Holiday Teambuilding Meeting Thoughts and Ideas

Rethinking Your Company’s Holiday Celebration Event – Thoughts and Ideas for Maximizing Impact

As the holiday season is fast approaching. many organizations are into their planning for their holiday parties and meetings — sometimes with the hope of improving communications and collaboration and maybe having a bit of fun at company expense. And why not, since people do need to come together to improve working relationships and since the daily workplace these days offers so few “water cooler conversations” and a lot more of the less personal “emails across the cubicle” kinds of connecting.

Two relationship things also stand out insofar as impacts on business results:

  • According to Towers Watson, highly-engaged companies have 44% higher operating margins. This probably comes as no surprise, since people who feel connect act more connected. We all know engagement is good for the bottom line.
  • Sirota’s ongoing research continues to positively confirm that the biggest single influence on employee attitudes is the behavior of their immediate manager. Improving that relationship is critical to build alignment and rapport.

So, doing something to build relationships is important in addition to fun. And if you have not held a holiday event for economic reasons, maybe this is a good time to consider doing something that has business improvement impacts along with other positive impacts on people and performance. For some workers and managers, such a business training event will be something new and for others, a reminder of how things could be if we all focused on those shared goals and desired outcomes. Show them that you are committed to improvement by hosting a performance improvement event.

The big question for executives is this: How can you focus on impacting engagement, collaboration and teamwork and improving communications in a cost-effective and impactful way, one that makes business sense?

These will not happen simply because people share food at a pot luck. They come in, get food, eat, and then often walk away.You can expect things to actually look something like this:

Results don't chahge with dinners

And, people will also tend to hang with their friends instead of make better connections with other people elsewhere in the organization. Can I hear you say, “boring?” Or at least un-impactful…

One key is to “play with performance” and generate some common thoughts and feelings about the workplace and possibilities for improvement.

There are any number of ways organizations approach this opportunity to bring employees together. Money is spent entertaining people most often through food and social festivities that not everyone approaches with a positive attitude. Be it a gathering around a sporting event or other entertaining activity, a casually catered party, an employee pot-luck feast or even a more formal after-work affair, the end result is that the typical get-together so often flows into the same people who normally talk with each other generally grouping together causing little real inter-organizational interaction or kinds of discussions. And, you can pretty much guarantee that not much real impact will occur insofar as changes in behavior or improvements in any kind of results.

As a Christmas gift, why not do an effective team development exercise, one designed to identify areas where people feel the organization is competitive and not collaborative and one designed to produce alternative choices and increased engagement in your shared mission and goals? Invest in a fun learning event designed for workplace improvement. Your people will sincerely appreciate having the chance to talk about issues and opportunities and implement changes in how things get done.

Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding

Our Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine exercise is ideal as an overall energizer that not only allows people time to enjoy some fun and camaraderie but elegantly sets up a superb learning event. The play of the game culminates with a powerful debriefing, linking game behavior to workplace issues and can focus on outcomes specific to your own organization.

If cost is an issue, you can relax knowing that Dutchman is one of the best values out there as far as cost per participant. You have options available that include either purchasing the game (at a one-time cost) or renting the game. The decision is yours to make and you also receive a satisfaction guarantee or your money back.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a full-blown, extensively supported team building exercise / simulation, one that generates a great deal of fun and collaboration but that also serves as a framework to discuss business improvement ideas. It is easy to learn how to deliver, with a couple of hours of preparation time required and any amount of support available from me, the program designer and developer. You can schedule this event the same day as your office party, using it as a ramp-up energizing activity.

Dutchman is ideal as part of your company’s holiday celebration because it:

  • Brings employees together in a way that strengthens camaraderie, provides a fun and unique experience, and leaves people feeling optimistic about their workplace.
  • Gives something back to the organization through Dutchman’s highly acclaimed Debriefing discussions and focus on collaboration and improving organizational performance.
  • Is inexpensive! Simply rent the game and receive all the instructions, materials and support needed for any number of people. Check here to find out the cost of renting for your group size. Purchasing Dutchman is also an option.
  • Creates a fun Southwestern theme that can also be applied to your festivities through both food and decor. For instance, a barbecue luncheon or Southwestern dinner menu with decorations to match.

You’ll have the success of a globally-appreciated exercise with your
satisfaction guaranteed!

And there are no issues with timeliness, as in, “Can we do the game this year?” It takes a couple of hours of preparation time, even for a large group. All you need is a venue that will allow for tables of 5 to 6 people each and a projection screen. We can send the complete, packaged exercise (including accessories) and we can coach you in design and delivery, including your focus on achieving your specific desired impacts and outcomes.

If you have questions about how this might work, please give me a call and I would love to understand your issues and desired outcomes and talk about whether the exercise would be a good fit. We get rave reviews from users and have been selling and supporting this program for more than 20 years in all kinds of organizations, worldwide.

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on themes of People and Performance is here.

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a Certified Professional Facilitator (IAF) and a Certified Professional Trainer (IAPPD) and he has been supporting the exercise since it was developed back in 1993. Rest assured that you can do this!

 

Teambuilding and Schools – Issues of Design, Alignment and Collaboration

One of my newer customers just asked me to send him, “the debriefing that works with schools,” since my writings in the support materials for our team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, has been used very successfully in that context over the years.

