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Workplace Team Building Strategies with Chris Cavert, Ed.D.

Part 2 of Our Interview with Chris Cavert, Ed.D.

Dr. Chris Cavert is an internationally known educator, trainer and speaker and recipient of the AEE Karl Rohnke creativity award. He has been working with groups of all ages for more than 25 years. Chris is the author of over a dozen books related to activity-based experiential group development. He holds an undergraduate degree in physical education, a master’s degree in Experiential Education and an educational doctorate in Curriculum & Instruction. As an educator Chris focuses on how to use team building activities to develop social-emotional intelligence and pro-social skills within groups of all ages. For more information visit: FUNdoing.com

 


On a regular basis, what could a manager do in their role to help build a better team?

Build personal relationships with every member of the group that you as a manager supervise or are accountable for. If a manager is purposefully taking time to get to know everyone on his or her team, that opens the door to so many other problem-solving opportunities. You work through conflict a little faster and smoother if you know more about each other and each other’s needs. This to me is the simplest and most important thing for any manager who is leading people: put your pencil down and take the time to go out and talk to people.

A quote from my friend Molly Foote, that I use all the time is, “The more we know about someone, the less likely we are to hurt someone.” Connecting with people and getting to know them on a deeper level creates more empathy, strength around dealing with conflict, accepting each other’s differences, and the ability to work together to move forward.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Don’t take anything personally. In life and in being a leader, it’s hard to not take things personally when you’re being attacked by a person or a group of people who are really in need of help. But they attack the person who’s trying to help.

And the biggest challenge for leaders is not to avoid conflict. Because a lot of new managers I encounter will create an environment or will have behaviors that sweep things under the rug. They’ll do everything to avoid conflicts because they don’t want to deal with it. But that doesn’t move a group forward. Groups need to be able to push through difficult challenges.

I was given great advice years ago, that we need to experience difficulty so that we can learn to recognize and choose difference behaviors.

How can a manager get buy-in for their team building event? Because so often in this field, people hear “team building” and they might start to roll their eyes.

When people are forced to do something, they react to it and they’re defensive. And it takes longer to get through the defenses. So to me, it goes back to the whole personal relationship among team members aspect.  If you’re creating relationships and the group can get to a point of saying, “Wow. We did a great job together. We accomplished something.” That same group is also going to be able to say, “We really suck at this. We need help.” Only then are they ready to accept a change or outside people coming in to help. When the group is able to ask for help, that’s where the buy-in is.

What is a simple workplace team building exercise that a manager could deliver at their next staff meeting?

One of my favorite workplace team building exercises is actually on my blog. It’s called “Name Letter Opener.“It’s an easy activity to do where everyone gets index cards. Everyone gets the same amount of index cards as the number of letter in their first name. Then you write each individual letters of your name on a different index card.  Now gather everyone’s letters and challenge the group to create a single Scrabble-like puzzle with those letters. Using all the letters, create words that are spelled top to bottom, left to right. In every case I’ve done this, the group has been able to figure out how to use all the letters.

The group observes that not all their letters are in the same place. Their letters are likely used with other people’s letters, but probably not used with every other person’s letters. From there, the discussion is that we don’t have to sit all together at the same time on the same project. People have different skills and abilities and that’s okay. The more important question is, how do our skills and abilities work together so that we fit together as a group? It’s a simple activity that gives the group a sense of the diversity that they bring to each other.

How can people find out more about your work?

The easiest way is to go to my website at FUNdoing.com. There are a lot of team building related resource on there. And I have a blog that’s been going on for over a year now that also has a lot of workplace team building ideas. You can sign up for FUNdoing’s Friday email, which is a handful of team building ideas related to growing team and helping them be better at what they do. That comes to your inbox every Friday.

Perfect. Thank you again for your time, Chris.

how successful teams make team building count

How Successful Teams Make Team Building Count

Congratulations on completing your team building experience!  You should now have a super powered team that is completely perfect.  No?  Your team is only mostly perfect?  Well, that’s because your team building should never be “completed.”  The value of any team building comes from reflection and implementation.  The actual activity, while probably awesome and Instagram-worthy, is neutral in achieving your goals.  Follow these strategic steps to create value for your team in between epic outings. 

Debrief, Debrief, Debrief!

During your event one of our team building ninjas likely led your group in a discussion about how your team performed during the challenge.  Your company likely already has a debriefing procedure or strategy in place to discuss how projects turn out. Debriefing is where we examine the experience to find the value and actionable data. The key with team building debriefing is the actual activity is inconsequential.  The specifics of what your team did to accomplish a team building challenge doesn’t matter nearly as much as how your group functioned. 

