Find Out How Your Team Is Doing

Every so often (every 12- 18 months), it’s a good idea to assess how your team members feel about the team’s effectiveness. Here’s a very good survey to use in order to determine this. Copy and distribute or email to each member of your team. Ask them to complete it and send it back by a specific date. Remember that if you don’t ask, you will never really know.

Team Performance Survey

Talk Like Spock– to improve your communication skills

When you “talk like Spock,” the iconic character from Star Trek, you are:

  1. Taking emotion out of the conversation.
  2. Listening carefully and analytically to what others have to say—with an open mind.
  3. Stating facts, not feelings.
  4. Realizing that conflict can spur growth.
  5. Coming to reasonable conclusions that are supported by facts.
  6. Agreeing to work together to solve problems.
  7. Treating others with respect even if you disagree.

Talk like Spock—who was good at listening carefully and saying few but very accurate words. This article is a continuation of our New Year’s Resolution suggestion to become better communicators. Are we talking to “the other side’ yet? Are we even trying? It’s unfortunate when we won’t communicate at all on some subjects. Some feel compelled to shut down conversation, because we simply “won’t change each other’s minds.” Discussion over. That is what goes on in some businesses and in our government today. That—and the fact that some people just want to undermine the “other side” –no matter what. Remember that leading a team and governing starts with all of us, and we need to be good examples. We need to hire/vote in people who want to work together—not against each other. You can hire someone who has the same basic beliefs as you, but if that person cannot communicate well and work with all others, nothing will happen. Progress gets undermined by a constant tug of war. Welcome problem solvers who are eager to listen to all ideas, not just their own.

Spock was half human and half Vulcan, which is why he would not let emotion take over reasoning. We are perhaps too human, acting on feelings and aligning ourselves only with like-minded people to the detriment of everyone. As nice and easy as it is to think that everything is just black and white; right or wrong, that is a simplistic view of a very complex society.

So before you lash out at someone who has a different opinion– think. The ability to reason is what sets us apart, so we should do it more often. Set aside differences. Start learning about other points of view. Gather facts and make your own decisions. Then communicate ideas to solve problems instead of perpetuating or escalating them. Never resort to name calling or swearing. This just sets everything back even further. Try talking to the “other side.” And keep trying even if you get shut down.

 

The Good and Bad about Escape Rooms– the hot trend in team building

If you have not experienced an Escape Room, it’s a new form of entertainment for small groups, dates, or a family outing. It entails going to a facility that is built out to support an entertaining theme (Pirates, Zombies, Sherlock Holmes, Time Traveling, Break out of Jail, etc.). The premise is that your group (of up to 10 people) needs to figure out how to “escape” the room(s) in one hour or less. In order to do this, your team must look at and manipulate objects in the room and figure out what they mean. It is essentially a series of puzzles that are designed to go along with the theme—and eventually yield the numbers, letters or directions that will unlock many different types of locking mechanisms. If you succeed at figuring it all out, your team will be able to exit the room.

It can be a great team building experience for a small group if the right escape room facility is selected. They are definitely not all the same. Here are the pluses, minuses and how to select what’s best for your team…

Pluses

  1. The cost is pretty reasonable. It amounts to about $30- $50 per person, depending upon how many participants. We would recommend buying out the room for your group. This would be about $275- $500, depending upon the facility.
  2. Many facilities and scenarios to choose from. Escape Rooms are springing up everywhere, and there is probably one right in your city.
  3. Entertaining and fun. Some facilities have built some pretty elaborate sets for these rooms. There is a wide variety of scenarios to choose from. Most escape room facilities offer two or three different escape room experiences. This means your group could certainly do more than one of these experiences if they like them.
  4. Great for small groups of 10 people or less. Not all team building events work well for a group of 5- 6 people, but this does.
  5. All indoors, so bad weather is never an issue.