But, THE debriefing does not exist in my materials in any real sense, nor is it in my head. Let me explain…

I have personally delivered programs to colleges as well as organizations like the Singapore Ministry of Education (a purchaser of the exercise), the Hong Kong Education Ministry, and with senior teaching faculty in Trinidad and Tobago (man, that was a fun trip!). We have a bunch of colleges using this with students, too. And, we have run the exercise for a number of public schools (faculty, staff and parents) with excellent outcomes, commitments for change, and impacts on alignment and teamwork. I also formally suggest that any owner of the game consider using this program with schools in their area, pro bono.

Our schools need all the help they can get to develop a collaborative, motivated staff with parental support.

But all we can do with the exercise is set the stage for people to change their own behavior or support the behavior of others on their team. And this obviously works best when the discussions in the debriefing tie in tightly to the desired overall behaviors and outcomes.

So, there is no canned “debriefing for schools,” even though they are all pretty similar to each other and to business organizations. (Apparently, I did say that there was such a powerpoint file in some of my writings, but I looked and found that it was last updated in 2006!) But, these days, I do NOT boilerplate any of my debriefings, preferring to use a process like this for their development from my master file of debriefing questions and images:

I follow and anchor to their overall framework for their specific desired outcomes:

  • What do the leadership of the organization want to accomplish from this session? What changes would they like to see, and what behaviors might be different?
  • What existing frameworks should be anchored to? What things have been done successfully in the past that are viewed as positive? What other training or discussions have they had around these issues that we need to use within our followup?

And from that thinking and related discussions with the leadership of the school (including, if possible, both parents and administration and teachers), we can build an effective program. The goal is to generate change and improvement.

One session I did (from that 2006 powerpoint series) had me construct slides focused on a leadership model that the school’s District leadership were using and talking about. It started with these keys to success:

ideas around The Search for the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding

…and it had these individual components involved:

ideas around The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding

So we had the tabletops discuss these kinds of frameworks for implementing, with tables sharing their key discussion ideas and the group forming up into some implementation teams for scheduled followup meetings with the school leadership. We tried to keep things within the normal scheme of how they operated, instead of adding some additional mechanisms that would probably fail to be sustainable over time.

ideas around The Search for the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding

As you would do for the development of any solid debriefing for an organization, you would first want to clearly define those issues that you needed tabletops to talk about, those issues that could be resolved if people made different choices. In so many organizations, and especially our schools, the factions of teachers, administration and parents are generally not on the same page; each has different interests when you get into specific desired outcomes. Only through alignment to some shared vision of the future can you pull things together.

To expect collaboration in an environment with different groups of people each desiring different outcomes is simply silly and bordering on malfeasance. What you will see is competition for perceived (and actual) scarce resources, which will not invite teamwork or organizational excellence. What you need to do is have people make different choices focused on shared goals.

In business, you tend to have financial and service goals driving behavior. Those are often clearly defined and it is only the operational goals between departments that generate competition and sub-optimization. In schools, the measurements tend NOT to be nearly as clear, even though there is so much measurement and testing going on. The measures do not generate collaboration about the factions and are used more like hammers than glue. Collaboration among the teachers is more the exception than a shared organizational reality.

This teambuilding simulation is simply a great tool to generate a lot of behavior that can then be discussed in connection to the desired outcomes of the school and the players. It provides a useful context to talk about the optimizing effects of collaboration versus the often sub-optimizing and debilitating impacts of competition. Our world tends to set people against each other to see who succeeds, a behavior that makes less and less sense when the sharing of best practices and the mutual peer support can be so motivational and impactful.

We need to create more of a focus on a learning organization, one that openly shares ideas and discusses possibilities.

If you are interested in talking more about these ideas, give me a call,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on themes of People and Performance is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of
Performance Management Company

Square Wheels – A Great Engagement Tool

Recent discussions about including Square Wheels into a leadership development eLearning course got me thinking that I have not really explained the underlying rationale for why these images and approaches work so well to involve and engage participants in learning and development situations. After all, they are just cartoons, right?

Well, playing with these images and ideas in 38 countries over the past 22 years has generated a bit of understanding about why these learning tools work so well. Audiences of all kinds get very involved and engaged in discussing issues and ideas about their workplace, the world at large, and even about their personal development, and there are a number of solid psychological underpinnings as to why.

My goal here is not to get into the neurophysiology and behavioral psychology * of how all this works within the brain, but to try to offer some simple thoughts on different aspects of learning and behavior.

As some people know, we first used the line-art versions of these illustrations. Here is the original Square Wheels One illustration, used back in 1993:

square wheels one 1993

More recently, I have been working to add a more colorful and interactive approach, using LEGO blocks and building on the above theme:

Square Wheels image using LEGO by Scott Simmerman

Fundamentally, the Square Wheels images work in a way similar to a Rorschach Test (or Inkblot Test), where individuals are shown images and asked to respond to them. These images are called “projective psychological tools” because people will project their beliefs onto the images, which have no reality in their construction. A typical inkblot might look something like this:

typical Rorschach inkblot imageDifferent people see different things. Their personal history comes into play.

With the Square Wheels tools, we focus more on organizational issues and opportunities, working on themes of teamwork and continuous improvement and other workplace themes.

The approach is very simple: we encourage a group of people to consider the image individually and generate their thoughts on, “How might this represent how things really work?”

