Category Archives: Team Building

5 Ways to Transform Your Team’s New Year’s Resolutions into Adventurous Goals

transform your new years resolutions

Now is the time when people think about and set New Year’s Resolutions. Chances are you have as well. However, I am not a big fan of most New Year’s Resolutions and here’s why:

  • They’re rarely specific.
  • They’re easy to break.
  • They lack focus and clarity.
  • They’re seldom risky.
  • There’s typically no accountability.

I use this time of the year to set specific goals for how I want my upcoming year to look. There is a process I use to set goals, and it is one that I have used for a number of years, and it is something that I have taught to students and adults alike.

To help transform your team’s resolutions into goals involves five easy steps. It doesn’t take a lot of time; however, these simple steps will help turn those non-specific resolutions into winning goals that you can measure, track, and look back at the end of the year to see all that your team has accomplished.

1. Make the goal specific.

Many New Year’s Resolutions are not specific. They are too general. Examples include:

Lose weight. 

Drink more water.

Be a better leader.

The challenge with these is that there is no specific target to hit. Here are some ways to make the above goals specific.

Lose 15 pounds.

Drink 6 glasses of water daily.

Read 1 leadership book a month.

2. Create goals that are measurable.

As with the initial examples above, there is really no way to measure certain characteristics like “more” or “better”. What does it mean to be a better leader, husband, employee, etc.? How will you measure that? Again, it’s next to impossible.

On the other hand, 15 pounds is something that is specific and measurable. You know when you’ve lost it, and when you haven’t. You can check on your progress along the way. You can also measure if you’ve read a book a month on leadership. It is something tangible that you can look at and know that you’ve accomplished (or haven’t).

3. Make sure the goals are attainable.

Often when resolutions are made, they are not attainable. There are two reasons why this might be. One is that not enough time is given to be able to achieve the desired results, as in losing weight.

Many times, when setting goals, people are over-zealous for what they can achieve. Then, when they fail, they get discouraged and may give up on the process of goal-setting.

Planning out bite-sized steps to achieve each goal can be helpful. Creating a plan of action around each goal will help assure that each small step is completed on your way to completing the big goal!

4. Add some risk to each goal.

While you want goals that are measurable and attainable, I like to encourage people to put a little risk in the goals. There is a fine line here between risky goals and ones that are a bit too much; however, I tend to err on the side of adventurous goals that will excite me.

Many times, for me, when setting goals, in addition to having specific and measurable goals, I will add something to strive for in addition to the actual goal. I find this helps me stick to my goal better.

For example, instead of just a goal of getting in shape or losing weight, add in a 5k or 10k to strive for as you get in shape. These provide milestones and targets to hit as you progress toward the overall goal.

5. Make each goal time-sensitive.

Set an end date for each goal. Have a time frame that you will work with. For example, if you want to drink more water, then a good goal might be:

Drink 5 glasses of water, 5 days a week, for 90 days.

Having an indefinite goal for every day of the week more often than not is unattainable. Breaking the goal into smaller segments can help to create more small wins as you look to accomplish bigger goals. Remember, goals are different than habits, but can be a great kick-start to formulating new habits.

BONUS #1: Partner with someone for accountability.

Setting goals is great; however, being able to set them with someone and help keep each other accountable is a sure-fire way to increase the likelihood of staying on track.

Pair up with someone to help you reach your professional goals. Two are better than one!

BONUS #2: Celebrate small and big victories alike.

As you complete action steps and each of your goals, take time to celebrate! This will boost your motivation and help you keep going. Decide ahead of time how and when you will celebrate your wins.

What other steps do you use to transform your goals? What goals have you set for this year? Let me know in the comments below?

A Team Building Activity Adapted from The Biggest Loser

Team Building idea Chinese lanters

I’m always looking for new ideas for team building activities. Last night, I was watching The Biggest Loser with my family. We find the show very uplifting and encouraging. One of the activities they did inspired an idea for a team building activity that I want to share with you.

The participants had been on a hike together, and at the peak of their hike, the trainers gave them what looked like a small, folded piece of paper. However, inside of the paper was a butterfly. They were to answer the question, “What is your intention for the remainder of your time here?”

After everyone had shared, they opened up their folder paper, and released a butterfly, symbolizing both their journey of transformation and what their part was going to be in that process until the end.

