Three Secrets of a Super-Fun Team

Three Secrets of a Super-Fun Team

Have you ever wondered what makes some teams great and some, well, duds? So have I. I’ve been on teams that work really well together and are downright a blast to be a part of. I’ve been on others where I couldn’t wait to go home at the end of the day. For many people, it may be a mixture of both fun and frustrating.

In working with a number of different teams, I’ve noticed a common thread among the ones who work really well together. There are certain characteristics that make these teams click. Lack of any of them, however, can cause any number of team dysfunctions.

Super-fun teams are good at collaboration

Fun teams work well together and have an atmosphere of trust and cooperation. If you’ve ever experienced working with people you don’t trust, you know how stifling that can be. And, it just takes one person to ruin an environment of trust.

You would think trust takes a lot of time to develop. The fact is, trust can be developed very quickly and that foundation can continue to be built upon. According to Stephen Covey, there are 13 behaviors you can us to develop what he calls “the speed of trust.”

Collaboration is a by-product of a high-trust environment. You can see this in those with whom you work. You tend to work well with those you trust and avoid those you don’t. The partnerships you seek are with people you know you can trust – for obvious reasons.

As you look at your team – how would you rate your level of collaboration?

Super-fun teams exhibit effective communication

Teams and co-workers communicate all the time. But is it effective? Have you moved forward with a project, only to find out at the end, that you weren’t given all the critical details?

When your team communicates effectively, it will increase productivity and significantly effect your bottom line, as well as overall team morale. People will feel more engaged and a critical part of the process.

What is the level of effective communication within your team?

Super-fun teams know when it’s time for celebration

I’m a part of a team that loves to celebrate. Whether it’s someone’s birthday, or a new team member comes on board or leaves, we celebrate. (And, no, we’re not celebrating the fact they’re leaving but going on to new adventures!)

The celebration usually centers around food, as well as the person we are celebrating. There is eating, laughing, conversation, eating, more laughing, sometimes singing, maybe a game or two (but not always), eating, frivolity, and did I mention eating? 🙂 Usually there is a theme, and it’s based on something that the person we’re celebrating likes.

We do our best to not talk about work (for the most part we are very successful). It’s not time to check in on business, but it is time for a party. We have lots of fun and don’t worry about work.

So, you may know these things already. The question then becomes, how do we make the above a reality? One of the best ways I know of to increase all of these is through a combination of icebreakers and team building activities.

That’s why I wrote a brand new book of these kind of exercises called, 10 Super Fun Team Icebreakers and Challenges. In it, you’ll find 10 team building activities that have never been printed anywhere else.

super fun team ebook

These are activities that I’ve spent the last few months creating and designing for teams just like yours. Whether you need better collaboration, communication, or you just want a day of celebration, these exercises will help your team, all based on the superhero theme.

You can use these activities one at a time, or you can group them together for a Super-Fun team adventure. Or do a half-day event by picking and choosing a few of the challenges. You decide.

Here’s a sneak peek at the book.

Right now, you can order the book for only $10. It not only includes the activities, but also has suggestions for how to use the book, instructions for how to facilitate each activity, and also (my personal favorite) a “Deep Dive” section where you can take the activity further and dig into the challenges even more.

If you end up buying the book and do some of the activities, please let me know. I’d love to know how it goes – send pictures, email me with how it went – who knows, maybe you and your team will even be featured on the blog or my social media accounts (with your permission, of course!)

Top 10 Reasons Your Team Building Activities are Ineffective

Top 10 Reasons Your Team Building Activities are Ineffective

“I really don’t want to share anymore,” one of my coworkers said.

“Why not?” the facilitator demanded.

“Because this isn’t the place,” she replied. At that point, Kara began to cry and walked off.

Talk about your awkward moments. Fortunately, I wasn’t the facilitator or the one who made her cry. (Phew!)

Why did that turn out so badly? I’ll finish the story in a bit, but first let me share some of the other the top ten reasons why you may not be getting the desired results out of your team building activities.

Reason 1: You never set any goals.

Goals are important for most business activities and team building is no exception. For a team building program to be effective, you must start by setting goals.

– What do you want the end result to be/look like?

– What areas of your team do you want to focus on? Communication? Personality styles? Vision? Values? Leadership development? Conflict resolution? Problem solving?

– What activities match your desired goals?

All of these (and more) can be addressed, but you probably don’t want to focus on too many of these at a time. Take time to set goals and focus on results you want to see and watch your team capacity skyrocket!

Reason 2: You never debriefed the activity.

I’m a big proponent of processing challenges. There are numerous ways to do this. You can use standard questions, or you can use more creative debriefing solutions.

The processing time doesn’t have to be long and drawn out, and it doesn’t have to be awkward. You can even use other activities or an experiential process to debrief the exercise.

