Category Archives: Team Building

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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Celtics coach Brad Stevens on the best version of ourselves

As the NBA prepares to begin training camps for the 2018-2019 season, Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, ““It’ll be a great opportunity to start afresh with a brand new team, though we do have a lot of guys back, and see if we can be the best version of ourselves.” Teams often ask me after collaborative team building activities, “are we the best?” And I can also sense that they often wonder, “are we really bad?” In other words, how do we rate? How do we compare? How do we stack up? This is one of the amygdala in the brain’s sorting techniques to try to keep us safe. It’s usually not helpful. Better to be who we are. There’s no one like us. There’s no team like us, for better and for worse. Each individual on the team brings strengths and passions unique to that person. And each time is a unique combination of those strengths and passions, and weaknesses and blind spots, whether people on the team are brand new, or they’re veterans. Three helpful steps for any team to be your best Stop comparing with other teams (including teams you used to be on or previous versions of this team) Ask, “who are we, really? What’s unique about our people and our team collectively?” Now we know our identity, what we have to work with. Lastly, let’s be the best version of ourselves. Now we have something real to aim for. Not the best overall, and not avoiding being the worst overall. Let’s see if we can be the best version of ourselves.

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Celtics coach Brad Stevens on what to do when things change in a heartbeat

“Your rotation can change in a heartbeat. You can work all summer on it and then you’ve got to adjust in one day. The bottom line is we have an idea of who we’ll play together and who best fits together and what lineups we think we’ll try to use, but we’ll see how it shakes itself out.” – Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens Most coaches know this truth. But Stevens knows this better than most. The first game of the 2017-2018 season he lost star Gordon Hayward in a season-ending injury. Then later in the season his other star Kyrie Irving went down for the season as well. The remaining squad still managed to push the Cavaliers to a Game Seven in the Eastern Conference Finals, making it one win away from the NBA finals. So what do you do when change happens to your team? Do what Stevens did. Take the time now to see how the team best works together. See who best fits together. Start there. Get to know your people better than you ever could have imagined – their strengths and blind spots. That’s the groundwork. The MBTI and StrengthsFinder will help you do that. Then know that it WILL all change. Plans don’t work out. Things change in a heartbeat – a client change, an industry change, a personnel change, a personal change for a team member, it can all change. You can, as Stevens said, “work all summer on it and then you’ve got to adjust in one day.” Lastly, rely on the people on your team that have the MBTI Perceiving function, and the people on your team that have the Adaptability StrengthsFinder talent. These people are energized when unexpected change happens. They’ll bring positivity and energy to a stressful situation. Because unexpected change happens in a heartbeat. It may have even happened while you were reading these words.

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Go outside and play? “It’s too real!”

“Go outside and play,” Mom told us all summer long when we were young. Mom meant it literally, and Mom is always right of course. It’s also great advice metaphorically. But get outside what exactly? We have a comfort zone where life is easy and enjoyable. And we have a panic zone where life is too hard, too scary, too overwhelming, too…much. There’s a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where he complains about being outside his TV-watching comfort zone, explaining, “It’s too real.” We call this ‘too real’ zone the challenge zone. The challenge zone is built between the comfort and panic zones. It’s where we learn. It’s where we grow. Too much reality and we’re panicked. Too little and we’re stuck trying to stay comfortable, what Walt Whitman railed against as “indoor complaints”. The literal outside is not always comfortable. It’s often too hot, too bright, too humid, too buggy, just as Calvin so astutely noted. And the metaphorical outside is the same – it’s really real outside the comfort zone. Yet if comfort is our highest priority, we can give up the hope of learning and growing. Every team development session we lead has lots of new concepts, research and ideas to help teams and individuals grow into the challenge zone. And I pair every training with team building activities to try those concepts out, an immediate leap into the challenge zone. That’s where the growth happens. High hopes accompany new ideas. That’s great! And then there’s the reality when trying to put them into play. It’s not easy to see enthusiasm get a dose of direct experience. But that’s the beginning of learning, of “going where I have to go” as the poet Theodore Roethe said. Happy summer! Now get outside and play.

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A New Way to Assemble Mr. Potato Head

“The arm goes on the second hole up on the left side! No, one hole lower. Turn the arm around!” And so it goes in the ‘Assemble Mr. Potato Head’ team building activity. One person is blindfolded, the other team members look at a picture and tell the blindfolded person what piece to pick up and where to put it to replicate what’s on the picture. It’s a fun activity, and great for honing team communication. The attempts and results in many team building activities are often fairly predictable for me. But part of what I love about this work is the innovation that shows up unexpectedly. I worked with Kaiser Permanente recently and they did it differently. In all the years I’ve seen groups assemble the venerable plastic spud, they always verbally tell the blindfolded person where a certain piece is and then where it goes. This time, they let the blindfolded person pick any piece at random, then told them where it went. Every piece was ‘the right one to pick up’. The person without sight is given a 100 on the test. The most vulnerable person is in charge, is ‘right’. This is a simple tweak of genius. If we want to influence someone to do what you want them to do, if we want to change the world, we start where the other person is, not where they should be. We visit them in their “home”, their most comfortable way of doing things. We tolerate discomfort in the service of change. Brain science tells us this is true for the brain as well. If we want to help an emotionally hijacked person out of it, the first step is to meet them, without fear, in the hell they have entered. Then we can show them the way out.

Also posted in Brain Science, Change, Play, Quest Stories | Comments closed

Seven things that are more productive than a meeting without an agenda

“We’re too busy to have meetings with agendas.” – a team leader during a training Here are seven things that will be more productive than having a meeting without an agenda (or having an agenda but not following it): Going for a walk Going bowling Going to see a movie Getting your hair cut Washing your car Organizing your pens Moving your paper clips one by one from one side of the room to the other…then moving them back If you’re investing everyone’s time, attention and energy in a meeting: Have an agenda. Send it to everyone at least one day before the meeting. Follow it. Or better yet, go for a walk.

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The scariest and most effective thing your team can do

When you’re too busy and the work demands you speed up, slow down. When the same way you’ve always done things is no longer working, don’t keep doing it but faster. Stop. The pause is laughed at/feared. It’s viewed as unrealistic. Yet it’s the pause, and only the pause that gets most teams to the next level. Pausing in the middle of ‘working stupid’ (and if we’re stressed we’re working stupid) gives us the only opportunity to ‘work smart’. Our brains literally function better with a pause. We access the cortex – our smarts – instead of being driven by the amygdala to just speed up today’s treadmill. It’s energy that gets the work done, not time. Time is created equal, but not energy. Energy comes and goes and “we hate one another” does not help energy. Nor does “barking orders”. If you’re too busy to have an agenda for a meeting that you get to people before the meeting, I’m here to tell you you’re too busy to have that meeting. Cancel it and do something productive like going for a walk.

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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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