Category Archives: Play

Agile barnacles

Leaders want their teams to be more agile. Change happens more quickly than yesterday, and tomorrow it will be moving faster than today. They want their people to be able to respond and move quickly. Meanwhile, team members have issues with other team members. There’s cynicism and suspicion of more change initiatives. There’s low-level stress from trying to do more with less for so many years. Every team has barnacles. Old stuff has grown over and attached to the team ship, slowing it down. Curiosity has calcified into certainty. Teams usually want to skip over this stage and leap into agility. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. The barnacles will continue to get in the way until they’re acknowledged and addressed. And people don’t feel valued…until they’re actually valued. If you want to be agile, first face the barnacles. Learn more: Emotional Intelligence Works – EQ is twice as important in contributing to excellence as IQ and expertise combined. Learn how to effectively manage your emotions and those around you for sustained success.

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Six Leadership Lessons from Dunkirk director Christopher Nolan

Dunkirk director/writer/producer Christopher Nolan (Batman Trilogy, Interstellar, Inception) didn’t say these lessons out loud. Always pay more attention to what a leader does than says. I gathered this advice for leaders from watching the expansive special features on the Dunkirk DVD set. 1.     Keeping doing the parts of the job you love Nolan and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema are everywhere in the scenes of the filming taking place. It looks like the $100 million movie that two boys filmed. Leaders often move up through the ranks in a company. They’ve had a lot of jobs. But when they get to the top, they’ve only got one job. Don’t forget the part of the work you love to do. And spend time doing it. Don’t let go of something that grounds you to the work and your passion. 2.     Put your imprint on it Nolan likes using real film, not digital. He wanted natural lighting. He wanted IMAX. He wrote the story. And he was completely hands-on in every aspect. One of the actors tells how Nolan looked him over on the first day of shooting and told him the boots of his laces were tied incorrectly. British soldiers in WWII tied them differently. 3.     Make it real Minimal CGI, no green screen. No patina of colors . The film wasn’t even scanned digitally to add stuff in later. He used real ships, real planes from WWII where possible. And he used real kids (18-21 years old) as lead actors. There were no 40-year old infantrymen running around. When the bombs went off on the beach, those kids didn’t need to act, they were scared. And the actors that portrayed pilots were actually up in the air while they were in the cockpit. A real pilot was in the section behind them on the plane actually flying it. 4.     Go first Don’t make any of your people do something you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself. Nolan was first in line to go up in those antique planes, first in the water, first to jump off of something, all of it. Go first and you’ve captured hearts and minds. 5.     Decide what you want to do…then figure out if it’s impossible or not Nolan wanted to film in IMAX format and he wanted the action handheld. AND he wanted to film on the wings of the planes in the air. The IMAX format cameras are over 50 pounds, not exactly handheld-worthy. And they’d never been brought up in the air the way they used them. Like Roger Bannister and the 4-minute mile we now know these things can be done. 6.     Listen to and lead with the passion you were born with Nolan grew up with this mythology – the most inspiring retreat in modern warfare. He’s lived with this story since he was a boy. And in the special features he’s everywhere – up in the air in an old Spitfire plane, in the water, jumping off a ‘sinking’ ship, everywhere. His passion came to life. Nolan and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema reminded me of two excited boys running around in charge of a movie that cost $100 million to make. Christopher Nolan won his first Oscar for Best Director for Dunkirk. He earned it by leading with passion. How will you lead the change you want to make today?

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How to Make an Omelette

We can read about it, talk about it, think about it. But at one point, the preparation gets in the way of getting stuff done. Walt Whitman counseled, “let the book on the shelf unopen’d.” At one point we need to do it. Speaking another language, exercising, falling in love, traveling, starting a business, writing a book – these only happen if we stop preparing and actually do them. You can read about cooking an omelet for weeks. But if you’re hungry, you’re going to have to break some eggs. Learn more: Team Collaboration Quest - Teams complete a customized series of challenges through collaboration and communication.