After some silent contemplation, we then engage the tabletops to share their different perspectives and ideas, so we generate both an active involvement by the individual as well as a collective group consensus as to what the image represents. If there are more than 6 people in the group, we will engage them in small groups and there are approaches for actively involving and engaging even VERY large groups of 100s of people in highly interactive participative ways.

The anchor points are simple:

  • Square Wheels represent things that work, but that do not work smoothly
  • Round Wheels represent ideas for improvement that already exist and that could be implemented

Simply put, we will generate Cognitive Dissonance between the way that things are right now (as perceived by individuals or small groups) as well as potential solutions to close that gap. People are motivated to close the gap and we have developed some team / tabletop support for working to address that issue. Some of the overall impacts are as follows:

  1. We get people actively involved in generating ideas for improvement that can be anchored to organizational development or quality / process improvement.
  2. We get individual as well as collective tabletop ideas about issues and opportunities.
  3. We generate discussions about what might be done differently, giving participants an active involvement that generates engagement and ownership.
  4. We generate a collective broadly-based set of perspectives on issues impacting performance.
  5. We generate individual ideas, anchored to best practices, for what they might do differently to make improvements.
  6. We get a collective discussion and generate peer support around certain ideas that have “weight,” that are substantially impactful and the deserve to be addressed and implemented.
  7. People LIKE being involved and engaged in generating team-based ideas for improvement, much more so than they like being simply told what to do. Change is often resisted when forced on people, while active involvement generates motivation and engagement.

We can readily link the issues of Square Wheels back to the organizational or work group mission and vision, helping to readily impact the peer support for alignment and generating discussions as to where expectations and measurement / feedback systems do not align. You can read a short article on assessing feedback systems by clicking here.

We can open up discussions of best practices by sharing ideas for Round Wheels. And by requesting that 3 Round Wheel ideas be generated for each selected Square Wheel to be addressed, we can force more creative thinking for solutions to common problems.

Are these illustrations too silly or too simple? My thought is that they ARE simple and that is one of the reasons that they are so engaging. You will look at the illustration and have only a few thoughts, but once the ideas begin to be shared with others at the tabletops, the ideas will flow and the perspectives will shift significantly.

At that point, the general cartoon of issues is often transitioned back to the actual workplace, as people begin to see the issues they face in the context of the image. Problems take on a Square Wheels label, and once something is labeled a Square Wheel, it will always exist as something that NEEDS to be addressed and solved; after all, the Round Wheels already exist.

The simple concept and image is a powerful tool for brainstorming and creative problem solving, also, since it detaches the issues of ownership and politics from the issues of performance. Calling something a Square Wheel is not viewed as a personal attack on the person or originating department; it is merely something to address and improve.

It also links beautifully to ownership engagement for problem resolution. A reality is that:

Nobody ever washes a rental car

and that active involvement generated by the process links neatly to the issues of active workplace engagement.

Square Wheels Poster Image Improvement

Let this blog represent a starting point for addressing why Square Wheels images work so well in situations to generate active learning, active involvement, teamwork and pragmatic ideas for organizational improvement. Performance improvement is a difficult thing to accomplish, in so many situations, and these very simple tools and a simple approach to involving and engaging people works seamlessly and elegantly.

What are YOUR thoughts on why this works or some thinking
about the issues that using it might generate?

You can find out more if you purchase my simple “Icebreaker” toolkit. Cheap! And I am completing a full-blown Facilitator’s Toolkit focused on sharing more of the tools and approach for workplace performance improvement.

Square Wheels image Icebreaker icon

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 * Please note that I actually have a doctorate in behavioral neuropsychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and have completed NLP Master Practitioner certification, along with being a Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) from the International Association of Facilitators and a Certified Professional Trainer (CPT) from the International Association for People and Performance. So, I do have both an educational background for understanding the neurophysiology of learning as well as the professional experienced in changing organizational behavior.

Trust and Respect: Should you force your managers to lie, PlanetFitness?

I wrote a few weeks ago about the Wade Hampton PlanetFitness gym and their apparent policy of zero engagement of customers and employees.

You can read about my issue with sanitation and the simple layout solution that I offered up to management. But the reality is that ideas from employees and customers go into a black hole – they are not encouraged and they get no response. Senior Managers must have ALL the ideas, right?

Well, it is sad to say that the story got worse right after I published. Hard to believe but true.

That blog post went up on Sunday and I was in there Monday to do my regular workout. The store manager, Danny, stopped by and said that the owner and his regional manager were in there that morning and he shared the idea with them. He seemed pretty positive about how that all went down and was smiling when we talked. Apparently, and I guess at this, he seemed to feel that his management was actually listening.

On Tuesday, though, I get a phone call and it is Danny telling me that my membership had been canceled!

He said that my blog post depicted members and that was a violation of membership privacy and he was forced to cancel my membership. It was apparently because of this picture:

Planet Fitness has correctable  issues of engagement and sanitation
Is any customer privacy really violated? Could the people in the picture even identify themselves? Would they complain to management? Seriously??

 

THIS picture violates member privacy? 

It does not take much to get underneath that behavior to guess at the cause. His boss or bosses had negative personal responses to what I had said about their continued behavior of ignoring any suggestions from anyone. Their staff had commented on that before plus I never got a response to any of my emailed suggestions sent to their offices. My guess is that they were embarrassed by the blog and the conclusions and that they were a bit vindictive — in a get-even mode. How do they get even? Fire The Customer!

