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.
When you “talk like Spock,” the iconic character from Star Trek, you are:
- Taking emotion out of the conversation.
- Listening carefully and analytically to what others have to say—with an open mind.
- Stating facts, not feelings.
- Realizing that conflict can spur growth.
- Coming to reasonable conclusions that are supported by facts.
- Agreeing to work together to solve problems.
- 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.
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.
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.
Here’s a great event that has something for everyone. It:
- Provides a series of team challenges, not just a single competition. This keeps things moving quickly and keeps energy high.
- 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.”
- 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:
- Quick Challenge (select 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.
- OR Rocket Launchers—each team needs to put together a simple Rocket Launcher (from a kit) and shoot off 3 rockets.
- 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.
- Medium Challenge (select 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.
- OR Marshmallow Catapult—built from cardboard, rubber bands, string and a pencil. Teams must be able to shoot marshmallows 30 feet.
- 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.
- Complex Challenge (select 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!
- 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.
- 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!
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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…
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
President, Corporate Games Team Building
This letter was sent to The White House on 2/8/17
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Smile. The power of a positive countenance is immeasurable.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.