Tag Archives: problem solving

5 Quick and Easy Holiday Team Building Activities

5 quick and easy holiday team building activities

Need some team building activities for the holidays? Here are five different ones that you can use as stand-alone activities or put them together for one amazing holiday gathering.

Each activity comes with instructions, and you can even download a 4-page PDF guide of this post at the end to take with you to your holiday party or team meeting. (The PDF includes additional ideas not listed in the post.)

1. Snowflake

Also called the Paper Tear activity, this exercise shows the importance of communication and clarifying instructions. This activity can be done with smaller teams as well as large groups.

Instructions:

Hand everyone a piece of paper. Once everyone has receive a piece, instruct them that this exercise is to be done with all eyes closed and in silence (except for the rustling of the paper.) Participants are not allowed to ask questions of you, their neighbor, or make comments about the process until it is completed.

Ask everyone to close their eyes and to follow these instructions exactly:

  1. Fold your paper in half.
  2. Fold it in half again.
  3. Tear off the top right corner.
  4. Fold your paper in half length-wise.
  5. Tear off the bottom left corner.
  6. Rotate your paper.
  7. Fold it in half again.
  8. Tear off a piece from the middle

Say, “If you followed these instructions exactly, all of your papers should look the same. Open your eyes and unfold your paper.” At this point, have them compare their papers with those around them.

Debrief questions:

What was it like to follow the instructions?

How hard or easy was it to not be able to clarify?

How does this resemble communication in your organization?

What ways could this process be improved/changed?

2. Helium Peppermint Stick

This is a variation on the helium stick team building activity. One year with a student leadership group, I wrapped red electric tape around a thin, long piece of PVC pipe to make it look like a peppermint stick. Depending on your team, you can create a story to go with this activity:

Santa’s elves have lost one of their peppermint sticks. It appears they’ve accidentally dropped some of the reindeer dust on it because it has a tendency to float up. It’s fairly fragile and very light weight. Because we don’t want to break it, we’re just going to use our index fingers to touch it. In order to reverse the effects of the reindeer dust, we have to set it on the floor as a team. Everyone must be touching the peppermint stick with both index fingers, and they must remain touching it the whole time.

This activity takes a lot of communication and cooperation to complete. It’s much harder than it seems at first.

Debrief questions:

  • What worked well during this activity?
  • What was your communication strategy in the beginning?
  • How did that change over time?
  • What observations did you make during this exercise?

3. Holiday Spectrums

Spectrums is a game that I learned personally from Mark Collard of Playmeo. The game is an icebreaker that asks participants to line up on a continuum based on two choices.

Designate two end points on the spectrum you’ve created. (You can use a couple of small cones, 2 chairs, roll out a long piece of webbing or duct tape, etc.) Tell your group members you’re going to read off what the 2 ends of the spectrum represent. For example, “dog lover” at this end (and indicate which end that would be) or “cat lover” at this end (point to the opposite end of the spectrum). You can choose to move to either end or pick somewhere in between. It doesn’t matter where you go, just pick a spot that you feel represents your answer.

Possible questions/categories for this team building activity:

a. Christmas is (The holidays are) awesome! OR Bah Humbug!

b. Griswold Christmas Lights… or Never put lights up

c. Black Friday shopping… or Stay at home and avoid the crowds!

d. I love holiday traditions… or I love to try new things every year!

e. I use wrapping paper… or I use gift bags.

Get more ideas by downloading the free PDF!

f. Create your own spectrum question(s).

After each person has selected their place, ask them their reason for selecting that particular spot on the spectrum (you don’t have to ask everyone – just get a few responses.)

What can we learn from each other during this activity?

4. Deck the Halls Scavenger Hunt

Option #1

Make a list of holiday items and assign points for each item. The larger or more hard to find items should have more points attached to them.