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Twelve play lessons from skiing

It was dark and 14 degrees out when I left home. I arrived at the mountain in time for the 8 AM chair lift opening. The temperature had dropped 20 degrees thanks to the elevation to -4 degrees, sunny, cold and windy. I skied the full day, from 8 AM to chair lift close at 4 PM, with only two quick food breaks. I rarely felt warm enough, and after the first two runs, my thighs were screaming, “it’s been two years since you’ve done this!” But I happily persisted, loving the freedom and challenge that this particular form of play presents. The next day I woke up and could hardly move, muscles I forgot existed in my legs and back complaining loudly. Yes, it was totally worth it. Contrast this to working out in a gym. 30 minutes on a treadmill or working those same legs and I’m done. Bored, tired, ready to do something else. Or put off coming back to do this again. What’s the difference? Play. The ‘working out’ aspect was secondary to engaging in something fully, something challenging and interesting. There was a clear container to play in – a defined playing field with specific boundaries. There was just one thing to get done. But mostly, it was a game. It was fun. The power of play got me farther – by far – than a task-oriented gym approach. And the power of play gets us much farther when we can play the work, not just get it done. Are we getting happily lost in the work or just feeling lost? If it’s the latter, reorganize the work to incorporate: Do something. Don’t just prepare. Take action, even if you don’t feel ready. Full engagement in one thing a day (or at least one thing at a time) Born to move. Incorporate nature and movement somehow. We were born to move. For example, kick start today’s work-game with a walk outside. Feel the fun. Something interests you, something captures you. Notice it and let it in. Clear boundaries – nothing interferes with the game. Real freedom is within boundaries. When you’re out of bounds stop. Test the boundaries. For example, few skiing pleasures compare to glade skiing. Call time-outs. If you want to “level up”, you need to create the levels. And you do that by placing pauses in the action – to recharge and to learn. Learn and improve. Every action gives us feedback that we either ignore or explore. Note: It’s easier to do this during time-outs. Change it up. When feedback tells us something isn’t working, listen and try something new. When the enthusiasm has waned, the game is over…for now. You’ll be back. (A truly hard one for most of us – we culturally have a hard trusting waning enthusiasm.) Peak fun. This is means stopping when maximum fun has just been had and the long downward slope (pun intended) has begun. Retire at the peak. Leave them wanting more. When you’re done playing the game you’re done. Don’t look back in regret (however afterglow is allowed) and of course don’t keep going. How can you ski your work instead of weight-lift your work today? How will you play the work today?

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Influencing in the dark

I returned to the Cueva Del Puente (in the Parque Nacional Del Este in the Dominican Republic) on my own later in the week after the owl encounter. This time I went dark, no flashlight, just moving slowly, staying still when needed, feeling my way and being patient with my slowly adjusting eyes. And I felt again and again the rush of air and heard fluttering near my head in the darkness as bats flew by. I met these little creatures where they were, in the environment they are most comfortable, in the way they were most comfortable – in the dark. I, however, wasn’t comfortable. I was scared, facing a dark unknown. But I was also thrilled. This is what it’s like when you honestly try to connect with someone. It’s the ‘hero’s journey’ of communicating and influencing. You leave your known world behind and get curious about where the person you’re trying to influence lives, what is comfortable for them. It’s unsettling. It’s often scary. It’s not easy to see. A plan got you here, but a plan can’t get you any further. As David Whyte said, “What you can plan is too small for you to live.” And you emerge changed yourself. The influencing isn’t just a push. It’s a pull as well. The influencing quest is a journey into the unknown, an adventure – scary, thrilling and definitely memorable.   “To go in the dark with a light is to know the light. To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight, and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings, and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.” -Wendell Berry