Michelle Cummings, a leader in team development and coauthor of A Teachable Moment warns “If participants are not allowed to reflect on their experiences and relate them to the outside world, then a lot of the learning may be lost” (Cummings. “Effective Debriefing Tools and Techniques”) Gather the team together once you’re back at the office.  Engage with the staff about how they felt and what they noticed after the activity.  You can even ask each member to write down one take away from the event. Utilize these takeaways as talking points in the future. Check out Cumming’s guide “Effective Debriefing Tools and Techniques” for some great ideas on switching up your debriefing technique. It will keep things fresh and interesting.

Check In

Regularly check back in with the team about their takeaways. Have they noticed any topics or trends that you discussed during the debrief? How have they been applying their takeaways to their current projects and responsibilities?  It doesn’t have to be a big meeting, but regular reminders will help strengthen the lessons and your team will ultimately get better at applying the concepts.  Forbes encourages managers to look at team building as an important investment.  As with most investments you don’t want it to go to waste.  You’ll need to provide “maintenance” on those lessons if you want them to continue working.

Remember the Team Building Fun

If a staff member groans about team building, you’re doing it wrong.  One of the most important elements of successful team building is buy in. Buy in requires trust, clear targets, and a transparency. Don’t make assumptions on behalf of your staff’s perceptions.  I stated that the activity is immaterial, but there is a reason we host dodgeball tournaments or graffiti experiences and not Power Point presentations.  Intrigue and excite your staff and they’ll be more likely to support the activity. You can still have a powerful experience with a “fun” activity. 

Continued Investment

Book another event!  I know, shameless self promotion right?  But for truly meaningful team building one outing a year isn’t going to make a drastic difference.  Show your staff you want to invest in them by making time for multiple employee enriching activities.  This will increase their engagement in both the process and your company.

To continue your team building journey or if you want to begin this adventure of staff enrichment contact us at james@fireflyteamevents.com or 877.267.1939

team building corporate management conflict

Embrace Conflict To Be A Better Manager

Ask any business person who’s worked up the ranks to Chief Executive Officer, and they’ll tell you that building a successful company begins by creating a solid foundation among staff members. That occurs once a team can work together with a high degree of trust. So how exactly do you capitalize on creating a high-trust environment in your workplace? You create conflict!

Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team has said, “Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.” When a team can work thru conflicts that arise in the workplace, they lay the groundwork for trust, problem solving, and accountability.

Focus on Trust to Activate Healthy Conflict

Vulnerability is quite possibly the number one reason your team isn’t making significant gains. The reasoning is simple: No one clocks in for the day ready to let their inadequacies surface at the morning staff meeting. As a result, group members tend to spend a significant amount of time attempting to save face in front of their team rather than focusing on the task at hand.

Conflict fosters a healthy discourse among staff members that paves the way for teams to build an interpersonal trust. This authentic, vulnerability-based trust allows staff to feel safe when asking for help, accepting input, and admitting shortcomings. A February 2016 publication of The New York Times Magazine entitled “What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team” stated that, “Google’s data indicated that psychological safety, more than anything else, was critical to making a team work.” When a team has reached this level of trust, you’ll see an immediate increase in productivity. It will take time, but the results are more than worth it for your organization!

Conflict Leads to Problem Solving. Problem Solving Leads to Results

Teams are not void of conflict. Differences in personality, opinion, and values among group members can lead to disagreements in how to accomplish a given task. However, many business leaders fail their staff when they attempt to stifle disagreements as a means of steering clear of drama.

On the contrary, conflict is extremely productive! When teams are free to engage in healthy conflict, they’re able to reach the best solutions in the shortest amount of time. Allowing resolution to happen naturally and in a trusting environment, gives staffers the freedom to engage in problem solving strategies without any collateral damage.

Conflict Leads to Accountability

A team that fails to hold its own members accountable, is not a team at all. In fact, teams can only exist when members hold each other to a high standard. They understand the benefits of peer-to-peer accountability far outweigh the momentary discomforts associated with confronting a fellow teammate.

In fact, regular and honest communication among team members will help to identify problems within the group much more quickly. To better serve your team, clearly identify team expectations publicly and avoid ambiguity.

As you can see, a little conflict will go a long way in building a strong foundation for your business. Embrace conflict as a means of building trust, obtaining quality results, and team-based accountability. When you do, you’ll see your business thrive!

If you’d like to embrace trust and positive conflict, contact us at http://www.fireflyteamevents.com