Give each team a list of the items and a time limit to gather items (typically 1-2 hours). If teams are late, they could face disqualification. I would suggest that you have the teams stay together for this activity. You can designate the teams stay within a certain area or allow them to venture out. (Just be aware that the larger the teams, the harder it will be to stay together if they are allowed outside of a certain area.)

See sample items in the PDF (Free download)

Option #2

This is the “bigger and better” approach to a scavenger hunt. Give each team a small item (small Christmas stocking, candy cane, ornament) and ask them that their job is to go out into the community and ask for something “bigger and better” than what they currently have. The idea is for each team to trade up to the most extravagant item that they can find in a certain amount of time.

Usually you give teams an hour or two to complete the task, meet back at a certain time (or face disqualification), and reveal what each team has been able to come up with. You can select a winner based on size of item or most expensive item. You could also give out other awards such as:

  • Most creative item obtained.
  • Biggest item.
  • Weirdest object.
  • Most likely to be found in a Michael Jackson video.
  • Most likely to be found in our boss’s house.
  • Create your own fun awards!

5. Holiday Mapping (Where in the world?)

Instructions:
Imagine the floor where you are is a map of the world. The center of the map is where we are physically. I will ask a series of questions and you move to the spot on the imaginary map that represents your answer to the question. For example, if I asked “Where were you born?” go ahead and move to that spot now. For each question, don’t worry about being able to afford

Additional question ideas:
a. Where in the world would you like to spend the holidays?

b. What other country’s holiday tradition(s) would you like to learn more about?

c. If you could take a 2-week vacation during the holidays (all expenses paid) where would you go? (You could also ask what they would do there once they’ve moved to their spot.)

d. Where in the world would you like to go for the New Year’s celebration?

e. What place would you absolutely NOT want to visit during the holidays? (This could create some laughs!)

f. <Insert your creative question here.>

After each question, call on a few individuals to name the place where they are and you might ask the reason they chose that particular place.

You’ll have great fun with these activities. Don’t forget to download the PDF (FREE) that also includes ideas for the scavenger hunt items above, as well as additional ideas not listed in this post.

What activities are you planning to use? What other holiday activities do you use for team building? Let me know in the comments below!

Leading Others to their A-Ha Moments

leading others to aha moments

I had the opportunity recently to work with a young man who needed some leadership development coaching. His boss had strongly encouraged (read required, actually – ahem) him to go to three sessions and then any sessions after that were voluntary if he wanted to continue. We ended up meeting for seven or so sessions and during those sessions discovered a lot about who he was and the leader that he was growing into.

During the coaching process, he had several “a-ha” moments. You could see on his face when those would happen and he would say, “I never really thought about it like that before.”

For a coach, those are some of the best moments. You know your client is “getting it”. They are tracking with you and are thinking differently. That’s when change can start to happen. Something clicks within your client and they begin to make progress.

For some clients, it happens very quickly. For others, like this young man I worked with, it happened towards the end of our time together. The other sessions were helpful and useful; however, we had one session where it seemed like everything was firing on all cylinders and we were having one breakthrough after another.

As I reflected on some of my best coaching sessions (and this one), I thought about the why. Why did that session go so well and others haven’t? What made that session so special?

Here are a few ideas that I came up with that hopefully will help you as you coach teams and others into their “a-ha moments”

1. Capitalize on Your Strengths

If you are going to coach someone, you need to use your strengths to their advantage. Some coaches like to coach over the phone. Some like to coach in person. I like to coach in person. I’m a very visual person, so I like to both see who I’m coaching and also write things down for both of us to see. I like whiteboards.

During this session, I used the whiteboard extensively to help my client make connections (I’ll talk about more in a minute) with his past employment and his future career goals. In writing things down, he was able to make connections that he hadn’t seen before in how his whole path was essentially leading him to where he wanted to go.

Learn to use your strengths as a coach to have even more impact with your coaching clients.

2. Create Connections

I’m a visual person (one of my strengths) and love to use whiteboards to draw and write. I’m a strong believer in writing things down (whether it’s goals or brainstorming, etc.). It’s easier to see connections when you have something written in front of you.