Ways to Use This Team Building Activity

There are several scenarios where you could use this kind of activity:

  1. Launching a new project and using this with project managers or team  leaders.
  2. In the middle of a project that is heading in the wrong direction. Use it to help re-direct both staff and leaders.
  3. At the end of a project to celebrate accomplishments and talk about what’s next on the horizon.
  4. Taking your team to a new level of trust and authenticity.

How to Set Up This Team Activity

Set up for this activity will be relatively easy. I don’t think you necessarily need to have butterflies folded up in paper pouches; although, if you could pull that off, it would be impressive. (If you live near a Butterfly Pavilion, Nature Center or Botanical Gardens, it might be worth a call to see what’s possible.)

Decide what end result you want to achieve. I talk a lot about setting goals and being intentional about team building activities. To get the most out of them, you have to think about what results you want to achieve. Learn more here.

Begin with a hike or some kind of team activity that isn’t competitive and will focus on change and transformation. You can check out Playmeo for a great database of activities.

At the end of the hike, ask the question (you will need to tweak the question depending on how you want to use the activity):

As we’re looking at this new project, what will be your primary intention you will focus on?

Allow ample time for responses. Encourage everyone to share (but we follow the rule of challenge by choice). After everyone has shared, release the butterflies (or other item – see below for modifications).

Debriefing the Activity

Talk about what people have shared and their commitment to the team and project and that part of the responsibility of the team is to hold each other accountable to our intentions and goals.

[You could also combine this activity with a time of goal-setting and looking at ways to hold the team accountable to goals and intentions.]

Ways to Modify This Activity

Knowing that everyone might not have access to butterflies, here are a few ways that this activity could be modified to use:

  1. Instead of butterflies, you could use helium-filled balloons and release them at the proper time. Talk about ways for the groups intentions to stay on track and not become “deflated” (see what I did there.)
  2. You could do this activity at night and use Chinese lanterns. Light them and release them to symbolize the group’s intentions being shared with everyone.
  3. If you are talking about a project NOT going well, you could ask your team to write on pieces of paper things that are not working well, and at the end of the sharing time, you burn the pieces of paper, symbolizing you are letting go of old ways and then brainstorm of ways to get the project back on track.

How else you use an activity like this for your team? What other ways can you modify it to suit your needs?

My First eBook and Conquering Fear

conquering fear and leading teams

Well, today is the first official day of the launch of my eBook, 4 Steps to Choosing the Best Team Building Activities. It’s been an interesting journey. I’ve learned a lot not only about the eBook process, but also about stepping out in the midst of fear.

You wouldn’t think that writing and publishing a relatively brief eBook would be that big of a deal. It’s taken a while for me to complete the book, not necessarily because of the content, but because of the doubts and fears that seem to pause me in my journey along the way.

I want to encourage anyone who is thinking of writing (whatever form that takes) to begin and push through. Simply going through the process has been worth it for me. Regardless of the outcome. The goal of the book is not to make a ton of money, but to get it out, to push past the fear and uncertainty, and to produce and release something that will help others, and that I can be proud of.

Who is the book for?

The book is written for leaders and managers who want to know how to choose and implement the best team building activities for their group. Leading your team through an activity is not enough. There is a process to truly finding and facilitating effective team building.

This book is for those leaders who want to get the most out of these kinds of exercises, and not only lead their team through them, but also transform their team in the process. By following the steps in this book, a facilitator can learn the process by which teams are not only improved but changed for the better.

What is the book about?

First, this book will teach you first about the different types of team building activities. In order to lead these kinds of activities effectively, it helps to first understand the differences between group initiatives vs. low ropes courses elements and several other distinctive activities.

It then lays out a simple 4-step process for choosing the best team building activities. It’s not complicated, although it does require the facilitator to be intentional about each step in this strategy.

It is the exact process I use when working with teams and facilitators.

Whether a half-day program, or multi-day event, this book will help the reader in several areas:

  • How to select the right exercises to boost team productivity, trust,         communication, and more!
  • Feel confident you’ve chosen activities your team will enjoy and benefit from
  • Achieve your team’s goals and objectives.

Why did I write this book?

There are a number of team building resources on the web, but there are only a few really excellent ones. My goal with this site and the books and resources that I develop is to create high-quality resources and training for those who want to learn how to facilitate and lead only the most effective team building activities. This is the first of those resources.

I hope you enjoy the book and learn a lot!

best team building activities cover

To order a copy of the book click here.

What did you think of the book? Leave your comments below. 

