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!

10 Ways to Help Your Team Be More Thankful

10 Ways to Help Your Team Be More Thankful

‘Tis the season to be grateful. There are lots of things to be thankful for; however, we can often get busy (especially during this time of the year) and become consumed with all that we have to get done before the end of the year.

Here are ten ways to help re-direct your team (and even yourself) to think about others during the holidays and get the focus off of everything you have to do. These activities will not only help your team to grow closer, but also steer the focus to others.

1. Gather shoes for children.

In our community, there is a local shoe closet that collects and distributes shoes for children who need them. We are not a large community, but you’d be surprised how many children have worn out and inappropriate shoes for school. Check to see if there is a shoe closet in your area and what sizes they need. Or, have your own shoe drive and work with your local school district to find out what would be helpful.

2. Collect donations for Christmas dinner boxes.

The college where I work gathered items to give out 100 Thanksgiving dinner sacks that our students could come by and pick up the week before Thanksgiving. The same idea could be used for Christmas. Get your teams together to donate items to make Christmas Dinner sacks or boxes for local families. Work with charities in your area to get the word out. Set a goal and see how many you can collect!

3. Begin a canned food drive.

Every community has a food bank and most of them need donations, especially around the holidays. Have your team start a canned food drive to help your local food bank stock up for the holidays (or re-stock after them.)

4. Donate coats and warm clothes.

Our local community has a couple of coat closets that gather coats to give to those in need during the winter months. (Yes, even in Texas it can get pretty chilly!) Determine how many coats you want to gather (make it a challenge for your team) and deliver the coats together. Take a tour of the coat closet and see what other things they might need or other ways you can volunteer.

5. Serve the homeless.

If you don’t want to collect anything to donate, have one of your teammates organize a day to go feed the homeless at a local shelter. Just about every community has one, and it definitely puts things in perspective. Seeing men, women, and even families with no place to go makes one grateful for all the blessings we truly have.

6. Volunteer at a local non-profit.

As a team, decide on a non-profit you would like to go help. Schedule a Saturday morning and go serve them together. Every non-profit loves volunteers and certainly needs help during this time of year. Want to up the challenge? Make it a goal to serve together once a month or once a quarter as a group. See how your team and teammates grow during the process!

7. Support an Angel.

Every year, the Salvation Army has a program called Angel Tree, where people can get a name from one of the Angel Trees set up in the community and buy a small box of new clothes or toys for needy children. Volunteer to be one of the hosts of a tree or get together with your team and determine a number of families you want to help over the holidays.

8. Participate in a Rice and Bean supper.

Do some searching to see if there is a rice and bean supper in your area during the holidays. The purpose of these is to:

  1. Raise money for local charities.
  2. Raise awareness for poverty.

It’s eye opening when you see how little people live on both in our country and across the globe. The statistics are alarming. Most of the world lives on less than $2-3/day. Yet, we often complain about how little we have. Take your team to one of these dinners and do some debriefing afterwards and talk about thankfulness, giving, and how your organization can help make a difference in your community.

9. Sign up for a poverty workshop.

Our community has hosted several poverty workshops. There are a few organizations who run these and their presentations and information is very eye-opening. The good ones not only talk about poverty but also ways that people in the community can begin to help turn things around.

Work with a local school district or church to schedule a time to bring someone in to lead one of these trainings. (We’ve worked with Donna Beegle before and participated in her poverty institute.)

10. _(Insert your idea here.)_

The last idea is to brainstorm with your team and come up with your own idea. How can you help your community? What ideas do your team members have? What needs does your community have? How can you work together as a team to help those around you?

Some other ideas to get the ball rolling:

  • Help cultivate a community garden.
  • Clean up with your city’s parks and recreation department.
  • Build a house with Habitat for Humanity.
  • Volunteer for disaster relief with Red Cross.
  • Tutor kids with an after school program.
  • Mentor students at a local community college.

What idea did your team decide to move forward with? How did it go? Let me know in the comments below!

Leading Others to their A-Ha Moments

Leading Others to their A-Ha 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.