Whatever method you decide to use, though, just don’t skip this part of the activity. This is where a lot of a-ha moments can happen.

Reason 3: You aren’t connecting the team building activities to real-world scenarios.

Often times, this mistake happens in the debrief. This is where “a ha” moments can really begin to take shape. You want to let the team make the connections, but there are times when they will need help to do so. Asking a question such as, “So how do you see a similar situation playing out at work?” or “How would you see this team solving a similar challenge elsewhere?”

These questions can help people bridge the gap between the activity and how to implement the same or similar strategies in the future.

Reason 4: You are not following up.

There is certainly a time where a stand-alone icebreaker or team building activity is called for. Most of the time, though, for your team to gain the optimal value from these programs, there needs to be follow-up.

Mark Collard of Playmeo recommends monthly follow-up sessions for all of the organizations he works with. I think this is a fabulous idea. We tend to get busy and distracted. Following up with people, and seeing how things have gone, where they are, and what questions they have is one key to lasting change.

Reason 5: You’re too serious.

There is a time to be serious, but there is also a lot of fun to be had when doing team building exercises and programs. However, when we begin to expect people to do things the “right way” or are too intense, it can hamper creativity and problem solving.

The great thing about team building activities is that every group will respond differently. Learning how to handle and adapt to each situation is one of the greatest traits of an effective facilitator.

So relax, have fun, and don’t be too serious! 🙂

Reason 6: The activities aren’t challenging.

Another reason your team building program may not be effective is using activities that never push people past their comfort zone. If everyone stays in their safety zone, then people aren’t challenged to the point where transformation can occur. There is a fine balance between stretching people and making them panic (see Reason #8); however, the team building exercises should be challenging.

Making these  too easy, or giving people the answers without really letting them struggle to find it could be a reason that you’re not seeing the effectiveness of these activities.

Reason 7: You did not adequately prepare.

Leading team building activities is more than just picking something that looks good or fun. There’s nothing wrong with having fun (see Reason 6 above); however, there is preparation that you will need to do before taking people through activities. You’ll want to set goals, determine what challenges you want to work on, and what activities will best fit the issues your team needs to navigate.

Doing some prep work beforehand will make the challenges much more relevant and effective for your team.

Reason 8: Your team building activities pushed people too far, too fast.

In his book Serious Fun, Mark Collard talks about 3 different zones that people can experience during this experiential training process. There is the safety zone, the stretch zone, and the panic zone. There is a process by which people can be moved from the safety zone to the stretch zone (without reaching the panic zone) in a way that provides optimal engagement and transformation.

If you try to push people too far in a short amount of time, then they will enter the panic zone and not be able to transfer what they are experiencing to real-world scenarios. They are too busy trying to get back to the point where they feel safe.

Pushing people is fine, but there is a process to doing so. You can stretch people without pushing them into panic-mode.

Reason 9: You did not prepare the group properly.

I once experienced a team building effort as a participant where my boss basically sprung a series of trainings on us that were very personal and the facilitator was borderline intrusive. Many of our group resisted and were bitter about our director not letting us know what we were in for.

That situation was what precipitated the events that I mentioned above. So how did the story end?

My coworker eventually calmed down, came back and our team participated (most very hesitantly and with much resistance) in the activities that this lady had planned for us. There were several lessons I learned that day about facilitation that I vowed never to do. This was just one of them.

People want a choice, but if you want something to be mandatory (which is fine), then prepare them ahead of time. A good facilitator will come to you with a plan and let you know (as much as possible) what can be expected. There will, no doubt, be some surprises during the activities: how people respond, who ends up with a great idea, the ways that people will interact and try to problem-solve.

Make sure you communicate to your team what’s going to happen and what they can expect. You don’t have to give away the farm, but don’t expect them to respond favorably to an “impromptu team building day” that you had planned for a while.

Reason 10: Your activities aren’t tied to a broader plan.

Team building activities are great. They can be fun, challenging, and create a space where awesome things can happen. However, if they aren’t connected to more than just an event or training, then they just become fun exercises that will fade into people’s memories.

To get the most out of them, tie these to a broader training plan that includes small group and one-on-one coaching, leadership development trainings, and the overall vision and values of your organization.

While team building activities can be very effective, the lack of any one of these things could cause fewer positive outcomes than what you, as the leader, want. Include all of these things and see if your teams don’t experience greater results.

Photo image credit .

Disclosure:  Some of the links above are affiliate links, and if you decide to make a purchase I will earn a commission at no additional cost to you.  Please know that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something but because they are helpful and useful. Please only spend money on these products if you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your or your team’s goals.

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!

7 Team Building Games You Can Lead with Hula Hoops

7 Team Building Games You Can Lead 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.