Also posted in Influence, Purpose | Comments closed

Owls, Caves, Curiosity and Delight

The trail is two miles in, starting from the ocean. It’s a mix of limestone and old coral reef under foot with dense, dry coastal forest crowding in. It’s our first day exploring Parque Nacional Del Este in the Dominican Republic. We reach the hole in the ground that marks Cueva Del Puente (cave of the bridge). We’re the only people we’ve seen so far in the park and it’s just us and the darkness in the cave. It’s bigger than either of us think it was going to be, and rooms open up into larger rooms until we hit the end of the line – a large room with enormous trees growing up from the cave floor and down from the forest floor above, bright sunlight and birdsong mixing with the cool, quiet cave. We see a movement come from a dark corner and then an ashy-faced owl lands on one of the tree branches in the cave. For the next 20 minutes we sit watching each other, its curiosity and our delight meeting each other, moving me deeply. Curiosity, delight. No curiosity, no delight. Who doesn’t want delight? And who doesn’t love curiosity? Delight + curiosity = play. Our old lizard brain, the amygdala, doesn’t want curiosity. It wants certainty. Certainty allows for decisive action. When faced with immediate physical threats, it helps to not be too curious and take action instead. Does the saber-tooth tiger want to be friends or eat me? The problem is that the amygdala can’t discern between literal and emotional threats. So, that nasty email you just received triggers your amygdala the same way a car heading straight at you in an intersection triggers it. Both move you away from curiosity and into certainty. Certainty is where modern political discourse lives, where comments on online articles live – delight-free wastelands. But if we want to connect, to be thrilled and delighted, curiosity is the path. If we want to connect to our work, to our co-workers, to our loved ones, if we want to experience delight, first we calm the amygdala – pause, breath, appreciate something – and allow for the unknown.

Also posted in EI, Nature | Comments closed

Quix Tip: Get Playful

1. Choose something that you’ve persisted at all winter long. 2. Re-visit what you love about the topic. Why have you persisted? There’s clearly love in there. 3. Relax around your growing edge of the topic. 4. Get playful with the content and see what fresh perspectives and energy arise.

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Quest Story: What’s the hardest part of being at your best?

The team leader looked at the At Your Best compass, thought for a moment then said, “play is the hardest for us.” She explained, “we get so lost in what has to be accomplished, that we forget to enjoy the work, to smile, to enjoy each other. We work so hard and forget to play.” She’s right. Passion, play, purpose, persistence – what’s the hardest? For most teams it’s play. Which is interesting when we recall we all started out as kids. Play came naturally and easily to all of us. Somewhere along the path of life, we lost our way, and a core success muscle atrophied. Play isn’t just ‘having fun’. Play equals creativity. It allows for experimentation, testing and failure. It’s where innovation and invention come from. Without it, there will be no breakthroughs. In a ‘failure is not an option’ world, it’s no surprise that the power of play has been forgotten. Her team started the day just as she stated. Picture This was fraught with tension and the team immediately unconsciously launched into a high-stress attempt at completing the team building activity. Then during the debriefing, team eyes started to open. As the Collaborative Team Building Quest day progressed, some barnacles of old behavior got scraped off. Finally the last activity, On Target, began the same way. Stressed out, not communicating. With each round, however, they got better. The last round, the team was as one – eyes shining, calm, clear communication, innovation successfully in place. The ideal team, and their results blew away what they thought they could do. That’s the beginning of a new story, of teams relearning to play the work. When in doubt, we pause then play. If our immediate world hasn’t crumbled because of this radical heresy, we do it again…and then again.

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Quix Tip: Top Ten Songs You Can Play Along With on Your C Harmonica