The problem is that store-manager Danny was now put in a position where he had to lie to a customer — he was forced into an unethical and illogical position. I asked him about it and he would not respond. He would not blame management, he would have no comment other than repeating that the photo above violated the contractual statement on customer privacy.  OTHER people in the store would also not comment about the situation — a gag rule seemed to have been implemented. How do the workers feel?

Put yourself in Danny’s position. Your boss forces you to call a customer and tell them that they are fired, and for really dubious reasons. You know it is a lie and the customer knows it is a lie. How would YOU feel about that?

Do they not realize the impacts on things like trust and respect? The customer certainly loses respect for the manager and the manager must lose respect for his boss and boss’ boss.

They lose a customer who was a pretty good customer. They get some negative publicity in social media. The regular employees certainly see what is going on, since one commented that he saw the paperwork that cancelled me out. It gives me one more “never do this kind of thing” story. It is sad, really. What does Danny say to me when I see him on the street or does he simply pretend that he does not know me?

And, if this is some policy, why won’t other people do a similar thing when they want to get out of their contract with them? You sign a multiple-page commitment that is hard to get out of but this sure seems like a simple way: publish a selfie with other people on Facebook. That seems to be their rule…

I think that the reality of this, insofar as ethics and leadership, trust and respect, innovation and creativity and continuous improvement is that senior managers need to understand that ruthless reactions to employees and customers is not really a good leadership principle. In my social interactions in the weeks since this happened, I have shared this story with a few dozen other people and they all support my thinking as to the arrogance of the ownership of this company.

PlanetFitness. It’s a gym and a job. Just a gym with poor employment practices…

The choices made seem so illogical. The customer offers ideas for improvement and gets fired by the owner!

Planet Fitness has been making the news with other member terminations lately. Here is one where a customer complains about what looks to be a man in her ladies locker room — www.wnem.com/story/28278233/planet-fitness-drops-member-after-gender-identity-complaint – It is apparently a “No Judgement Zone” as a gym and a “No Complaints Zone” as a corporate membership policy. The woman had an issue and she gets terminated. Hope that Planet Fitness likes the negative publicity about their leadership issues.

There should be a sign: Got a Complaint? Take it Outside.

 Your thoughts?

(Note: Since I was telling other people about this and they were asking for the details, I felt committed to follow through and put more information into this people and performance blog. It is simply sad to see “leaders” of organizations make such poor choices and treat their people in unethical ways. It is sad that employees are forced into difficult situations like these.)

Scott Simmerman

Make Your Off-site Team Building Event Pay Off

Organizations hold off-site meetings to generate more alignment, introduce a new strategy initiative, build increased collaboration and related goals. The Big Idea is that the expenditures for these meetings will generate a return on that investment. I will loosely define one overall goal as “team building” and I will suggest some ideas and frameworks that will actually accomplish some of that.

These events and meetings should involve and engage participants and generate a better sense of ownership and involvement about what they might choose to do differently: “more better faster cheaper.” But inspiration alone won’t cut it and lectures and presentations will sometimes distract people from their emails. People will often drift off from a presentation and knowledge does not always translate into behavior change. Just explaining things will only have a modest impact on results or generate any change in behavior, as you have probably witnessed.

Human beings are paradoxical creatures.
What I know does not directly translate into what I do.

We judge ourselves by our intentions.
We judge others by their behavior.

And we are known to have that common behavior of overestimating our own performance when good measurements are not good.  This cognitive bias for over-estimating even has a term: illusory superiority.”

Examples abound:

  • In one study, 84% of the students predicted they would cooperate with their partner, but only 61% actually did. The irony is that their prediction of other student’s behavior was close to actual.
  • people with a below-average IQ tend to overestimate their IQ
  • In a survey of faculty at the University of Nebraska, 68% rated themselves in the top 25% for teaching ability.
  • In a similar survey, 87% of MBA students at Stanford University rated their academic performance as above the median.
  • For driving skill, 93% of the US drivers put themselves in the top 50% of all vehicle operators.

We will not delve into all the reasons for this; the information is nicely covered in a Wikipedia article. Here, let’s focus on practicalities when it comes to costs and impacts and generating commitment and change.

Here are some ideas and possible solutions that represent my personal biases along with 30 years of experience in these kinds of settings:

Have really solid goals and expectations for what you want to see done differently.  Communicating ideas and data might give someone the chance to be seen, but it is a pretty costly way to move that information. Think about the past and what worked well insofar as meeting goals and actual outcomes – what kinds of things helped attendees do something differently after the meeting to solve problems or improve results.

1 – Communicate before the meeting with the facts, information and relevant data that people will need to do things differently. Give them the tools and pre-thinking review time to allow the data to link with any new information or stimulate new ideas. Most people think better with time for processing and consideration and new ideas generally link to old information.

2 – Put the right people in the seats. Maybe you do need everyone to attend, but maybe you don’t. If your meeting is a celebration junket, that is different than if it is a key meeting to drive out a new strategic plan. The people who are there should be the people who need to be there! Everyone else is either costly or distracting or both.

3 – Let their feets get them off their seats. Do things that get them moving around and interacting in some kind of focused way. Breaks can be useful, but people are often off doing their own things with phone calls and emails instead of talking with each other about shared issues and desired changes. While some would suggest prohibiting cellphone use during the meetings, I think we should try to treat attendees as something other than third-grade students and allow them responsible use — you never know when they might have some real business emergency with a real business impact and you DO want them in the room and not out in the hallway expecting some call. Phones do have a vibrate setting!

