Building a Positive Workplace that Deals Effectively with Today’s Stresses
Caroline slumps in her chair, stares out her kitchen window, and wonders how it came to this. She looks down at the e-mail from her boss and shakes her head thinking, “She doesn’t understand.”
The kids are arguing in the background… something about whose turn it was to take out the dog. Looking around the kitchen, she notices that the dishes from last night’s dinner are still in the sink, unwashed. In fact, the whole house is a mess, clothes lying where the kids dropped them, the half-done puzzle pieces litter the table, dirt tracks from the dog across the floor, mail is strewn about the countertop, unopened. The only part of the house that is reasonably orderly, she realizes, is the part right behind her, the part that is seen in the background of her Zoom calls.
It has been almost a month since Event Camp Twin Cites 2011 (ECTC11) and I’ve had time to reflect on what I learned about creating team building sessions in a hybrid meeting environment. I wanted to share those insights with you.
Back in late June, Ray Hanson asked me to help develop an interactive team / gaming experience for ECTC11. We wanted to push the envelope and go out on a limb in creating a hybrid meeting experience that was different than anything that had been done before – in other words, we wanted to create a customized hybrid team building program that was interwoven throughout the entire two-day event where both live and virtual participants were working together on the same team doing real team building challenges.
To the best of our knowledge, this had not been done before.
Sure, there have been sessions before where live and virtual participants were placed on teams and worked on challenges. Any number of technology suppliers provide the means for people to compete in a trivia challenge or earn badges where their scores or efforts get rolled up to a “team.”
This isn’t team building – it is team gaming.
Team gaming allows for individuals to participate and compete and even feel like they are part of a team but it doesn’t allow for a deeper, more sustained bonding and trust building that are necessary for team building. If you want to add some energy and fun for an hour into your event, team gaming challenges are great. If you want to help teams work better together and really get to know the people that they are on a team with, you need to do team building.
We used ECTC11 as a laboratory to try to see if this could be done in what we called “The Great Event Camp Challenge.”
What we did:
As mentioned before, team gaming for events is not too daunting – as long as you are focusing on individual participation from both live and virtual participants. However, creating a custom team event for a hybrid audience presented some significant challenges. We needed to look at how people engaged in the event, how they communicated with each other, how learnings were going to be processed, and how teams would work together as a team and not just as individual participants.
For the Great Event Camp Challenge, we decided to interweave the team sessions throughout the event. We developed three different avenues for teams to participate:
Team Case Study
Each of the avenues provided teams with ways to earn points. Ultimately, we had decided that we wanted this event to be competitive to help keep teams engaged and attentive. The team with the most points won.
Back in 1997, when The Lantern Group started almost 70% of our work focused on team development. We did everything from on-going team development consulting with managers, to team assessments, to experiential ropes courses, to developed a number of fun and effective team building events. Over the years, our focus shifted to other aspects of the business and our team development work decreased until for the last few years it comprised just under 10% of our revenue.
But this year, something has changed.
Since February we have received more inquiries about doing team building programs than we have in the past two or three years combined. These are both big and small programs – from groups 200 plus to small executive teams of 8-10 people. The managers and VPs that we’ve talked to have indicated that they want to do something to help increase the effectiveness of their team while also providing them with a fun activity that can be a diversion from the everyday stress they have been under.
Normally I would just count my blessings and be thankful for leads coming in. But this drastic increase has made me wonder, “why?” Why the increase? Why now?
I have a few theories:
1. Pent up need – because of the recession, companies did not have budget that they could use to help build their team and improve bonding.
2. Changes in the teams – either through layoffs or attrition, team dynamics have changed and there is a need to improve how people work together
3. Need to have fun, but with a message – again, due to the recession, many companies have had people working under significant stress, longer hours, with more responsibility. Astute leaders see that there is a need to let their people unwind and yet they want to make sure that there are some learnings and insights to be had
4. Work itself has changed – the very nature of work has changed with more people working off-site, more technology, more need to collaborate in new ways. Good leaders use team development programs to help sort that out.
What are your thoughts? Do you think there is a growing need? Please leave a comment.
We just became a Value Added Reseller for the Electronic Maze! I know, strange huh?
I fully believe it was serendipity which according to dictionary.com is:
1. an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.
2. good fortune; luck: the serendipity of getting the first job that she applied for.
The story goes like this. We have been using the Electronic Maze since the first day of business at The Lantern Group. We’ve done hundreds of events that have utilized the maze with great success. Thousands of people have gone through it. I wrote about 5 great insights from the Maze back in August (click here to read). We’ve highlighted it as one of our key team building events on our Lantern Group Web Page (see here).
But I never thought that I’d be selling it.
Then the phone calls started happening.
The first was a few months ago – out of the blue, I got a call and somebody wanted to buy a maze from us. I told them politely that we use the maze as one of our key team events, but we don’t sell them…sorry. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Then the second call came – same inquiry, “can I buy a maze.” Again, sorry, we don’t sell them, but here is the website for the company that makes them.” It seemed a little curious, but nothing more than a fluke. But then the third and the fourth call came and I thought – wait, this might be something.
Apparently, when you Google “Electronic Maze” we are the second highest rated web page.
I thought to myself – cool! I love the product – really do (we’ve owned them for over 14 years – with only needing to replace the batteries). I think they can be used to address a number of team and leadership issues for a variety of participants (we’ve had CEO’s go through the maze, a group of women educators, assembly line workers, and managers from across the globe – to name just a few). And now I’m getting calls about them.
