Category Archives: Team Building

What accounts for 70% of the variance in team engagement?

What accounts for 70% of the variance in team engagement? Manager/team leaderTime spent together face-to-faceTeam diversityClear goal The answer? A – the manager or team leader.  It’s (almost) all on you as a leader to make or break this team. Which one will it be, make…or break? Learn the strengths of your people, develop them and pick the right roles for each person, no matter how difficult those decisions may be. Learn more: Team Collaboration Quest – How can we communicate effectively with each other? How can we trust each other and take risks? What are the stages of team development? What do we do best? How do we look at the big picture and see how our individual contributions create success for all of us?  (data from It’s the Manager book by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter) 

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What are the right strengths to have on a team?

What are the right strengths to have on a team? Teams ask me this question all the time during StrengthsFinder trainings. “Do we have the right strengths? What are we missing?”  Gallup found something interesting when they tried to figure out the right strengths to have on a team. They found it doesn’t matter as much what the composition of team strengths is. What matters most is the awareness of the strengths that are on the team already.  You can’t use the tools you don’t know you have. Take the StrengthsFinder assessment with your team, link it to what it looks like in real life and expand from there. Learn more: StrengthsFinder – Gallup’s online assessment of unique top five strengths. Learn your team’s strengths and learn how to put them into action. (data from It’s the Manager book by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter) 

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Why the Nationals should win the World Series

Why did I root for the Washington Nationals to win the World Series? I don’t follow baseball at all and haven’t in about forty years. And I have no ties to this team locationally. Here’s why. They celebrate well. Mini shark, group hugs, cheap sunglasses, home run dances (thirteen different ones can be found here). They know how to celebrate. One of the announcers observed that they’ve probably started working on these celebrations in training camp. I hope they did. Most work teams miss out on a celebration aspect. They act like work is a war, with no room for celebration – only for pushing harder.   What if work is actually a game? What if it was safe to celebrate successes along the way? What if today was safe enough to celebrate something, anything with your team?

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Da Vinci on building a team with strengths and weaknesses

“An arch consists of two weaknesses which, leaning one against the other, make a strength.” — Leonardo da Vinci The ideal team recognizes that each person has peaks and valleys, highs and lows, strengths and weaknesses.  Taken individually, a person might try to fix those weaknesses, obsess over them, or hide them. Our brains are wired to look for flaws. It’s old survival behavior. The new way individually is to stop obsessing over weaknesses and focus on strengths more.  And the best way to build a team is to look at that team as three-dimensional. There are peaks and valleys based on individual strengths. And interestingly, those peaks and valleys overlap and cancel each other out. One person might be horrible at follow-up, another one is brilliant at it. One person might excel at winning suspicious people over, another person might consider that a worst nightmare scenario.  The ideal team forms a series of Da Vinci’s arches. People with a weakness in an area lean on other people on the team that have that strength – whether to shift work responsibility, energy support or tactical suggestions. These pairings take away the weakness from the team. The vulnerability shown and interdependence explored with those mini-collaborations is what the team trust is built on – arches.

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What’s so special about It Happened One Night?

How did the 1934 depression-era movie It Happened One Night go from unwanted orphan movie to Oscar juggernaut? It’s a thin plot – a spoiled heiress runs away and gets mixed up with a down-and-out reporter. They fall in love. That could be the general synopsis for a dozen other movies churned out of the studio mills that year. What captured the public’s hearts and wallets? I’m putting my money on the word vulnerability. Each of the two leads cycle through being prickly or entitled and then vulnerable. These are two people that in some way off-putting and even unpleasant. Then the façade drops. But never at the same time. They take turns – one is vulnerable and the other hardens and then the next setting the roles are reversed.  There is an ache and a desire for resolution as we watch the movie. And those vulnerable moments for each of them win our hearts and want the best for them. We start out being amused and end up rooting for them both. We go from entertained to caring. The flaws become the keys that open hearts. Vulnerability is the charm. Attachment theory first found out that this vulnerability is what makes for a positive bond between child and mother. And now we know that it’s mutual vulnerability that allows us to positively attach to each other as adults. Vulnerability is how we create a successful marriage. And a successful team. And a successful friendship. We’re each flawed and probably annoying to lots of people in our own ways. And then if we’re brave enough, we let ourselves be vulnerable. There are moments where we make the leap into the unknown and drop the armor. Those intensely scary spots are when the connection we’ve longed for takes place.