If you have a harmonica in the key of C you can play along with recordings of these songs. Pick your spot on the harmonica and try drawing air in, or blowing air out. It’s fun and easy too! Piano Man by Billy Joel – Play out more than in, melody is in the middle, starting on Hole Six, Blow out. Love Me Do by the Beatles – Draw in first on the bottom three holes and then when the chord changes, blow out on the bottom three holes. Repeat. Or try playing the single note melody on the middle of the harmonica. The first note is Hole Five, draw in. Come Together by the Beatles – This very easy melody can be played almost entirely on Holes Four and Five, drawing in. Start on Hole Five, drawing in. Early in the Morning by Louis Jordan – Draw in first on the bottom three holes and then when the chord changes, blow out on the bottom three holes to play this blues rumba. Repeat. In the one spot of the song that sounds different, draw in on Hole One only. Ode to Joy by Pete Seeger (This lovely version of Beethoven’s melody from the Ninth Symphony is on Pete’s album simply titled Pete) Play out more than in. Melody is in the middle. Start on Hole Five – blow out. Rawhide by Frankie Laine (yes, this is the same classic Rawhide that the Blues Brothers did) – Play the melody only. The first phrase moves back and forth on Hole Two, blow out and then Hole Three, blow out, starting on Hole Two. The second phrase moves back and forth on Hole Two, draw in and then Hole Three, draw in and moves up from there. Can’t Help Falling In Love by Elvis Presley (His version on Aloha From Hawaii begins in the key of C) – Play the melody, the first three notes are Hole Four, blow out; Hole Six, blow out; Hole Four, blow out. These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ by Nancy Sinatra – Play the melody starting (and staying on for a while) Hole Five, Blow out. We Shall Overcome, Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, and Swing Low Sweet Chariot (all recordings by Charlie Haden and Hank Jones on their beautiful album of spirituals Steal Away) – Try playing the melodies on the middle of the harmonica. Batman (the original wacky 60s TV show theme) – Draw in first on the bottom three holes and then when the chord changes blow out on the bottom three holes. Then repeat. In the one spot of the song that sounds different, draw in on Hole One only. Don’t forget to also add the ‘Bat-man’ vocal part! *The melodies of any simple folk songs, most Americana songs (Shenandoah, Amazing Grace, etc.) can be played, also spirituals and nursery rhymes. You don’t need a recording, just try to find the melody in the middle of the harmonica. Where to get a C harmonica – If you’re a graduate of our Play the Blues program you are already the owner of a C harmonica. If you’re not, it’s time to get your team in tune and give us a call! If you want to try these songs on your own before then, go to a music store and ask for a harmonica in the key of C. Or here on Amazon. Where to get recordings of these songs – The iTunes store, the library or your favorite local music store. Learn more: Play the Blues - Learn to play the blues harmonica in just two hours! Each team member will receive their own harmonica, a copy of Blues Harmonica for Beginners book and play-a-long CD. Within minutes you will be playing a real blues song together. The grand finale features your team as the stars performing an original blues song that you have created together!

Also posted in Music | Comments closed

Chocolate Trivia

Early Mexican history states that: 1. The cocoa bean was a gift from the Gods and forbidden to eat 2. Women were not allowed to eat cocoa, only men 3. Cocoa beans were used as money 4. Ground up cocoa beans were used to make flour  Which country consumes the most chocolate per person per year? 1. United States 2. Switzerland 3. Belgium 4. France In 1657 the first chocolate shop opened up in: 1. London 2. Vienna 3. Amsterdam 4. Brussels Theobroma Caco is the scientific name for the cacao tree. When translated in Greek it means: 1. Warm Dark Fluid 2. Food of the Gods 3. Witch’s Brew 4. Brown Tree from Abroad Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is the title of: 1. A movie  2. The book by Roald Dahl 3. Both of the above 4. Neither of the above Before Gene Wilder was selected to play Willy Wonka, what legendary actor was considered? 1. Stan Laurel 2. Dick Van Dyke 3. Jack Lemmon 4. Fred Astaire Who sang ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’? 1. Shirley Jones  2. Debbie Reynolds  3. Julie Andrews  4. Deborah Kerr  Godiva Chocolate comes from: 1. France 2. Switzerland 3. Belgium 4. England  What candy had a pivotal role in a Seinfeld episode? 1. M & Ms  2. Baby Ruth  3. Reeses Pieces  4. Junior Mints  Kit Kat commercials in the 70s and 80s featured what animal? 1. A bear  2. A lion  3. A seal  4. A dog  What company created the first milk chocolate bar? 1. Cadbury 2. Nestle 3. Hershey 4. Borden’s The largest Toblerone bar is: 1. 1 pound 2. 2 pounds  3. 5 pounds  4. 10 pounds  Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s team building and team development activities: Crossing Chocolate Bridges – What better way to hone communication skills than with chocolate?

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