I contacted Interal – the manufacturer. I spoke with Boyd the President of the company (we had a great long talk about the many different uses of the Maze and how I’ve loved it for a long time). Now we are a Value Added Reseller of the product. You can contact us and we can sell you the Electronic Maze at cost (612-396-6392 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Serendipity at its best.
Insight # 6 from the Maze: Always be open to new opportunities!
This past summer I was conducting a team building program for a company that does some fantastic work helping other companies work more effectively. We conducted an event that had teams create sixty-second commercials that highlighted who they were, what value they brought and why somebody would use their services. We consciously give them a lot of information and very limited time to make their commercials. They had to do rush to get this done.
We told them that they needed to work together, be creative, and focus on quality…we emphasized how the little details matter. As you will see, the little things really do matter.
One team accidentally taped over their commercial and had a little over sixty seconds of film that showed feet walking…
We took this as an opportunity to show how important the small details are. We created the following video that was shown to the entire team at the video showings. It was a fantastic teachable moment and one that was a highlight of the meeting. The group discussed how easy it is for things like this to happen and what needed to be done to make sure that these types of errors didn’t crop up.
Take a look and let us know what you think…
By the way, the team re-shot the commercial and it was fantastic along with the others…shows you how adversity can bring out the best in us sometimes….
We do a lot of work helping improve how teams operate. Some of it is straight old fun team building – you know the type where you go off-site for a day and do different types of games and activities (note – some people love these types of programs and others detest them with a passion). Other programs we do are much more intense and involve really working on specific team issues and developing action plans for greater collaboration, communication, or productivity.
We’ve worked with big teams. We’ve worked with small teams. We’ve done programs for executives and for line-workers. We’ve worked with teams that are working well and just want to get to that next level and teams that really are on their last leg and need immediate urgent care or they will implode.
We have done one hour fun sessions. We’ve created on-going programs that last months and require intensive work by the participants.
Regardless of the type of team development we are doing – it is also part of building a more motivational organization.
Yesterday, Kurt and I, (along with our good friend John Hall) facilitated two experiential teambuilding events, Blind Management and Build Your Own Course with 50 enthusiastic participants. It was wonderful to watch the different motivational drives in action.
Here are some of the ways the motivational drives showed up:
Drive to Acquire & Achieve:
Teams worked together to not only acquire the perfect materials to create their own putt-putt course but they also wanted to achieve success by creating an innovative 3 hole course
Drive to Bond & Belong:
The teambuilding events allowed the participants to work with individuals they did not know very well in activities that were specifically designed to help create an experience that fostered bonding. By working together the individuals started to become a “team”. This is an incredibly important component that the participants can utilize back at the office – to utilize their new network of colleagues.
Drive to Comprehend & Challenge:
The activities provided unique Challenges where the participants had to work together to both understand the challenge and complete it successfully. For example, when creating a putt-putt course from scratch and with limited materials, the team needed to come together to answer questions that provided them points to purchase materials, design the ultimate course, build their hole, and then make sure the overall design worked.
Drive to Defend & Define:
The teams believed in their courses and many felt the urge to submit complaints and challenge the judges scoring results. They had Defined that their putt-putt design was better than everyone else’s and they were passionate about enrolling others to their cause.
If you have an upcoming teambuilding event I encourage you to see how the Four Motivational Drives show up amongst your teams.
What are the dominate Motivational Drivers?
We would love to hear from you, share your comments below.
My first management experience was back in college and back then email was not the main communication tool you used with your team and cell phones were only used in the movies. As an Assistant Director of the Residence Halls, I managed a small team of Resident Advisors. It was old school communication; you met with your team in person and set expectations, reviewed the policies and procedures of the hall, asked questions, and even enjoyed moments of pure fun without the distracting email or texting clickety clack noise in the background.
Technology has helped communicating with teams in many ways, especially when many teams have virtual or remote locations. But some days I long for the good old days when communication took place first and foremost in person and without cell phones, emails, or texting capabilities.
The Unspoken Language: I miss the non-verbal cues that are present in an in person meeting. Something is missed when a team meets on a conference call. You can hear the voice inflections but you can’t see if they are rolling their eyes, read their facial and body language, or even know if they are actually paying attention during the call.
Free Flow Conversation: Meeting with a team in person can be beneficial not only for getting things done but for also connecting and bonding with your team. The one off conversations before and after a meeting seem to flow easier than if the meeting was on Skype or a web conference. Technology burps happen, those unexpected hang ups, disconnects, or heaven forbid user error events disrupt the flow of a meeting and it takes people 10 minutes or more to get back on track and refocused.
Cloud Distractions: Before the days of cell phones, email, and texting the biggest distraction during an in person meeting might have been the big puffy clouds floating outside. And if you were in a brainstorming meeting those big puffy clouds could have inspired the next breakthrough product idea. Today it seems as if we are in a constant holding pattern, like trained dogs that come when their owner whistles we hear the incoming email or text noise and our immediate reaction is to look. Despite our greatest efforts not to look we still do! The number and magnitude of distractions have increased along with the expansion of technology.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy utilizing technology and harnessing the amazing benefits that it has to offer but I also like to harness the amazing power of bonding with a team in person. Managing and inspiring a team is more of an art than a science. The next time you schedule a conference call and you are all in the same building why not meet in person, I double dog dare you!
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