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

 

 

 

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.

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.

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.

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 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.