As I was meeting with my client, I wrote some things on a white board based on a question I had asked (about his former employment). We wrote those things down and then continued to identify different characteristics of jobs that he had held up until his present one.

As we were going through this process, you could see the light bulb turn on as we connected the dots and discovered that every job he had held had prepared him not only for the job he was currently at, but also for the career path that he was heading down.

Leading clients to discovering connections for themselves will help to create more breakthrough moments in their coaching experience. 

3. Confidently Trust Your Intuition

Whether it’s what question to ask next, what homework assignment to give, or what activity to do next, coaching is a lesson in flexibility and judgment calls. Coaches need to be able to trust their intuition in order to move clients forward.

Often there’s this gut feeling that says “go this way,” “ask this question,” or “do this activity next.” There are times when it seems like the activity may not fit or the question seems a bit off; however, the times I have followed my gut have been far more effective than trying to force an activity that I had planned or trying to follow a rigid structure.

Learn to listen to that little voice when you coach others, and you will quickly become a stellar coach.

4.Cut the Crap (aka, Shut Up and Listen)

When you’re first starting off coaching, this one can be quite difficult. It was for me. At times, I still struggle with it. There’s a difference between consulting and coaching. Consultants give advice and tell people how they think certain tasks and goals should be done.

Coaches, on the other hand, lead people into solutions by asking powerful questions. The client should do most of the talking. I’ve heard that if you as a coach are talking more than half of the time, then you are talking too much. I would encourage you to talk as little as possible. (Depending on the client, this can be very challenging.)

Ask powerful questions and be quiet. Listen to what your client has to say. Don’t be afraid of silent space during the coaching process.

These four strategies are not the end-all be-all to coaching, but they have helped me lead others to their a-ha moments whether as part of a team or individual coaching.

What other strategies have you used to help lead people to “a-ha moments”? Which strategy do you tend to employ the most? Let me know in the comments below.

7 Team Building Games You Can Lead with Hula Hoops

games with hula hoops

If I say, “Hula Hoop,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Quick!

When you think of hula hoops, you probably don’t necessarily think of team building games. You might think of memories of elementary school PE or recess. You might think of a sibling or neighbor who used to enjoy playing with them.

As for me, a number of team activities come to mind! (Surprise, surprise.) Most of these I have experienced and led; however, some of them are new to me and a couple are adapted from other exercises that I have led.

Here are some fun and challenging team building games you can do with hula hoops. Some only require one hoop per group, but some of them require several. Make sure you’ll know how many you need before you start each activity and, as always, let me know how it goes!

7 Team Building Activities with Hula Hoops

1. Hula Hut Relay

With this activity, teams are challenged to first build a hut made from 6 hula hoops, and then they must get their hole team to pass through the hut, one at a time, until everyone has made it through.

Variations: Once team members have successfully completed the first challenge, then there are several other ways to play this game:

a. Have each person go through backwards.

b. Each team member must pass through blindfolded.

c. Once a hole or gap is used, it may not be used again.

Watch this video to see an example:

2. All Aboard

In this challenge, a team is asked to get everyone inside the hula hoop with no hand or feet touching outside the circle. Use varying sizes of hula hoops to adjust to your group size or to make it more challenging.

3. Hula Hut Tower

Similar to the hula hut challenge, the teams make a hula hut but see how high they can stack them. No one has to go through the huts, however. Tallest tower wins bragging rights.

4. Hula Pass Through

Have your group stand in a circle holding hands. This challenge is for the team to pass the hula hoop once around the circle without anyone letting go. Once the team is successful with that, have them pass two different-sized hoops around the circle in opposite directions.

Variations:

a. Add a deflated tire tube to the mix to up the difficulty.

b. Add a ball under the chin (no hand allowed) to the exercise to increase the difficulty even more!