 

Minuses

  1. You have to be there at an exact time and be done by an exact time. There is little to no flexibility, because other groups may be in the room before you and after you.
  2. Not everyone enjoys solving puzzles that are not straightforward. Some escape rooms can be very difficult, and usually within a group some of the participants will be more into it than others. Some may actually disengage.
  3. You have to do your own observing and debriefing, which is an important component of team building. If you do not relate the experience back to what happens in your workplace, you are missing out on a great deal of its value.
  4. It can only accommodate 6-10 people at a time, depending upon the facility. Larger groups would either have to divide up and experience different rooms—which can defeat the purpose of doing something together.
  5. Some escape rooms are not very big, and having 10 people in a relative small room (about 12’ x 12’—some even smaller) can be difficult for some. Yes, people can leave at any time, but you certainly don’t want people to be uncomfortable.
  6. If you don’t “buy out the room” (usually $275- $500) for your group, you may be sharing your experience with people you do not know (“the public”).
  7. If you do not choose the right facility and theme for your group, they may finish too soon or not at all. We know of one group that was done in 15 minutes and wanted their money back. In other cases, the hour expires, and the group is not even close to getting out (succeeding).
  8. Some people prefer outdoor events for team building. Escape Rooms are all indoors and most of the rooms do not have any windows.

 

How to choose the best Escape Room Experience for your group

  1. Ask friends, colleagues about their experiences. Read the reviews.
  2. Go and check it out. You and some friends can experience one of the escape rooms at a particular facility before you decide to bring your work team there – to experience the other theme offering.
  3. Reserve early in order to make sure you can get a date and time that works with everyone’s schedule.
  4. Review the facilities rules and ask about contingencies. What if you have to cancel or change the date? What if you arrive late? Are there penalties? Can you get your money back if needed?
  5. Consider who the participants are: level of sophistication, physical fitness, tenacity, sense of adventure. Make sure you match the right experience to the group. Some escape room facilities offer challenges that are a bit more physical. Ask questions!
  6. Does the escape room facility provide a person who guides the group through the experience? There are many levels of employee involvement offered at these places. Here are some that we have seen:
    1. No one from the facility is there to help or guide the group, nor are they monitoring the group’s progress at all. The participants can call (on a walkie talkie) to get one clue during the hour. That’s it.
    2. There is a “guide” that physically stays with the group and provides hints if the group seems to be having trouble making progress.
    3. There are video cameras so that employees of the facility can see what your team is doing. They communicate with your team through a TV monitor that will provide written hints, notes or cautions. Your team can wave at the monitor and ask (specific questions) for clues at any time.

 

How larger groups can experience an “escape room” adventure…

Several team building companies, including Corporate Games, offer “escape room events” for larger groups (20 to several hundred participants). These would take place at a venue of your choice. If the venue is unique (like a museum, aircraft carrier, mansion, etc.), elements of the venue can be incorporated into the theme and the game itself.

An intriguing scenario is provided to support the venue or even the industry of the group. Participants are on teams of about 8 people. Each team attempts to locate clues, find mysterious elements, figure out codes and puzzles that will ultimately let them unlock a series of different mechanisms to succeed at the challenge. Facilitators are there to assist and provide hints if needed.

It’s a one-hour challenge that offers the best elements of team building: group problem solving, time management, creativity, resourcefulness and more! Plus, these customized events can be done anywhere—even outdoors.

Contact Corporate Games to get complete details on this extraordinary activity: Call 800-790 GAME (4263) or email us at Info@corpgames.com

 

 

 

Best New Year’s Resolution part 2

All about team building—and more…

LISTEN—fully and with intent to understand. This is one of the hardest parts of communicating. Normally we listen only partially, because we are thinking about so many other things. Or—we listen with intent to respond. This also takes away from our ability to fully understand, because we are listening with a “filter”—formulating what you will say next—not concentrating on what is being said. Active listening seeks to comprehend and empathize with the speaker. This means trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and allow their point of view to be validated—no matter what your own personal feelings on the issue. It does not mean we will agree in the end, but hopefully that both sides will have an opportunity to share –without emotion—very different perspectives. In doing so, you may surprisingly find some commonalities.