What Makes Team Building Activities Effective?

effective team building activities

There are words and phrases that get watered-down, misused, and ultimately can get a bad reputation. Team building is one of those, especially when people discuss team building activities. Now, just about everything is labelled as team building as long as it’s done with a group of people. Thoughts of trust falls gone wrong, “paintballing the boss”, and other horror stories abound. For those of us who have worked in the industry, it is painful to hear about and read about these stories.

Team building is a legitimate and helpful field, when done correctly. There are numerous things that are labelled as team building activities that shouldn’t be. However, there is a vast amount of creativity and ingenuity in the field of team building. If you’re wondering about what makes team building activities effective versus what does not, here are some helpful suggestions:

Effective Team Building Activities are Goal-Oriented

The first step even before choosing these activities (or a company to run them) should be to sit down with your team and set goals for the day. What do you want to accomplish? What issues is your team facing? What changes do you want to see in your team following these activities?

These questions need to be answered as well as looking at what activities will best fit your goals and needs. If you are not sure, hire someone who is. There are some great facilitators and organizations that I could recommend to you.

Legitimate Team Building Exercises are Purpose-Driven.

There is a purpose behind each and every effective team building activity, whether it is an icebreaker, a group challenge or initiative, or a ropes course element. Look at your goals and what purpose will drive each activity. Could “having fun” be a purpose? Sure. But, hopefully it’s not the only one. There are numerous purposes that can be obtained from each activity. Focus on the ones that your team needs the most.

Top-notch Team Building Activities are Results-Focused.

No leader or manager wants to go through a half-day or day-long event and feel like time has been wasted and nothing has been achieved. Top-notch team building companies will focus on results during the day, but also be able to achieve longer-lasting results.

Some facilitators require follow-up sessions as part of their team building packages. Why? Part of it is for sustainability. These coaching sessions can help sustain the work that was done during a day or two and keep teams accountable to maintaining results.

Powerful Team Building Activities are Situation-Specific.

Some companies and facilitators have one-size-fits-all programs that are pre-packaged and confine teams to a specific structure. If these kinds of programs fit your goals, that’s fine. What if they don’t? What if you’re looking to reach Goal A, and they address Goal B (or C or Z?)

The best team building programs are customized to your team and require a bit of both front-end work, lots of work and ability to adjust on the fly during the program, and back-end follow up. Don’t let anyone tell you that the one-size-fits-all process works for everyone (not even those hats fit every one – much less when you’re dealing with a whole team!) 🙂

What other characteristics define an effective team building program? What have you observed in programs in which you’ve participated?

Leading from the Lower Ranks

learn to lead from lower ranks

There’s several situations where you might find yourself in what some would consider lower or mid- levels of influence.

  • You’ve recently entered the world of work
  • You’ve changed jobs and had to settle for a downward move
  • You’re starting a new career and essentially starting over

Whatever the situation, you might be wondering how you can lead from what would be considered a “lower level”.  Regardless of position, you can have influence in your new situation.  There are several ways to increase your amount of influence.

Speak Your Mind

Let others know what you think – your coworkers, your boss, .  I used to avoid letting people know what I thought unless they asked.  You really owe it to yourself and others around you to engage in the discussions at work.  If you are invited to a meeting, that in itself is an invitation to speak your mind.  You have been given permission by the invitation, so speak up and make your presence known.

You obviously want to use wisdom and provide relevant ideas and constructive critiques; however, do not just remain silent.  Even if your ideas are not heeded, you can begin to have influence on those around you.

This is especially important when others are being negative or divisive.  I used to work for a leader who would say that when people act like this, your silence can very well be interpreted as acquiescence (at least) or agreement (at worst).  Therefore, I’ve made it a goal to redirect conversations that could be viewed in a contentious or dissident, or challenge the person who is steering a discussion in a negative direction.

Serve Others

As you seek to influence others, one of the best ways is to serve them.  Everyone usually has much to do and is overwhelmed by their workload and all that they have to accomplish.  Take a few minutes a week and check in with your team mates.  How can you help them?  What can you do to support them from your position?

This builds a huge amount of trust with those you work with and those you work for will take notice.  Most people serve one person – themselves.  You will stand out by being different and willing to serve.  Influencers are people who serve others.

Seek Connections

Wherever I go and wherever I find myself, I seek to make connections with people and build rapport.  It doesn’t take long.  Show an interest in them and in who they are (not just what they have to offer at their job).  Ask questions about them – their personal life (family), interests, what they like to do when not at work.  Again, it’s easy to do, but most people are so consumed with their own world, that they rarely take time to establish connections with others.