8 Ways to Insert Adventure Into Your Day

8 Ways to Insert Adventure Into Your Day

Most of the time, we tend to fall into our routines and stay there. If you’re like me, though, routine tends to get boring rather quickly. I try to find ways to get out of my normal schedule and make my life and work more interesting. I want to be intentional about my life and, instead of letting it just happen, strive to have fun and create adventure in everyday situations.

Here are some ideas that you can use to input a little adventure into your life and work. Consider something about the definition of adventure. It doesn’t have to be some wild, cliff-hanging excursion in order to qualify as adventure. Pushing past your comfort zone, even a little, qualifies as going on an adventure.

1. Watch the sunrise (or sunset)

This will take a little planning, but definitely worth it. Why would this be considered an adventure or getting outside of your comfort zone? Most leaders tend to go, go, go and not take time to be still and rest. Even for a few minutes, being quiet and still can help us gain a new perspective on life and work and what is really important.

2. Take one more step

I’ve been a part of leadership trainings, and one of them had a saying, “Go as far as you can and take one more step.” At the time, we were going up a climbing wall, but it was really a metaphor for life. How can you take one more step…

  • With a current project you’re working on?
  • In your leadership?
  • With your kids?
  • In a relationship that’s strained?
  • With the book you want to write?
  • In the conflict you need to resolve?

Even as leaders we have a tendency to stop when we bump up against resistance, especially in the form of our comfort zone. When you hit a wall, resolve to go that extra step (you will probably find it will get you past a sticking point.)

3. Connect with an old friend

It’s often humbling to pick up the phone and contact someone you haven’t visited with in months or years. It amazes me with certain friends how it feels like we can pick up where we left off and it almost seems like it hasn’t really been that long. Just imagine the adventures that you can relive with this friend, or new ones you can share!

4. Read a book

Books can take us on all kinds of adventures – to far away places, introducing us to interesting characters, and teaching us things that we would not otherwise know or experience. Whether the book is fiction or non-fiction, we can have numerous adventures and learn fascinating things by reading. If you want more of an adventure, try reading a genre that is unfamiliar to you.

5. Volunteer

Serving others is always a great adventure. Whether it’s volunteering with a homeless shelter or the local food bank, you are sure to have a wonderful adventure helping someone else. This is definitely something that you can do as a team.

How could you implement this at your work as a team building activity?

6. Take a class/workshop

Have you always wanted to learn something but haven’t found the time? Why not start a class or go to a workshop? There are so many ways to do this now.

Take an online class through Udemy.

Explore what your local community college offers.

Audit a class from a 4-year university.

Check your local paper or visit with local organizations to see what classes and workshops that are being taught that you are interested in. During the class you could also complete #8 below! 🙂

7. Create something from scratch

The creative process will push most people past their comfort zone – some very quickly. Whether it’s a blog post, a piece of artwork, a fence, or something else, try building something from the ground floor. Maybe you’ve wanted to implement a new program or training with your team but aren’t sure where to start.

Go ahead and take the first few steps and see how far you get. You might be surprised at how much easier it is to start than you first thought.

8. Visit with a stranger

I don’t always think about talking to strangers as an adventure; however, I was on a personal retreat a number of years ago and met a homeless man named Cash (let the irony of that sink in for a moment!) I bought him a meal and we were able to visit for a few minutes. I thought I was blessing him by the food I had to offer. He blessed me more by our conversation and the challenge that he (unbeknownst to him) left to me.

Take time to day to invest in someone for just a few minutes. You might make a new friend or you may not see this person ever again. The reward is in the conversation and in stepping out. You never know how you will be challenged or blessed by a brief conversation with someone you don’t know.

 

It’s typically the simply, daily adventures that bring me the most joy and the biggest challenges. It requires me to move past my comfort zone and constantly be growing and learning as a leader. And, it is often these micro-adventures that are accompanied by the greatest blessings. They cause me to pay attention to the simple and most important things in my life.

What other micro-adventure could you participate in today? Leave a comment below or Tweet it using #leadbyadventure. I’d love to see what you come up with!

How to Lose a Customer Over 78 Cents

How to Lose a Customer Over 78 Cents

I’m a big advocate and proponent of customer service. As in a huge believer. Ever since my mid-20s when I worked in a retail store called Eastern Mountain Sports and went through some phenomenal training, I am sold out on quality customer care and training.