This is not easy to do if the person you are listening to is combative and passionate. But allow them to speak without interruption and usually, the rhetoric and tone will eventually start to be less argumentative. After all, an argument takes two people. If you are listening without responding, there can be no argument.  Here are some tools that can help:

  1. Think of the other person as your “friend” who is willing to share their ideas with you. You may not feel like it, but put on a pleasant face and smile. A wise person said that “Peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the absence of physical (or emotional) aggression.” Conflict is actually something that can move us forward.
  2. Intermittently use understanding words. This will encourage the person to keep conversing. These are words like “ok” or “sure” or “I see.” Again—not combative, but demonstrating an effort to understand and empathize.
  3. If the other person does not ask for your point of view, don’t launch into a counterpoint speech. Instead, ask if you can share your view also. You might hear “There is really no point. We can’t change each other’s minds.” Then say, “But it would be good to talk and have the conversation. Non-communication is what gets us (and indeed the world) into trouble, because then we are just guessing and making up what someone else thinks.”

Watch for “Talk like Spock” in our next post.

The Best New Year’s Resolution –does not cost a thing.

Resolve to improve your communication skills and reap wonderful, positive results in personal and business relationships. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself and everyone around you.

The past year has uncovered unfortunate divisiveness in our country and even among friends and family. For some, it has gotten to the point that people who had good relationships just avoid conversation –or each other. Name calling, bullying and telling people they are wrong is counterproductive. Nasty tweets, yelling and fighting will solve nothing.

We are all Americans and want our country to succeed. We want our businesses to thrive and our personal relationships to be rewarding. We must talk to each other in order to move forward. And it all comes down to good communication skills.

Where do we start? First, learn to reach out without malice. This means asking for other people’s opinions and honestly wanting to hear them. There may certainly be some reluctance from others to share, but if people don’t think you are just waiting to pounce and bite their head off, they may start to open up. If someone just says “no” and puts up a wall, it is ok. But explain that you are interested in knowing what they think—and that is all. Don’t let a conversation escalate into something negative. Will cover some tips on how to do this in our next post. In the meantime, think about and practice “reaching out.”

Quick Easy Ideas to Liven Up Your Holiday Party

This was in our newsletter a couple years ago, and people have asked us to share these fun ideas again. Happy Holidays!!!

You have the facility, the food and the drinks, and lots of people coming for fun. How can you make the holiday party more interesting, fun and memorable—without having to spend a lot of your time getting ideas and materials together? Here are some quick, easy ideas to get the party going…

  1. What’s My Hobby? Give each person a 3” x 5” index card, a pen and tape or a straight pin. Each person will write their name at the top and list their hobbies on the card –and pin or tape it on their shirt. This is a great way to break the ice and give people something to talk about during a cocktail party.
  2. Lego party—put a bunch of Legos or other building blocks on a large table. Ask people to help build a replica of your company logo.
  3. Theme/costume—it’s always fun to dress up, and costumes always make mingling more fun and spirited. Announce the theme when you send out the invitations. Ideas for themes: Middle Earth Holiday; Victorian Holiday; Scrooge; Ugly Christmas Sweater; Holiday Characters (Rudolph, Frosty, Charlie Brown, Elf, etc.)
  4. Cocktail Concoction- Have a contest for making an original Holiday Cocktail or Mocktail.
  5. “White Elephant” Gift Exchange- Have each person bring a wrapped “gift” they have never used and don’t need. The value of these should not be more than $25. Everyone draw a number from a hat. When a person’s number is called, they may pick a wrapped gift from the pile or “steal” a gift from someone who has already picked and unwrapped a gift. An item may only be taken 3 times, and you may not directly steal a gift back from someone who has just taken it.
  6. Toy Drive- Have people bring a new, unwrapped toy. Ask a representative from a local charity to come and give a short speech about how the toys will be distributed.
  7. Prizes for oddball things: “Most unusual earrings.” “Hat contest” “Most unique tie.” “Hairdo- both men’s and women’s” “Shoes-both men’s and women’s” “Best Holiday Manicure.” You should announce that there will be prizes for these categories BEFORE the party, so people will come dressed appropriately. Give everyone a ballot to determine the winners—or have a small committee who decides the winners.
  8. If you have a small group of about 20 or less, you can have a Bunko Tournament after dinner, or consider playing one of these fun team games: CatchPhrase, Outburst, Cranium, Pictionary. Make up your own Minute-to-Win-It challenges.

 

 

“The Escape Plan” Decoder

Here is a look at one of our “Decoders” from the Escape Plan, our newest “Escape Experience.” This one was designed for an event aboard the USS Hornet Aircraft Carrier Museum. Can you figure out how to use it without reading the instructions below?