Connections help establish influence and a right to speak into someone else’s life.  Without the connection (especially from a co-worker) you may appear to be bossy or intrusive.  Having that connection allows you to increase your influence in those around you, so that you may give helpful wisdom when the time arises.

How do lead from the lower ranks?  How do you gain influence among your coworkers?  Let me know in the comments below!

Photo courtesy Bigstockphoto.com/46662517

How to Use Team Building Activities in the Classroom

team building activities for students

This week’s post is dedicated to teachers everywhere. You are a hard-working bunch, and I admire what you do and the dedication you bring day in and day out. I have a lot of gratitude and respect for educators. I consider myself an educator; although, not in the traditional sense.

Here are some suggestions on how to use different kinds of team building exercises in the classroom. I’ll also include some specific names and ideas of activities you can use, as well as some links where you can go to find more detailed instructions.

Most team building activities are designed to be done in smaller groups (10-12), but there are always ways to modify them. I would encourage if at all possible to do these outside. Allow your students a chance to take a break from the classroom and enjoy a change of scenery.

Set Your Goals

Before doing any kind of team building activity, I always recommend setting goals. This will help you be very focused and intentional about the activity and its purpose. Questions to ask when settings goals for these exercises should include:

  • What is the purpose of this activity?
  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • What do you want the end result to be?
  • How will your team (or class) be different when they’re done?

It’s important to be intentional about these activities from the beginning. Although you can do activities just for fun, I find that the more purposeful you are, the better the activity will go, the more the students will get out of it, and the more effective they will be in the long run. It does take a bit more time on the front and back end (because you also want to make sure you debrief the activities, including icebreaker activities [link]).

Icebreakers

Icebreakers are great activities to use for your classroom. There are all kinds of icebreaker exercises that you can use. They are good for having your students get to know each other (and you) better. They are fun and high energy, so be aware that they might get your students engaged but some will also be loud and spirited.

Depending on your goals, there are different categories of icebreakers that you can use. There are problem-solving icebreakers, get to know you games, and more. Check out a few problem-solving activities here. [link]

Icebreaker Ideas
Group Juggle 

Groups of students form circles of 12-15 each and attempt to toss a number of objects around the circle without dropping them.  There are a few helpful suggestions:

  • Say the name of the person you are tossing to before tossing
  • Toss across the circle (don’t just hand it to someone next to you)
  • Underhand tosses only
  • Everyone gets it once, except the person who started.  The game starts and ends with him/her.

Name Samurai

Using a foam sword, students sit in a circle with legs extended. The “samurai” stands in the middle trying to tag the people speaking. Someone in the circle starts by saying their name and then “to [another person’s name], so it would sound like, “Jeff to Amy”, “Amy to Molly”, “Molly to Braden”, etc. The player who gets tagged while speaking then becomes the Samurai. Great activity for learning names!

Man – Gun – Bear

Think the full-body version of rock-paper-scissors. Divide the group into pairs (perfect for a large group). The pairs start back to back and after the facilitator counts to 3, they jump around assuming one of the 3 characters (man, gun or bear). Karate man beats the gun-slinger, gun-slinger beats the bear, and the bear beats the karate man, and if you tie, both die! Play until there’s one winner.

Team Initiatives

Team initiatives are great for getting groups of students working together to achieve a common goal. You can focus on leadership, communication, problem solving, and more. These challenges can vary from short 10-15 minutes problems or longer (30-45 minutes or more) exercises that require some planning.

Marshmallows & Knives

Using the large marshmallows and knives (like you would find in your school cafeteria), teams must figure out a way to keep the knives off the table using only the materials given (just those 2 items). This is another great problem-solving and brainstorming challenge!

Tallest Tower

Using strands of dry spaghetti, small marshmallow, and a roll of tape, teams must create the tallest free-standing tower possible in 10 minutes. For an extra challenge, give all the teams less time. {You can also do this with a roll of aluminum foil and see how high they can go).

Hula Hoop Hut Relay

Teams use 6 hula hoops to create a “hut” and then all team members must pass through the hoops without letting the hut fall down. Want to make it more challenging? Require each team member to start through a different opening or have the team member passing through be blindfolded!

team building exercises for students

 

(photo courtesty of Flickr, Create-Learning, no changes made)

Helium stick

Teams figure out how to lower a lightweight dowel rod with just their forefingers. The crazy thing is – it wants to go up instead of down! Great for communication and leadership!

