Category Archives: Team Building

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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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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