4 – Design facilitated engagement and involvement. Don’t just do things TO people but insure that your sessions involve and engage them. Do things WITH attendees if you can. Solicit their ideas and their input. Challenge them to help solve business problems instead of presenting them with solutions, if you can.

Nobody ever washes a rental car

Be sure to do things to share ownership. People are more likely to take risks and challenges if they are invested in the situations.

5 – Allow people to work in teams but also collect their notes and thoughts. You can use worksheets or easel-pad brainstorming and mindmaps and similar tools. You can use dot-voting and other consensus-building activities. You can use twitter and other interactive media or collaboration software, if the group is comfortable with that approach. (You might encourage all of them to bring their laptops / notepads or smartphones to certain interactive work sessions.)

Leadership and presenters should be asking questions and generating perspective and sharing missions and visions more than they should be standing there “yelling and telling,” no matter how charismatic they are. Like John Le Carre wrote,

A desk is a dangerous place
from which to view the world

The more hands-on, broadly experiential the base of information, the more ownership involvement and real-world information you can generate, the better the impacts.

6 – Structure followup on the ideas that are generated and push people to do things differently. There are any number of ways to generate commitment and your current organizational culture and experience should offer you ideas about what kinds of things work (and what kinds of things do not). You might have each person post one good idea into email or on a specifically designed note card collected by the senior manager. You might organize natural teams to collect and look to help implement good ideas. Department heads might be tasked with generating 5 good ideas for change and improvement, along with action plans and a project management template of some kind.

But DO something. Make some things happen and attribute those positive results to the leadership and through the organization as experiences have shown to be successful. Too many meetings just end; they do not generate efforts at improvements, much less impact results.

If you are just meeting to meet, with no other expected changes, then consider communicating through podcasts or other techniques and save a whole big bunch of money in travel expenses, time and salaries. Your meeting should generate actions that impact results.

Summary:

The reason I write this post is that I have seen some events that really fail to generate what they could, simply because of the “powerpoint presentation culture” that exists in so many organizations. Similarly, I hear about programs that do the simply “fun team building” kinds of things, the electronic spin-the-wheel “Wheel of Fortune” games or the Jeopardy or treasure hunt activities, none of which will generate much real teamwork or real problem-solving or behavior change.

Since 1993, we have been developing and supporting an actual business simulation exercise with real impacts on teamwork and planning and which structures debriefings focused on shared missions and visions, expectations and teamwork. A differentiating feature is the anchor point to inter-team collaboration, rather than the more common competition between teams. For so many organizations, “Interdepartmental Collaboration” is an oxymoron rather than an implementation strategy. Generating real collaboration is of very high value to most businesses.

We offer a most excellent team building exercise that you can purchase for repeated use or rent for a one-time event.

Lost Dutchman Gold Mine Logo with three icons

There are literally dozens of articles about the exercise here on the blog. Directly connect with me if this might be of any interest to your organization. I will try to share my thoughts and ideas about features and benefits of this exercise. It is straightforward in its delivery and not difficult to facilitate and link to a variety of desired outcomes. My coaching and design collaboration are free.

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company

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Implementing Improvement – Ideas on Brainstorming

“Nobody ever washes a rental car!”

That is my anchor point for doing anything that involves organizational change and improvement. If one is to expect anything to happen, we must insure that there is buy-in and participation and engagement. But how do we actually generate a sense of ownership? Surely, it will not come when we tell people what to do — that only generates resistance (or compliance). It does not involve and engage them in any meaningful way even if they understand the reasons why those changes are being made.

One often hears that we need to “empower” the participants to actually go out and do something. Well, I strongly disagree with that possibly happening – how does one ever empower anyone to actually DO anything if they simply do not want to do it? Coercive measures are not an acceptable alternative in most situations.

(Note: We can generate behavior change by altering the mechanism by which people get feedback on their performance. That is a much better option than working with any kind of extrinsic reward system. Read more about that here and here.)

At the same time, many factors lead me to believe that there are a variety of opportunities for workplace improvement among individuals and among small groups, simply for the asking. There is a strong general motivation to make improvements if people feel the gap between what happens now and what could or should be happening. Cognitive Dissonance is but one framework that supports this framework of generating intrinsic motivation for improvement.

(You can also see a great animation of the concept of DRIVE, as framed by Dan Pink – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc )

But in the workplace in general, and especially in today’s risk-averse and “job enhanced” environments, the real key to rolling forward is not something like feedback or empowerment; I think Dis-Un-Empowerment is what needs to be addressed. We can involve and engage people and help them to identify issues and deal with the implementation of processes that help them manage roadblocks.

Generally, all of us make choices all through each day as to what we will do or not do. We will often choose NOT to do something because we perceive difficulties or perceived roadblocks (example: “He won’t support that idea because he did not support the last idea I had…”).

Most people can think of LOTS of things that would get in the way of implementing some idea or ideas for improvement (“It might be against policy.” “There probably won’t be any support / resources for that.”)