Icebreaker and Team Building Resources

Teampedia is a collection of team building activities and icebreaker ideas.  It’s a great collection that is searchable by activity name and category.  You can also add team building activities here if you know one that’s not in the database.

www.teampedia.net 

Playmeo is also a collection of team building activities, icebreakers, group games, and more.  The difference is that many of the activities also have a video to accompany them, and they also offer a monthly or yearly subscription that allows you to access ALL of their activities, videos, and awesomeness!

www.playmeo.com (affiliate link)

 

What team building activity will you use with your students?  What other team building activities have you used?  Let me know in the comments below. 

There’s No “I” in Team (But there is “me”)

No I in Team but there's me

You’ve probably heard the saying.  You may have even said it.  I think it’s quite funny.  It’s probably just my weird sense of humor, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.

I know what the saying means, and what people who say it are referring to.  There’s no room for selfishness when it comes to being a part of a team, just as there’s no space for egotistical and narcissistic behavior.  I’m sure you’ve worked with people like that, as I have, and it makes for a very tough work environment.

All teams are made up of individuals, and there is an individual responsibility to make the team work. What, then is an individual’s obligation to the team, and where does individual effort come into play?  Here are several things that make a team player effective.

Team Players Buy into the Vision

A leader needs to set a clear and compelling vision, but the team members must buy into that vision, and know that the success of the team is dependent on their commitment to it and their work towards it.  Team members buy into the vision and dedicate themselves to knowing their role in the vision and doing their part to accomplish it.

Team Players Serve Others

Part of what makes a great team is a willingness on the part of team members to really serve each other.  It’s amazing to be a part of a group that serves each other – not out of selfish motives or a “payback” attitude, but just out of a desire to see the team function well.

Teams who have members that function like this grow an atmosphere of trust that yells, “I’ve got your back!”  It is evident not only to the members of the team, but to everyone this team comes into contact with.

Team Players Help Others Succeed

This is similar to the characteristic above, but goes a step further.  You can serve someone without helping them succeed.  I believe team members should be each other’s biggest cheerleaders.  Often, we get into this competitive mode (which can serve its purpose), but more often than not it keeps people from collaborating effectively.

Seek others success, and you will be a success.  Find ways you can really help others succeed.  Go the extra mile to assist your team mates.

Team Players Know Their Strengths

I’m a big proponent of strength-based work theory.  There’s too much to go into in this blog post, but the main premise is that people do better when they work in their areas of strength and minimize their work in weak areas.  (As opposed to focusing on improving weak areas).

There are plenty of personality and strength assessment tools to use. One of my favorites is the StrengthsFinder 2.0.  It’s a very quick assessment that shows you your top 5 strengths out of 34.  Based on the results, a leader can shift team members around to work in their area(s) of giftedness.

Check out the Team Building Resources page for more personality assessments and strength assessment resources I recommend.

Team Players Ask for Help

Everyone needs help at some point.  No one person can do it or know it all.  When I was working with students at a high school, we would talk about their grades and if they needed tutoring, I would tell them, “Don’t suffer in silence.”  Meaning, there are plenty of resources for help.  There’s no need to suffer.

The same is true for a team.  Even if you’re not part of a team where everyone willingly helps each other out, you probably know someone who has the answer or resource you need to be more effective.  Don’t be afraid to ask.

Team Players are Constant Learners

The strongest team players that I’ve worked with do not need to be told to learn.  They are constant learners and are self-directed in this area.  You can tell the “hungry” team mates from those just wanting a pay check or recognition.  Typically, they are quick to take the credit and last to do the work.  Interesting, yes?

The hungry learners ask you what they can read and do and the best way to grow.  They see you as a mentor and are also hard-workers.  They know their strengths and also know where they need to grow.  They might now always know how to do something or how to improve, but you can tell that they want to and that they are loyal to the team and to you.  These are the ones to pour yourself into and invest in.  It will pay off huge dividends!

If you work on these, then you will be an effective “I” in the team, or “me”, whichever you prefer!  🙂 And, hopefully, we can change that saying together!

What else do you see as an effective characteristic of a team player?  What area does your team need to work on?  Let me know in the comments below.  

Photo credit: Big Stock Photo by muzsy, Stock Photo 40606411

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