7 Essential Tips for Becoming a Great Manager

If you are new to managing a team or not good at managing your present team, here are some great tips to help you succeed:

1.     Pay Attention to the Culture of the company and blend with it. Observe how much people do or don’t socialize. The overall dress code- casual or suit and tie. Do people prefer emails or face-to-face conversations. Come in early and observe how people behave.

2.     Don’t be Arrogant and assume your way is the best way. Listen and learn. Take time to understand how things work before you start making changes.

3.     Be Visible and Accessible to your team. Some managers hide themselves away for a variety of reasons. Take time to build relationships with your colleagues and direct reports. Yes, there may be times to close your door, but make sure there are plenty of opportunities to see and talk to you. Walk around. Check in on people once in awhile.

4.     Clarify Expectations. When people do not know what is expected of them, it is hard for them to deliver. Be specific as possible. Prioritize. Let your team know what is the measure of success.

5.     Admit Mistakes. We are all human and no one is perfect. Just because you manage people, doesn’t mean you don’t make mistakes too. When you do, acknowledge it. Do not try to blame others or make excuses. Do offer and seek solutions.

6.     Ask for Feedback. This is especially true if your team has people who have been working there longer than you. This shows respect for their knowledge and builds a team that collaborates. Ask ALL your direct reports for their opinions when appropriate—not just a select few.

7.     Find Positive Traits in your team members. Don’t talk negatively about people behind their backs. Some find validation in confiding in others what they dislike about certain team members, but a manager should NEVER do this. It just divides people rather than brings them together. Work on finding and building upon your team members’ strengths. Helping people grow and succeed is what makes a great manager.  

How has team building changed or evolved?

How has team building changed or evolved over the past couple of years? Has technology contributed to the innovation? The essence of “team building” has long been fun and games. It started out as a way of getting people to interact and ultimately get to know each other better—leading to a higher comfort level among employees and hopefully better communication and collaboration. Many of the first team building companies offered things like inflatable games that eventually became the staple of grad nights across the country. Team Olympics in a wide array of formats were also popular and continue to be. However, more companies are looking for events that also have more direct bearing on teamwork and group problem solving –not just fun (though fun will always be a key requirement). These activities include design and construction events, scavenger hunt variations, and other unique team challenges where there is no one “right answer.” Though technology does offer new possibilities in creating these challenges, the basis of team building is still through face-to-face interaction. For example, in some of our challenges, we require internet access to find answers or decipher clues. The common use of GPS also has provided lots of possibilities when it comes to scavenger hunt events. And there companies that have developed apps that provide a scavenger hunt done totally by Smart phone.  At Corporate Games, we don’t like to rely too much on electronics for a number of reasons, the most obvious one is that it is something else that must work flawlessly in order for the event to succeed. What happens if you can’t connect or when devices are not working properly?

Reality TV and the entertainment industry in general has influenced the direction of team building events also. People like to believe they could compete in Survivor, Amazing Race, or other reality TV competitions and game shows. They do, after all, require teamwork -and reveal the difficulty and angst that often comes with trying to work with many diverse opinions and abilities. Many companies, including Corporate Games, have found ways to incorporate elements of these shows into intriguing and entertaining events. These challenge everyone’s team-player abilities and allow them to practice working together in a “safe situation,” because even if you don’t “win”–it will still be fun and you will have learned something about yourself as well as your teammates.

Business Pet Peeves

Few people realize that sharing pet peeves is a great way to start building trust within a team. These “peeves” reveal things about ourselves, and sharing them is a step toward understanding each other.

Here are some of the ones that make the top of our list.  Corporate team building events are aimed at helping people work more effectively together, and we all know it’s not always that easy…

Team Building Pet Peeves

  1. The person who has to comment on EVERYTHING in your meeting,– not because it is relevant, but because they need to hear themselves talk and show everyone their expertise on every single thing. It just makes them look bad– though they don’t realize it.
  2. The person who can only consider their own solution to an issue, and they will fight for it. They cannot seem to listen or grasp anyone else’s suggestions—and do not welcome other ideas. “My way or the highway.”
  3. Team meetings that go nowhere and are just a waste of time. People not prepared and just meeting for meeting’s sake.
  4. People who roll their eyeballs at ideas, but never have any of their own to offer.