One key role of training (and management and coaching) is to act to REMOVE the perceived or potential roadblocks that are un-empowering to people acting individually or in groups. That can be accomplished by getting pre-ordained support from managers not in the workshop, having managers come into the training session to hear the ideas and manage the roadblocks (and have THEIR roadblocks managed – we know from lots of contacts that many managers and supervisors are more roadblocked than their people!) and for the trainer to have a very good background understanding of what can be done and how it can be accomplished.

One of the things we miss today are trainers with the extensive background in how to implement and then measure the effectiveness of the training in workplace improvement initiatives. There are many factors operating there including pressures of time and cost, which is one of the reasons that outside consultants can often get things accomplished when inside support people  cannot — they also have the power of money and top management support behind them. But that is just a limitation and not a roadblock for the internal consultants.

Knowing how the most successful PAST improvements were  implemented will give good insight into how the next FUTURE improvement might be implemented. There are cultural keys that offer perspective on these kinds of things.

So, how do we get the best results from brainstorming ideas?

Creating a gap between how things are now (Square Wheels thumping and bumping along) and how things could be operating (Round Wheels already exist) is a motivational force. And defining an implementation strategy for making small and continuous changes and improvements clarifies responsibilities often making change and improvement very doable.


But the real key is generating a feeling of ownership involvement. Too many people “rent” their time to an organization and go through the motions of maintaining their employment, rather than buying in to improve workplace improvement. The statistics on engagement and on “ready to leave for a new job elsewhere” are pretty discouraging when viewed from a position of leadership…

Yet most people do want to make a positive impact on the work they do and the workplace around them. They WANT things to be better, if we will let them do so. But they feel little ownership. According to a November 2011 analysis of its database of 5,700 employers representing 5 million employees, human resources consulting firm Aon Hewitt reported that engagement levels indicate the workforce is by and large indifferent to organizational success or failure.

That should concern all of us interested in productivity and performance.

You can read more about Dis-Un-Engagement by searching the blog. Another article is here. And here is an article on ownership.

What we CAN do is a better job of asking for ideas and generating possibilities for improvement from employees’ ideas. If they feel that they have a part in the issues and involvement in designing solutions, their involvement level will increase. Here are some suggestions and alternatives to simply doing what we do and generating the same results:

1 – Discuss the roadblocks that they feel are getting in the way of improving their performance. (You can find a number of articles of mine around different approaches here.)

2 – Ask them how to improve profitability. It is common that many people do not really consider costs and impacts on a daily basis and asking them to look at these issues might generate some good discussions about the purpose of their efforts in the overall organization.

3 – Discuss the impacts of other organizations on their ability to get things done. While this often tends toward the negative issues, there will also be some positive ones if you probe for them. Best practices of certain individuals in other departments will be seen and can be reinforced. Focusing on what is positive can help you build a better working relationship with other managers, for example, while you also look to address improvement issues.

4 – Get them to “Step Back” and look at their operations as if they were brand new employees and have them comment about what is not clear and what best practices might exist. Or, you can set this up as an accomplishment and chain backwards for things that were improved: “It is 2020 and our department was judged Best in the Business! What did we do that got us that recognition?” This approach tends to minimize roadblocks in their perceptions, since results were fait accompli.

Understand that it is impossible for a manager to have all the answers or to know all the issues. The workplace is really complicated and all sorts of things change on a regular basis. Plus, some people will construct better ways of doing things — Best Practices — that can be identified and shared throughout your workplace. Improvements can be generated by peer support for change.

And think about this:

Dr. Seuss Square Wheels Lego poem image by Scott Simmerman

 

If you are looking for simple and effective tools to generate involvement and engagement, click on the icon below:

link to the square wheels icebreaker toolkit

For the FUN of It!

Scott DebriefDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

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Respect: Half of employees do not have it

An HBR study of employees found some unsurprising results. At least they are unsurprising if you have been looking at any of the data on engagement or involvement and employee attitudes on leadership. Employees do not get what they perceive as RESPECT from their managers. Half feel they are not respected.

Rodney Dangerfield Respect
Here is Rodney Dangerfield on Respect (3 minutes on YouTube)

Yeah, like Rodney, people feel that they simply get no respect from their management. And there are lots of data to support this over the years. (Some of us might be surprised to see that fully half do feel like they get respect when so few are actively involved and engaged, since these are correlated.)

Being a motivational manager requires facing issues head on and dealing with people and conflict. Employees want a leader that will stand up for them, communicate well and generate trust and engagement. Employees want a boss that will listen to them and help solve problems.

Research by Dale Carnegie Training showed that pride in the company and belief in the senior managers were key factors in driving organizational engagement, as is the relationship with one’s direct supervisor. A long series of Gallup surveys support the idea that personal relationships are critical factors for success.

And  this has Big Benefits. A 2010 study by the Corporate Executive Board found that, “firms whose culture encourages open communication outperform peers by more than 270% in terms of long-term (10 year) total shareholder return.”

Clearly, respect is a critical factor for performance and success. But it is not generally judged to be important. The HBR research shared that over 60% of managers claim that they are overloaded with things to accomplish and have no time to be nice to their people. One forth claimed that they had no role model within their organization (basically, they probably feel that they do not get any respect from their bosses!) Yet treating people with respect generates engagement, as the following graph shows.:

HBR Treat with Respect

If we could just get managers and supervisors to deal with the following kind of situation more effectively, I think we would see tremendous dividends.