5. Hula Crossing

Similar to a river crossing or junk yard-type challenge, you can use different-sized hula hoops to set up an exercise to move a team from one point to another. To increase the difficulty, use smaller (and fewer) hoops.

Here’s a video of a similar challenge, Hot Chocolate River Crossing:

 

6. Helium Hoop

This is a variation on the helium stick exercise. The object of this exercise is to lower the hula hoop to the ground. Sounds easy, right? This is a lot harder than it looks, and it is because of the rules.

Rule #1 – You may only use your forefingers to touch the hoop.

Rule #2 – Everyone’s fingers (both of them) must be touching the hoop at all times.

It really is a fun and amazingly hard challenge! It pushes the teams to communicate and really focus on working together.

7. Hula Crossing + All Aboard

This last one is a combination of two previous challenges. Combine them to make one extreme challenge. A group starts in one spot and must cross over to the last hoop, where everyone must get on the “island” or perish.

Push your group to use only smaller-sized hoops for both the “crossing” piece of the challenge, and the All Aboard at the end.

Make It Fun and Challenging

There are 2 great reasons to do team building activities of any kind. One is to have an enjoyable experience. The other is to move your team out of their comfort zone and learn something about themselves that can transform both individuals and groups.

The great thing about these challenges is that they are both fun and challenging. You don’t have to sacrifice one for the other. There may be times when you emphasize one over the other, but with these hula hoop activities, you have both enjoyment and difficulty.

Don’t Forget to Debrief

After you finish with each activity, take some time to process through each experience. You can use other activities to debrief, you can use one of many creative debrief exercises, or you can create your own using the hula hoops.

Whatever you decide to do, take your time in processing the activities. Don’t skimp out here. Many of the team’s “aha” moments will happen here, and you can also move a team into other activities based on what is revealed during the debrief process.

 

Leaders and Ingenuity

I was in Austin last week attending and speaking at a conference for educators, and it has been quite the experience. In the three days that I was there, I noticed several interesting business concepts that I had no idea even existed.

One interesting concept was for bikes that you could rent from one place (self-service) and drop off at a number of different locations. For just a few dollars a day, you could take unlimited brief rides (30 minutes or less) on these bikes.

creative bicycle business

The other business was called Car2Go. It’s basically a self-service car rental company (much like the bikes above) where you rent the car for one ride or all day, depending on what you need. In the downtown area, I noticed quite a number of these cars.

creative car rental business

I began to think about the creativity of entrepreneurs and leaders. On many levels, both groups have to exhibit some level of creativity.

While I think those that start businesses get a lot of credit for being creative, great leaders also must be creative in many areas. What areas are those?

  • Leadership style
  • Problem-solving
  • Communication
  • Team recognition
  • Developing other leaders
  • Training

Leaders must be creative in the way they lead. Why? Because no two people are alike and everyone must be led just a bit differently. Some leaders do this on a certain level, but most need to lead people according to their personality style more effectively.

Knowing where your staff falls under personality assessments is just the beginning. Leaders must also know how to lead the different personality styles. And, team leaders must remember that it is a daily process, not a “one and done” training.

Problem-solving is another area where leaders must be creative. There are a number of brainstorming techniques that can be used to propel a team forward out of a rut, or when there’s a difficult issue that needs to be resolved in a more creative way than has been done in the past.

Recently, I read an article in Outdoor Magazine that described the top companies to work for in 2014. I was amazed how so many companies are getting creative with what benefits are offered.

Several companies offered unlimited vacation days (that exhibits a lot of trust, right?). Others offered fitness incentives or gyms and healthy food options in their place of work. Still others offered other benefits like powder days (take a day off and go skiing – just don’t leave your team high and dry) or free fitness classes.

There are lots of businesses and numerous people who claim to be leaders. To combine ingenuity with leadership is a way for a business or a leader to make sure he stands out from the crowd and gets noticed.

How are you using creativity in your business? How do you seek to stand out from the crowd? Let me know in the comments below.