General Business Pet Peeves

  1. Tiny print on business cards. You can hardly make out the email address or phone number. I guess they don’t want us to call.
  2. People who go to networking events, but don’t seem to want to talk to anyone except their friends.
  3. People that ask for proposals and have to have them right away, but then when you follow-up with them, they do not respond–ever.
  4. Not doing what you say you will do. Don’t promise to deliver something if you can’t.

Other Pet Peeves

  1. People who are walking ahead of you and then stop suddenly to block walkways or aisles.  Hello!
  2. The lady ahead of you in the checkout line who appears to have just a few items. But then just as it’s her turn, she is joined by her friend, who has an entire cart full of stuff.
  3. Drivers who creep onto the freeway at 25 mph. Or drivers who speed up to pull in front of you, then slow down.

With all of this said, here is an interesting Ice Breaker for a small meeting: Have each person share their pet peeve(s). If you want to focus on the workplace, you can certainly ask for “your biggest pet peeve at work.” It’s very interesting;  you will find out some unique things about each other—and maybe get some good ideas for improving things.

How to Be a Bad Boss–is this you?

By Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer

Recall your worst day at work, when events of the day left you frustrated, unmotivated by the job, and brimming with disdain for your boss and your organization. That day is probably unforgettable. But do you know exactly how your boss was able to make it so horrible for you? Our research provides insight into the precise levers you can use to re-create that sort of memorable experience for your own underlings.

Over the past 15 years, we have studied what makes people happy and engaged at work. In discovering the answer, we also learned a lot about misery at work. Our research method was pretty straightforward. We collected confidential electronic diaries from 238 professionals in seven companies, each day for several months. All told, those diaries described nearly 12,000 days – how people felt, and the events that stood out in their minds. Systematically analyzing those diaries, we compared the events occurring on the best days with those on the worst.

What we discovered is that the key factor you can use to make employees miserable on the job is to: simply keep them from making progress in meaningful work.

People want to make a valuable contribution, and feel great when they make progress toward doing so. Knowing this progress principle is the first step to knowing how to destroy an employee’s work life. Many leaders, from team managers to CEOs, are already surprisingly expert at smothering employee engagement. In fact, on one-third of those 12,000 days, the person writing the diary was either unhappy at work, demotivated by the work, or both.

That’s pretty efficient work-life demolition, but it leaves room for improvement.

Step 1: Never allow pride of accomplishment. When we analyzed the events occurring on people’s very worst days at the office, one thing stood out: setbacks. Setbacks are any instances where employees feel stalled in their most important work or unable to make any meaningful contribution. So, at every turn, stymie employees’ desire to make a difference. One of the most effective examples we saw was a head of product development, who routinely moved people on and off projects like chess pieces in a game for which only he had the rules. Another way is making sure to point out mistakes and shortcomings. Doing this publically is even better.

The next step follows organically from the first.

Step 2: Miss no opportunity to block progress on employees’ projects. Every day, you’ll see dozens of ways to inhibit substantial forward movement on your subordinates’ most important efforts. Goal-setting is a great place to start. Give conflicting goals, change them as frequently as possible, and allow people no autonomy in meeting them. If you get this formula just right, the destructive effects on motivation and performance can be truly dramatic.

Step 3: Give yourself some credit. You’re probably already doing many of these things, and don’t even realize it. That’s okay. In fact, unawareness is one of the trademarks of managers who are most effective at destroying employees’ work lives. As far as we could tell from talking with them or reading their own diaries, they generally thought their employees were doing just fine – or that “bad morale” was due to the employees’ unfortunate personalities or poor work ethics. Rarely did they give themselves credit for how much their own words and actions made it impossible for people to get a sense of accomplishment. You may be better at this than you think!

Step 4: Kill the messengers. Finally, if you do get wind of problems in the trenches, deny, deny, deny. And if possible, strike back. Here’s a great example from our research. In an open Q&A with one company’s chief operating officer, an employee asked about the morale problem and got this answer: “There is no morale problem in this company. And, for anybody who thinks there is, we have a nice big bus waiting outside to take you wherever you want to look for work.”