Square Wheels LEGO image of devil's advocate

But when supervisors don’t feel they have the time to consider ideas and talk with their people about issues of missions, visions, goals and expectations, we are leaving a lot of motivation on the table. People do need to feel respected, along with involved and engaged. Feeling like they are an integral part of the performance team is a very positive thing.

This does not get us what we want:

Square Wheels LEGO Mission Poster image by Scott Simmerman

What we need to do is address the issues of communication, of mission and vision, of expectations and we need to get the ideas of everyone about what needs improvement and what ideas exist to accomplish those improvements.

(Here is an article about building a better sense of mission – including the In The Beginning description of the reality of creating such a thing.)

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

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Leadership Secrets and Teamwork

Dan Rockwell’s blog, Leadership Freak, is excellent. He offers up a very wide variety of actionable ideas on so many subjects. His blog today pushed me to share his key points and add a few of my own when it comes to leadership and interacting with teams. We can do so much more.

Read his blog for the expansion of his key points, but here they are as bullets:

  1. Offer solutions, but always begin with problems
  2. Forget perfection
  3. Learn while you take action
  4. Focus on getting people in the right roles
  5. Build energizing environments
  6. Embrace forward facing contrarians
  7. Results don’t define you

When reading through his explanation, my mind was operating within the framework of my actionable view of the world. Here is my view of the generality of how things really work in most organizations:

Square Wheels LEGO image of how things work in organizations
Take a second and think about this illustration…

It’s been my experience that things seldom work smoothly and that the people do not work exceptionally well with each other between the front and back of the wagon or from the viewpoint of there being multiple teams. In my view of things, leadership is often isolated from the hands-on reality of the people at the back of the wagon, thus it is critical that leadership do more asking and listening than offering suggestions or simply accepting that things are working okay. There is a great deal of research that suggests that many people are not involved or engaged and that their bosses are not asking for their ideas for workplace improvement.

Dan’s thoughts are right about perfection (#2) — I think about it this way:

  • A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world. (John LeCarre)
  • The Round Wheels of today are the Square Wheels of tomorrow.
  • What we need is Continuous Continuous Improvement!
    (from the Department of Redundancy Department)

Peter Senge long ago wrote about the idea of a Learning Organization. Heck, I even read that whole book. And I think that, for the most part, the world is still looking for one of them. Most organizations do not come close to being focused on learning and teamwork and learning. Most organizations do NOT take the time to step back and look at issues or for possibilities. That kind of problem-solving teamwork is often seen in various “team bonding” kinds of challenges but not often rolled into the workplace.

For me, workplace reality should occasionally look more like this:

Square Wheels LEGO Poster on team perspective

What we also need to encourage are those individuals who step up and challenge the conformity and stale thinking of the group. Sometimes, these people can play the role of Devil’s Advocate, which can be politically difficult unless it is seen as useful (and which is sometimes actually taught in leadership training programs since it enhances problem solving and optimal solutions). The key, as Dan states in #6, if that this is forward looking and not just critical of things.

I see it thusly:Square Wheels LEGO image of devil's advocate

Someone needs to step up and challenge ideas, otherwise the tendency is to keep doing the same thing while expecting improved results. Muscle building (also know as training) will improve efficiencies, but only by a percent or two. What is needed is innovation and new ideas. Plus, those ideas generate a sense of teamwork, peer pressure for success, and an increased likelihood of generating that continuous continuous improvement I mentioned earlier. This is that positive, energizing of the environment that Dan refers to in #5.

Square Wheels LEGO team celebration poster

There are lots of things we choose to do as managers and leaders and most of them work okay. But there are also a lot of other things we can do to make even more contributions to our people and to our organizations.

So, Step back from your wagons and have a chat with your people about these things,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

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Purposeful Meeting Openers and Icebreakers: Relevant and Congruent

In my experience, many trainers and consultants focused on involving and engaging participants use some sort of warm-up exercise, with the idea that getting people “warmed up” in some way will help them learn the material more effectively or bring more energy to the training itself.

One LinkedIn discussion had a trainer wanting to start a class focused on “workplace improvement best practices” and was looking for some relevant activity to get things started. The goal was to have something fast and simple but that would also generate some cognitive dissonance and frustration anchored to them not being able to finish a task on time. His goal was to use frustration to generate an initial motivation to correct their existing workplace issues.

In my experience, motivation already exists in most workplaces with most supervisors on performance improvement issues. There are often a variety of ways to identify and implement improvements and best practices but a key is to generate the intrinsic motivation to actually do something differently. I am also pretty sure that generating frustration as a desired outcome of this activity was not the best idea, since many of those attending were probably already frustrated by their workplace or by the fact that they were now in some “training program” when they should be working.

In other words:

  • He was asking for ideas about how to make the trainees frustrated because they could not get some exercise / task done well in the allotted time.
  • My thought is that their workplace was like most others and that the managers were already frustrated with these same issues of quality and timeliness.

My other thought was anchored to the simple idea that getting people frustrated may not be the best way for starting a training class. Beginning a program, negatively, does not generally get people positively motivated and the potential reactions can be somewhat uncontrollable.

Some other people in LinkedIn also elaborated on some of the possible unintended outcomes of such an activity, too. (The conversation got pretty bloody but we also think we saved him from a huge strategic mistake, on which he agreed!!).