A Decoder from The Escape Plan, a Team Building Game

Using the Decoder

If decoding letters into a number:

  1. Point the black arrow on the inner disk to one of the symbols on the outer disk.
  2. Locate the letter you are trying to decode. If the symbol that now appears below that letter is the same, then the number just below the letter is correct.
  3. Point the black arrow to a different symbol on the outer wheel if the first one does not match up.

Decoding symbols and numbers into letters/words:

  1. Locate the number on the inner wheel and note the symbol below it.
  2. Line up the black arrow to the same symbol on the outer wheel. The letter that now appears above the number you are decoding is the correct letter.

An Interactive Event for Theater Style Seating?

This was an interesting question posed to us recently. In this seating configuration, people cannot move except to stand up, sit down, and turn in place. However, you may have people seated in this fashion for a meeting, but need a quick energizer or two. Here are some great ideas that we formulated just for a group like this…

Ideas for Theater Seating Activities– This is a series of fun, energizing activities. Some are actual team competitions, others require the entire group to work together.

(Six) Team Competitions-  The teams are denoted by crepe paper streamers that are draped between and on the back of the seats. The area is divided into six sections (imagine two rows of three squares). Each area represents one team.

Beach Volley – 15 minutes– Each team is given one small beach ball. At the signal to commence, music starts playing and the balls must be batted into the air towards another team. The volleying continues until the music stops, and no one knows when that will happen. However many balls are within a team area when the music stops, that team gets a negative point. In the second round, another beach ball is added to each area (total now of 12 beach balls). Once again, when the music starts, teams must attempt to keep any beach balls out of their own area. There is a third and fourth round. Each time, another beach ball is added to each team area. In the final round, there are 24 balls being batted around. In the end, the team with the fewest points is declared the winner.

Clues- 15 minutes– Each of the six teams is assigned with the name of an animal (horses, lions, giraffes, etc.). A series of questions will be presented on the screen. These are trivia questions – whose answers will be one of the animals. Simple example: It’s the name of the NFL team from Detroit. A: Lions. When the question comes up, the team with the correct animal must stand and in unison, make a sound or movement like the animal they represent. If they are the first to do so, they get a point. Here is the tough part—if anyone from your team stands up and your group is not the correct animal, then you get a negative point. Additionally, for some of the questions more than one animal is the correct answer. Example: Which animal can run faster than 20 mph? That might pertain to more than one team, but the team that stands first gets the point.

Shapes and Outlines- 15 minutes– In this fun activity, each team will be asked to form a shape given by the facilitator and also shown on the screen. Each of the six teams must decide who will need to stand in order to form the shape for their group—depending upon where each person is sitting and what the shape is. A simple example is a Circle. People on each team need to stand and form a perfect, solid circle. A point is given to the team that is able to accomplish this first. The shapes/outlines start easy and get more complex. Finally, the last shape is their company logo (if that lends itself to this exercise). If the logo does not, then it might be the company initials.

Full Group Activity

Balloon Drop- 5 minutes (a Minutes-to-Win-It Challenge)– Balloons are held in a net above the auditorium. There are six colors of balloons. Each of the six areas is assigned to one of the colors. When the balloons drop, everyone needs to bat them away or try to collect them—in order to collect all the balloons that are of just their color. The idea is to have all the balloons sorted into the six areas in less than 3 minutes. The group must all work together to get this accomplished. If they are successful, everyone earns a point—AND the team that got all its balloons collected first earns an extra point (only if the whole group was successful in doing this under 3 minutes).

Card Stunts- 15 minutes– This is a take-off on the college football card stunts you have seen on TV. This can be done as a team competition or as a whole group. Every seat can be preset with a list of the card stunts (or you can try to have people figure this out by themselves). The list would state which card the person in that seat should hold up for each of the stunts. You can have them spell out words or company symbols, etc. There should be a live feed camera trained on the audience. This will allow them to see the finished stunt—or it will allow them to see what they are doing and figure it out (if you are not going to provide a stunt list for each seat). Great fun to see them form the words and pictures on the big screen. Many different ways to orchestrate this.

You’re only limited by your imagination and the time it takes to organize any of these activities.

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.