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Three keys to planning a successful large group team building activity

By Jayne Hannah There is nothing like walking past a ballroom and hearing cheering and laughter. You might think it’s a group of children having fun and if you peek in you would see 12 newly constructed contraptions with marbles speeding through them and 250 adults jumping with anticipation that they are the winning team. And winning what exactly? Nothing but the bragging rights of boasting to fellow work mates that they won the morning teambuilding challenge. What you wouldn’t realize in just walking past is that the teams are also learning key components in how to work more effectively together. Product Pipeline is an ideal program to choose if you are a large group also needing your participants to come away with a learning tool. Recently with 250 people, we were able to provide them with a key moment of learning where the action was stopped in order for team leaders to redirect the activity for a better working structure and an effective method of getting the task achieved. With large groups, the immediate problem is that there will be too many people wanting to take over, and rather than feel this is the reason not to do a training module, it is the perfect opportunity to present solutions for something that happens in a regular working day. Quite often the challenge for large groups, is that a client wants a competitive, energetic program while providing their participants with a learning opportunity. For them to come away with new ideas while still having the wow factor from a lively program that is not a sit down lecture on a new way to work. It is possible to present this but your teambuilding provider needs to fully understand and have experience of programs of this nature for them to be successful. Gimmicks cannot just be relayed on a larger scale. There are programs that will work and those that cannot. Quixote Consulting knows the difference. First, simplify your needs. You will never keep everyone’s attention with too much information. So go for one or two direct points and demonstrate them in an experiential way. Set up and planning is key and this is basic, but allowing time for participants to get from one location to another, including time to check phones and go to the bathroom. Once your group is all together and the program is underway you do not want them to be thinking about something that could have been solved by including a fifteen minute break before the teambuilding session. Breaking a session half way through is not a good idea.Trust your provider to know their set up requirements, time and space are key for the implementation of large group trainings. Recently for a large Product Pipeline the venue space was measured and divided using every inch available. The organization took three weeks of planning and was worth it to allow each individual an empowering experience.   For this particular client, who wanted both training and a burst of high energy to ignite their three day retreat, their success was in trusting us with the planning and delivery. By asking relevant questions we had a clear understanding on their objectives and also the limitations of the venue. Realistic expectations were set and the freedom to design a program that we knew from our experience would work best, and it did, with three placing teams, an ultimate winning team and people congratulating one another and us – it was three hours of focused learning and therefore winning.  PS – Thanks to all who expressed your enthusiasm about our newest baby www.largegroupteambuilding.com – and an offer to anyone who’s on a team, give us a call and we’ll help you change your culture to ‘one team, one goal’.

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What are the four Cs and are they the future of education?

“Reading and writing and ‘rithmetic, taught to the tune of a hickory stick.” – School Days (song from 1907) The three Rs were the focus of education for a long, long time. The most recent generations – millenial and whatever comes after millenial – have been focused on massive information gathering, with a side helping of a strong need for safety. That was certainly the trend in the ‘90s when I was leading team building and outdoor education with kids from New York City. That massive educational experiment is now being played out in the workforce. Much of the generational conflict I see comes from friction between Gen X managers and their millennial team members. What about the future? Forget 2020. What about 2040? 2050? The futurist Yuval Noah Harari thinks that will be the era of the algorithm. ‘King algorithm’ will do everything we traditionally have been trained to do but better. Our educational focus on stuffing kids until they look like informational Thanksgiving turkeys is already outdated. Information is no longer hard to come by. There’s this new-fangled thing called the ‘internet’ that some people find helpful to harvest information from when desired. We already thoroughly rely on algorithms – Google, Alexa, Siri are there for us. Educators are now arguing we should switch to teaching “the four Cs” – critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. These “four Cs” chose me early on and have given me an entire career. I didn’t pick them. They picked me. My first steps in the world of team building were in the woods of the Hudson highlands in New York with underserved kids from NYC, exploring the “four Cs”. We didn’t call them that then, but that’s what we were doing. A few forward-thinking schools gave their kids a head start with team building activities that taught the “four Cs”. And now, over twenty years later I’m the Pied Piper of the “four Cs” in corporate America. Or perhaps the Johnny Appleseed of the “four Cs”. If you have kids, “teach your children well” as Crosby Stills and Nash sang. Don’t teach them obsolete information memorization, or how to be afraid, or be rigid or consume without producing. That’s past. Teach your children critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. And if you don’t feel qualified, teach yourself first.