Teresa Amabile is a professor and director of research at Harvard Business School. Steven Kramer is a developmental psychologist and researcher. They are coauthors of The Progress Principle.

A Team Activity that Helps Our Environment

Our latest newsletter featured this team project that helps save birds and marine mammals as well as reduce the trash in our bays and oceans. It’s easy and you can do this anytime of year. Below are the instructions on how to build a Fishing Line Recycling Bin that the Audubon Society will install at fishing areas around the S.F. Bay.

California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project: Monofilament Recycling Program

Bin Construction and Installation Instructions

Construction The monofilament recycling outdoor bin is made of 6” or 4” PVC pipe and fittings that can be purchased at just about any hardware store or plumbing supply house.  There are different grades of PVC and different colors.  We will use white pipe for this project.  Schedule 40 PVC is more expensive than 3034 (sewer grade) PVC; either grade is  Materials needed to construct one (1) bin:

  • Two feet (2’) of 6” PVC pipe
  • One (1) 6” elbow
  • One (1) 6” female threaded adapter
  • One (1) 6” threaded male plug
  • Hacksaw (or have hardware store cut the pipe for you)
  • Power drill with 1/4″ or 3/8″ drill bit
  • Sandpaper
  • PVC Glue
Fishing Line Bin

Assembly:

  • If the hardware store wasn’t able to cut your  PVC pipe for you: use a hacksaw. Use sandpaper to remove PVC “burrs” around edges.
  • Working in a well-aerated area and wearing protective gloves, apply PVC glue to the inside (non-threaded part) of the female adapter. With adapter sitting squarely on the ground, press the pipe down into the adapter until snug.  Note that PVC glue works by dissolving the PVC, then sets rapidly, so you don’t have a lot of “play” time with it.
  • Apply PVC glue to the inside of one end of the elbow (it does not matter which end). Press the elbow onto the pipe.  Try and make sure that any blemishes on the pipe end up on the backside of the bin.
  • Drill 2 holes (about 1/4”or 3/8”) in the center of the threaded male plug (this allows the bin to drain. Thread plug into adapter (hand-tight, and be careful not to cross-thread).

Important Contact Information-  The bins will be labeled and  installed by the SeaDoc Society. You should contact the Golden Gate Audubon before you start this project. This will allow them and you to determine the number of bins –and how they will get them from you.

Noreen Weeden
Golden Gate Audubon
510-301-0570 cell phone
nweeden@goldengateaudubon.org
www.goldengateaudubon.org

Have a GREEN Holiday Season

More waste is created between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than any other time.  Businesses as well as consumers can do their part to be environmentally friendly. Here are some great tips for your team to reduce waste, create good will and even participate in some fun team activities:

  1. If you are decorating your offices, use LED lights to save electricity and money. Use timers. Consider purchasing decorations from a Thrift Store. Donate good-condition, unwanted decorations to a thrift store.
  2. Consider e-cards. If you must send paper cards, purchase those with high recycle content. Reuse old cards to make gift tags or decorate wrapped gifts.
  3. When buying presents, shop locally (there is a lot of waste in packaging when items have to be shipped). Consider buying consumable products and services as gifts –rather than “things.” Donate items you don’t use. Give time or fun experiences, not stuff. Tickets to a play or the zoo are great gifts.
  4. Disposable shopping bags, gift bags and wrapping paper create a lot of waste. Instead use reusable shopping bags for gift bags. Recycle paper and bows. Use recycled card art, sprigs of live evergreen, newspaper or magazines—to make your own wrapping and decorative touches.
  5. Looking for charitable causes or socially responsible team events for the holidays?? Consider having your team volunteer at a foodbank or soup kitchen that serves holiday meals. Get your employees involved in a food drive. Work with Meals on Wheels to provide fun holiday items and decorations to those who are elderly and shut-in. Yes, you can always donate toys or build bikes for kids. But what about getting a bit more creative? For example, have a Santa’s Workshop where your employees make or finish toys. There are many fun projects that can be made from wood, clay, plastic and more! Your local craft shop sells kits if you are not handy.
For more ideas on Holiday Party activities, call or email us at Info@corpgames.com Tel: 800-790-GAME (4263).

