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workplace-team-building

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.

team building myths

Exploring Team Building Myths with Chris Cavert, Ed.D.

Part 1 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

What is a one of the common team building myths you encounter?

A lot of people call outings team building. So in their mind going out together is building teams. And I don’t disagree with that. I think part of it is true in the sense of, when you do things together, you have an opportunity to learn about each other a little bit more. You’re going to have conversations. Find out similarities and differences. You’re going to see how people have fun, see how people deal with maybe challenges or stress. Because any kind of outings where you have to make decisions together has some level of stress or possibly conflict. So there are all those parts of building a team in there. What’s missing, is the idea of we’re reflecting on an experience. These outings that people call team building is more what I call accidental team building; it just kind of happens because you’re together.

Have you come across any misperceptions about team building in your work?

I think the overall idea of the misconception in team building is how a group of people are prepared for a team building experience. My most challenging situations with groups are where the main contact, whether it was a manager or the assistant to the manager wants the group to go do an activity to become better communicators because they’re having a hard time with understanding what each other’s needs are. So they want the group to work on team building. But when the group comes in, they have no idea that they were there to do professional development versus just coming to play and have some fun. In their mind, they were going to have some fun together. Because every year they go to a ball game or paint balling; that to them was their team building experience.

Well, now it’s been upgraded to a professional development experience but they didn’t know that. It should be more transparent to groups of what they are getting themselves into. It shouldn’t be a, “Surprise! You’re here. And now you have to work!” Because team building in the sense of professional development is work. We’re working at learning and growing. We’re working at deciding whether to keep, change, or get rid of certain behaviors. So I think that’s the biggest misperception: groups coming in without the understanding of the level of team building they’re going to be involved in.

What would you say is the biggest between a team building event versus a social event? You touch on this in your previous answers, but I’d like you to restate it.

It’s about the outcomes and the group understanding the outcome is going to be a more professional development program where we are going to learn something.  Professional development is about learning. That why the resume line item is, “What professional development have you been involved in?” not what social gathering have you been involved in.

What would you say the difference between teamwork and team building is?

Team building is exploring how the team functions. Explore how you as a team take on a task or work through a challenge by going out to do an experience together, I.e., go out and do some teamwork. Then reflect on the experience by looking at behaviors you want to keep change, or add. That time of reflection or skill development is team building.

So it sounds to me like teamwork would be a component of team building? You could have teamwork, as in people working together; but until you add in that professional development or reflection piece of it, it’s just that – teamwork.

Yes, exactly.

But if you want to transform teamwork into team building, you need to add some of these components you’re talking about?

I believe so. There’s got to be a purposeful reflection on something. It has to be an experiential learning cycle, not just an experience. We have to purposely look at how we do things to see if we want to keep or change them.

Now that we’ve covered the topic of team building myths, stay tuned for Part Two of our interview with Chris Cavert, Ed.D. next week. He’ll give some practical tips for managers on how to build better teams on a daily basis. Additionally, Chris shares a team building idea you can do right at your next office meeting!
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

corporate escape rooms

Escape Rooms and Corporate Team Building – Do They Work?

If your pulse is pounding, the door is locked, a zombie is chained to the wall, and the only way out is to solve a puzzle then you know you’re in an Escape Room. It’s the latest craze to capture the interest of companies that want a unique team building experience. Many escape rooms are advertising their experience as a “team building” opportunity. It’s true that escape rooms require groups to communicate, collaborate, vie for leadership, solve problems, and produce results under pressure… But the shared experience alone is not enough to have a true impact on your team and their workplace performance.

In team building the experience is only a vehicle.   Whether you’re escaping a room or assembling bikes for charity, the true impact occurs when teams reflect on their experience: why they made certain choices, how they approach conflict, who stepped into leadership roles, what language they used. ”Team building” occurs when the group reflects and finds meaning in the experience, and applies it to their patterns of behavior in the workplace. An escape room can be a valuable tool for team building when utilized properly.

Making an Escape Room a True Team Building Experience

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of an escape experience.

Partner with a Professional Facilitator :  A facilitator will work with the escape room to explore challenges the team will be facing, methods of observation, and formulate a plan for processing the experience.   Following the team’s escape the facilitator will help the group reflect and draw meaning from the experience.

Book More Time: Most escape experiences last about an hour. If you’re partnering with a facilitator consider tacking on at least an extra hour to debrief the experience.

Consider 2 Escapes: After the first room your team will be armed with new insights that they can test in the second escape. A second escape creates more data that will help illuminate behavior patterns, breakdowns in communication, or team strengths.

Is an Escape Room Right For Your Team?

Escape rooms are not a perfect fit for every group. It’s a tool or sometimes a pleasant distraction and should be fitted to the group.  Here’s a few points to consider when escape rooms are an option:

Puzzles, Puzzles, and Puzzles:  The people drawn to escape rooms are puzzle people because escape rooms focus on puzzles.  In a corporate event you’ll have a mix of people that love puzzles and those that don’t. Because this is a “work event” your non-puzzlers can’t opt out. If they’re not engaged then they can become a distraction or at the very least feel like they can’t contribute.

Require People to “Pretend”: I love a good theme but it shouldn’t cross the line into acting. When I approach any event design I make sure we’re designing for the group personality and not an individual’s. I’ve found that most group personalities do not appreciate being asked to “pretend” or suspend disbelief. I get the most rolled eyeballs from people when they recall an event where they had to pretend to be secret agents or cross a river of lava.

Can We Supersize That: Consider that most rooms have a participation cap of 3-10 people. You will occasionally find some with 15 and the rare one that can handle 15+.

Escape rooms are a great way to engage and challenge your team in a unique environment. If handled properly they can be a great tool for team building. Before you face down the zombie consider what it might represent in your business. What rooms has your team locked themselves in? What does escaping the room represent on your team’s journey?

We’ve recently added an escape style event to our roster. As life long game designers escape rooms fit like a glove. Schedule your next team building adventure with us – 877.267.7149

We love working with team building groups in Las Vegas, Orange County, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland and San Diego.

Irvine,CA Team Building with AutoAlert

AutoAlert brought HUGE spirit and energy to the Iron Team Challenge we created with them! Their enthusiasm was high during the challenge rotations and jumped even higher during the final “Gauntlet”. We want to thank them for letting us be part of the AutoAlert family for the day. Check out some of the images from Mason Regional Park in Irvine where we held the team building event.

If you’re interested in your own team building in Orange County, please contact us at 877.267.1939 or james@fireflyteamevents.com

View video –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQdjyzce4Os

You can see additional Photos at https://www.facebook.com/fireflyteamevents

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Vortex Doors – Tactical Team Building Challenge in Orange County

Vortex Doors conquered our A-Team Tactical team building challenge in Orange County last week. They gave 100% as they rotated through our fully interactive shooting simulators, hand to hand combat instruction, and the team challenges. Vortex Doors proved why they are at the top of their industry. The confidence, camaraderie, and trust they displayed serves them well in our scenarios and in the workplace.

Our A-Team Tactical Challenge emphasizes trust, communication, and problem solving under stressful conditions. Teams must learn to filter out the noise and trust their instincts in high paced tactical simulations designed to distract and overwhelm. This is a unique team training tool perfect for a sales team, marketing department, or any other highly competitive group. Have questions? Looking for an alternative team building activity? Contact James james@fireflyteamevents.com or 949.439.9641

Check out the video and photos below to see the fun side of our A-Team Tactical Challenge.

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