Category Archives: Team Building

How Lizzo learned to be vulnerable

Pop phenomenon Lizzo had a nervous breakdown in 2018 and started seeing a therapist. “That was really scary,” Lizzo said in this Rolling Stone article. “But being vulnerable with someone I didn’t know, then learning how to be vulnerable with people that I do know, gave me the courage to be vulnerable as a vocalist.” Patrick Lencioni says trust is the foundation for a team to be high-functioning. And the mainline to get to trust is vulnerability.  But how to get there? Conventional wisdom would say to start with the closest people you trust already and work out from there. But as we can see from Lizzo’s example, sometimes it’s easier to work from the outer to the inner. She started with a stranger. That gave her the courage to widen her vulnerability circle to include people she did know. That led to the most personal of all – her voice. We start the vulnerability journey in the place that’s the least terrifying, whether outside-in or inside-out. Then, as Rilke said, we live our life in growing orbits. Each vulnerability success – and the success is in the attempt, not the reception by the other person – opens the door to the next possibility. If you wanted to take a step towards trust who might you start being vulnerable with today? PS – Team Collaboration Quest is now completely revamped and updated with the latest research! Teams complete a customized series of challenges through collaboration and communication.  Click here to start transforming your team.

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The collaboration walk and tele-coffee: two collaboration ideas from ‘Stop Talking, Start Asking’

Jean Marie DiGiovanna has a great new book out called Stop Talking, Start Asking. Jean Marie is a friend that always lifts me up with her enthusiasm and exuberance. And those two qualities shine through in every chapter. I particularly enjoyed the collaboration chapter in Jean Marie’s book (mentioned above). Here are two ideas to help you and your team collaborate more: The collaboration walk with someone from a different company Jean Marie gives the example of Juwi, a wind and solar energy company headquartered in Germany, taking an innovative approach to encourage collaboration. Employees are partnered up with employees in a different company. The other company is not a competitor and within walking distance. Once a month the collaboration partners meet up for a walk and talk to learn and inspire each other.  This can of course be done inside your company with people from different departments. That’d be great. But what a leap of daring to go beyond the company walls! Tele-coffee “You grab a cup of coffee. I grab a cup of coffee. And we get online for a chat,” Jean Marie says, “This is perfect for those who are not collocated.” Almost every team I work with has at least a few people that work virtually. Some teams are entirely virtual. The common denominator I’ve found is that these teams desperately need to have more of a personal connection with each other. Tele-coffee (or my preference tele-tea) is a great idea. Thanks Jean Marie! Her book is full of great ideas and enthusiastic wisdom. Stop Talking, Start Asking is available on Amazon here. PS – Virtual Team Quest – is now completely revamped and updated with the latest research! Examine the unique pitfalls virtual teams face and learn how to overcome them in a series of interactive challenges. Click here to start transforming your team.

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What percent of millennials access the internet from their smartphones?

What percent of millennials access the internet from their smartphones? First, how big is the millennial workforce? In 2020, fifty percent of the U.S. workforce will be made up of millennials, the largest segment in the workplace. They will be 75% by 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  So, basically everyone. That makes it worthwhile to pay attention. Now back to our question: What percent of millennials access the internet from their smartphones? 85%. Again, basically everyone. If you want to engage your millennials you need to find them on their phones. Job search, web sites, even employee reviews, if you get it to look good and be usable on their phones, they’ll engage with it. (data from It’s the Manager book by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter) 

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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 – 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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