Pirate Pandemonium Team Puzzle

Here’s an entertaining little puzzle that you can do by yourself, but more fun to do with a team or even two or more. See which team can get the most correct answers in 3 minutes.

Copy the image below and print it out in large format– it should at least fill a single sheet of 8-1/2″ x 11″ paper. Your challenge is to find the 10 differences between the first picture and the second. Look sharp and pay attention to detail! If you can’t get all 10, look at the Corporate Games Facebook page to see the answers.

Have fun and good luck!

Pirate Picture Pandemonium

How to Put People on Teams

Putting people on teams for a team building activity seems like the easiest thing in the world, yet we have seen some very well-meaning people make a mess of it. So– if you are ever in the position of having to designate teams for a group event, please take heed:

  1. ALWAYS give teams a number; not a name, or a color. This is the easiest way to facilitate a group. This is especially critical for larger groups (50+). Everyone can relate to numbers. For example: “Team #1 should stand here, followed by team #2, then #3 and so on.” This is clear and easy for everyone to understand and will require very little repeating. Whereas– if you give teams any other designation, you will have to repeat yourself many times: “The Blue Team is here, then Red, then Yellow…” There is no set sequence for colors like there is for numbers. You can give teams other names, but they also should have a number first.
  2. Teams should be as even as possible. Some people like to divide the group by department, but the departments are not all the same size. It is not easy nor fair for a team of 15 to compete against a team of 5. Most team building activities are designed for teams that are nearly equal in size.
  3. For groups of 50 or more participants, consider having the team building facilitators count people off at random. This is the easiest way to put people on teams. AND– if others come late, they are simply assigned to the next team. For example, if people were counted off, and the last person was on team #2 out of 10 teams, then the next person to arrive (late), would simply go to team #3. You wouldn’t have to count or look at each team to see who has more or less people.
  4. IF you must preset the teams, it is easier to organize everyone if the participants know their team number ahead of time. We experienced one instance in which the meeting planner handed us 80 color-coded name badges– to read off and hand out– one at a time. This was very chaotic (not everyone could hear or was present when we started) and took a lot of time. This means people are standing around waiting while this is being done. If you email participants in advance, they will know what team they are on ahead of time. At the very least, it is a good idea to post multiple lists of the teams so people can look at them upon arrival.
  5. Do not preset the teams if everyone will not be together at the start. If people are going to be trickling in, it is difficult to get the teams organized and started on the activity if you have preset the teams. That’s because team size will not be equal until everyone gets there, and you have a much higher risk of confusion as people arrive and start looking for their team. In this situation, you should either start the event later, when everyone is there– or have the facilitators randomly count off people to make teams.
  6. When in doubt, please ask your team building facilitator what would work best.

The Bridging Race– team building exercise from Corporate Games

Here’s an interesting and effective, outdoor team activity that requires strategy, collaboration and communication at all levels. It seems relatively simple but it prompts a lot of discussion, which is what a good team building exercise should do. It is great for just about any size group.

Team size– should be 7-10 people per team. Teams should have the same number of people if you want to be totally “fair.” Using cones or tape, mark out a distance of 45-50 feet on a flat surface (grass, sand, concrete are all ok). Every team receives 4 sheets of poster board: one blue, one red and two yellow.

Each team’s goal is to get its members across the 50′ field by only stepping on the poster boards. No one can step on the ground directly. However, the Blue sheet can accommodate up to 4 people at once; the Yellow sheets can take up to two people at any given moment and the Red sheet — only one person. Team members need to figure out the fastest way to move their team across the 50′ field. If any person breaks these rules or steps off of a poster board, that person is sent back to the start. The team that manages to succeed first “wins.”

We won’t give you any hints on how it is done. That is something you and your teams will need to decide.

Do’s and Don’ts for Creating Your Own Team Activity

Some team activities are very simple in concept, and you might think “I can do that.” 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 24 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.