and bullying is the worst thing you can do—and will only serve to dismantle the team and undermine success as well as trust.
  3. Ask your team to see conflict as a way to move forward—not a paralyzing force. Patrick Lencioni, in his book- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, writes about “fear of conflict.” This is what allows some managers to get their way much of the time—when it is not always the best way. People don’t want to rock the boat. They are afraid of being fired. They think that sharing an opposing opinion is a waste of time. As a boss, if you foster this kind of thinking, you are doing your team and yourself a huge disservice.

This diagram illustrates how we should see conflict. At the far left is “artificial harmony” where everyone just agrees with everything. We know everyone has lots of opinions, but they are not sharing them, and therefore as a resource of ideas and knowledge, these people are limited—not supportive team members. On the far left is very destructive conflict, in which people are openly attacking each other personally – which includes childish name-calling and degrading comments.

conflict-continuum

 

The middle of the diagram is the “ideal conflict point.” It is still constructive, but it represents having a variety of divergent ideas—without trying to destroy the personal integrity of team members. This is what great leaders should strive for and ask of their teams.

  1. Establish common goals and ideals. If your team is in total disarray (and most are not), start with your mission statement. This establishes your purpose and why you are together as a team. This has to be the basis for progress, and you must agree that progress toward goals is necessary—otherwise, there is no reasons for your existence as a team. In government, you always hear about “reaching across the aisle,” but this is more than just talking one-on-one. This is setting a common platform for everyone.
  2. Agree that it is ok to disagree. This is how a team comes up with a myriad of ideas on how to solve an issue and move forward. However, again the ultimate goal must be to move forward.
  3. Learn to compromise. This is not a bad word. If we do not learn to compromise, then instead of progress, you foster inactivity; no movement forward or backward. And those who refuse to learn about compromise and change will ultimately see their teams, businesses or indeed governments decline and fail.

How to Have More Interactive Meetings

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. 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) What 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 to talk to each other about the meeting content.
  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 meetings, 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.