Unfortunately in this day and age, well-done customer service is hard to find. Sometimes, next to impossible to find.

Several weekends ago, I was traveling with my family back from a wonderful weekend filled with friends, family time, and fireworks. We had stopped in a 7-Eleven to gas up and get a snack for my son. My wife let him get 2 candy bars because the sign said they were 2 for $2. She specified that he could only eat one (which he did not, by the way, but that’s another story for another time!) and this is an unusual treat for my son.

When I went to check out, the checker told me the total, and seeming a little high, I asked if the candy bars had rung up at 2 for $2. They did not, he said, so he proceeded to ring them up again. This time the total was 9 cents cheaper. I still didn’t think that was right, but went ahead and paid him.

When I checked the receipt, I noticed the bars still rung up at the normal price. So, I turned around and politely said, “The candy bars still didn’t ring up at 2 for $2.”

To which the checker responded (without any hint of real helpfulness), “Then that’s probably an old special.”

Trying to maintain my composure (my son, after all, was right there noticing what was going on) I replied, “But the advertised price is 2 for $2.”

He quickly retorted, “Well, I will take the sign down in a little bit.”

“So are you going to honor the price.” My voice at this point was probably noticeably agitated.

“There’s nothing I can do.”

“Like give me my money back?”

“I can’t control what the register rings up.”

At this point, one of the other customers, hearing the exchange asked if there was a manager available. The employee only shook his head no, not even looking at this woman.

At this point, I needed to step away. One, because my son was standing right there, and this was not one of my finer moments. Two, because I needed to cool down before laying in to that employee like I so wanted to do.

I took my son to the car and returned into the store. I went over to the cashier and said, “You might not be able to control what the register rings up, but you can control how you treat your customers.”

He said something else about the register, and I finally told him, “Well, you just lost a customer. We’re never returning to this store again.”

His nonchalant response? “Ok. Have a nice day.”

It was at this point that I really wanted to throw something at him more than a verbal sparring match. I refrained however, and went back to the car and left the store.

I vow never go back to that store again and likely will avoid all 7-Eleven stores from now on – not to be vindictive or spiteful but to support stores who care about their customers and treat them with a sense of value.

How could this have been a totally different outcome?

It would have been very easy for this young man to make me a satisfied customer. All he would have had to do was honor the price on the candy bar and refund me the difference. Case closed. Instead, he opted for the “there’s nothing I can do approach.”

Hogwash.

There is always something you can do if you are focused on the customer.

What lessons can be learned from this exchange?

1. Treat your customers with respect.

I felt little respect from this individual and even thinking about it now, weeks after, gets my blood boiling a little bit. There is no excuse for treating people disrespectfully or with a lackadaisical attitude. Both of those scream, “I don’t care!”

What can you do today that will scream, “I care about you, the customer!”?

2. Give the customer what they want.

The companies that will excel in the future are ones who will not only deliver for the customer, they will over-deliver. Sometimes it’s a simple solution; however, at other times, the solution might be a little more complicated. Bottom line – keep your customers happy.

That being said, sometimes you do have to fire customers or clients. These are people that will not be happy no matter what you do. (That’s a different story and blog post all together.)

How can you over-deliver for a client today? 

3. Always be smiling.

I don’t know how long this young man had been working here, but it was obvious he didn’t like it. Or maybe he was having a bad day. I don’t know and frankly, it doesn’t matter. When you’re in a customer service position, sometimes you have to fake it.

Put a smile on your face. Be friendly. Act like you care (even if you don’t). People respond way better to smiles and friendliness and it will make your day go much better as well.

How can you level up your friendliness today? 

4. Train your people right from the start.

Again, customer service training is key, and either this employee didn’t care to heed his training, or he wasn’t trained. Regardless, he didn’t need to be working that day.

Also, in working with a lot of millennials, soft skills are a necessity that don’t get a lot of attention and training. As a rule, most young people lack these kinds of skills and must be trained in them. Don’t assume everyone knows about customer service. Have a specific training plan and take all of your employees through it.

What is your plan to train your employees in customer service?