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My Favorite Large Group Team Building Memory

A favorite memory from leading a large group team building activity? On stage leading a Charity Bike Build team building for New Balance, looking out over a sea of people that I had just whipped into a frenzy roaring with excitement. 800 New Balance employees – a global group from Asia, Latin America, Europe and North America – were there at Boston University’s arena to build bicycles for kids. The planning and logistics took months and months. We customized the Bike Build to implement their ‘move the world’ theme in every aspect, right down to the soundtrack and the challenges. They built and donated 130 bicycles in 90 minutes, which was a new record for us. And having over 50 Quixote Consulting staff members was like its own team building activity! The New Balance activity is something I’m still very proud of and love those numbers: 800 people, 90 minutes, 130 bicycles donated. (Make your own favorite memories. Start here:  www.largegroupteambuilding.com)

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Large Group Team Building

I’m starting off with some news I’m extremely excited about. Our large group team building site is finally up and live! Check it out at www.largegroupteambuilding.com. Working with large teams is one of my callings. It’ll help us tremendously if you’d take a moment to share this newsletter or the link to the site to someone leading a company or a large team (40- 2,000 people) that has hopes for something better, to start a story that will make change happen. I don’t usually do asks like this – giving is more comfortable to me than asking for something. Hopefully giving you a chance to help people come together and do good work together is a gift in its own way. It’s the right time for giving. The maple leaves are still holding on, a warm color. And the oak and beech leaves are still green. It’s a classic early November in New England. It’s also the beginning of the season where we gather together into our tribes – team, family, friends, the people that matter. Boundaries of division get a little less strict. There is an impulse to connect. Thank you for helping me connect, and allowing me to connect with you here in this blog every week. Here’s to you connecting with what you are most passionate about and with everyone you care about.

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Why large group team building?

Clients ask me why I lead large group team building activities. Here’s my story. After performing at Woodstock ’94 I was at a crossroads. A hand injury stopped my professional guitar-playing career cold. I had traveled the world, studied psychology, music, business finance. I wrote music instructional books like Blues Harmonica For Beginners. I loved the passion, play and mutual fun of bringing people together and lifting them up. I wanted to create meaning in people’s lives. I wanted to go deep, not just to make a living, I wanted to make a difference. But I didn’t know how to combine play and purpose. Then team building found me. I began guiding large groups of underserved kids from NYC, building teams where it’s needed so badly. Then classes of New England’s top universities, setting a collaborative tone. By the end of the nineties, I was on stage in Las Vegas, leading a group of 500 corporate salespeople, building Pipelines, guiding them to collaborate as one team through the shear raw power of fun. That was it for me! I knew I had found a calling. Fast-forward 25 years. My company Quixote Consulting, named after the famous knight Don Quixote, continues the quest to change lives with play and purpose. We use large group team building activities to jumpstart the journey to ‘one team and one goal’. We believe every team is a hero team, and every team of heroes needs a guide. A large group team building game is a powerful story, one that everyone remembers. We hook the story with the company message, sinking it deeper into long-term memory, cutting through the complexities and frustrations of daily work. Leading large group team building activities takes a special talent. The logistics are seemingly endless. There’s an intense amount of pressure for a two-hour activity to not just succeed but to be both fun and profound, a game-changer for hundreds of people. It’s a crazy thing to love doing, but we do. We’re not for everyone, but if our story resonates with you, we might be the right fit. Tell us about your quest and we’ll help you make it come alive. (Check out www.largegroupteambuilding.com to learn more.)

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