The other half of my thinking pounded on the very common use of “irrelevant icebreakers” as a complete waste of time — you know, the goofy meeting openers that are not related to the issue or desired outcome of the session and play on people telling three truths and one lie about themselves or the most interesting thing about their hometown or stating something that no one would ever guess about them. (you can find a long list of such goofy actual activities here)

I’m in agreement with a lot of other consultant trainers, especially about all that psychology stuff and what happens in training. One psychologist shared his approach of having people literally “draw a pig” that represented things in their organization. (The reference to “pig” as being too close to corporate operations and management these days with all those raises and salaries of CEOs in excess of 300 times the workers as well as the growing pay gaps, policy issues, etc.)

My psychology and engagement framework would use an illustration like that below as a tool to get people to project their ideas about how their organization really worked onto an image. It works like an inkblot test – there is no reality but people push one onto the image, one that also allows them to share some thinking about the issues and opportunities that already exist. And it is really fast and tight.

The image shows a wagon rolling along on Square Wheels while the cargo is round rubber tires. (There are other aspects of leadership, motivation and vision along with best practices. Plus, it gives people an anchor point for focused conversation and discussion).

Square Wheels LEGO image of how things work

The idea is to get individuals thinking about issues and groups collaborating and sharing ideas about the illustration – brainstorming with an organizational behavioral anchor. Groups can also be motivated through a little competition to make a longer list (facilitation) and what players do is to project their beliefs about their own organization onto the illustration (the inkblot effect).

If you are going to take their valuable time in a class, why not focus on issues of innovation and teamwork and involvement about their workplace, and not some completely unrelated thing like 3 Truths and a Lie or Dragon Tag or some such “energizer.”

Using the cartoon as an anchor to the reality of how things really work, we get them talking about their issues — the things that do not work smoothly — and the ideas that already exist within the context of making the wagon move more effectively. This approach also allows discussion without the attack on management or structures. It has proven itself to be “developmentally neutral” and non-political in that regard.

The behavior and ideas and issues in play can then be linked to a lot of different kinds of content for your training session, and the activity thus made congruent and relevant.That is something that cannot be done with so many of the very general icebreakers — it is hard to make the transition of doing one and then quickly linking to a real business purpose. (Sure, you can use some words but their actual behaviors are generally off target and non-congruent — how does making up a funny name relate to workplace improvement?)

Best practices are Round Wheels.

The focus on the training and performance improvement might be linked to making Square Wheels roll more smoothly. You can coach people on identifying SWs and generating round ones, while generating dissociation and second-position perspective. Issues of change and implementation (stopping the wagon and changing the wheels) can be part of your, “What are we going to try to do differently after we leave here?” discussion. Sharing round wheel ideas is easy and this begins a process of continuous continuous improvement.


Learn more about the Square Wheels Icebreaker.

You can find another article on this issue of effectively using trainee time and optimizing impact by clicking on this link:

Blog Icon for Icebreaker link

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

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The Art of Reframing and the Power of Positive Possibilities

A few months ago, I crafted up a blog for Diane Crampton that I thought I should also publish here in my blog. I called it,

Recovering the Powers of Positive Possibilities – Ideas and Anchors for The Leadership Art of Reframing

Research shows that new hires rather quickly lose that initiative and spark and that they generally regress to the average morale of the group within a short period of time (Sirota Research, 2010). In other words, they had that motivation and they lost it because of how they were managed!

1SWs One Recover what we lost seuss
Recovery. Noun. 1) The act or process of returning to a normal condition, especially from sickness, a shock, or a setback; recuperation; 2) restoration to a former or better condition; 3) the regaining of something lost; 4) the extraction of something useful from materials or a situation which is otherwise useless or poor.

So, let’s talk about Recovery. If you step back from the wagon, you will see that this illustration both represents how things really work in most organizations and that it represents a whole big bunch of issues and opportunities.

Many Round Wheels are already in the wagon, so one key to identifying the issues is simple:

 Don’t Just DO Something. Stand there!

In haiku, it might read something like this:

2SWs One Haiku dawn breaks with noises
click on this image to open our poems and haiku blog

So, this is a blog around some ideas for dis-un-engaging people. The basic idea is pretty simple:

“Potential Possibility for Performance Productivity Practices Already Exist, and Square Wheels are everywhere!
Find them, Engage People, and Fix Things!

3Real men mud haiku

But don’t find the wheels yourself! Find the wagon pushers and have them find the wheels, identify the possibilities and implement their own solutions. The rationale is quite simple:

People resist the changes done TO them but develop ownership involvement for their own ideas about making things better.
Nobody ever washes a rental car.

People need to be engaged and the role of manager is to help remove all those things that have been disengaging them in their work. If they have some ownership of the solutions and they see possibilities for improvement, they will put forth more effort to succeed. As the two next illustrations might show, it is about motivation and active involvement:

Square Wheels image and Dr. Seuss poem on performance

But the reality is that the manager is an unknown factor in all this in most workplaces. Surveys show that people often feel their ideas are ignored or that they are under aversive control. They will show a lot of compliance behavior, not what we want for involvement and engagement. There is often an issue of trust. And, “Trust is the residue of promises fulfilled.” (Frank Navran)

The suggestion is that managers do a better job of simply asking for ideas for improvement and productivity and that they do a better job of listening and empowering people to actually implement those ideas. What we suggest is that you take the ideas about what is not working smoothly and reframe them into possibilities that can be implemented.

Square Wheels image and poem on performance

If people point to something as a Square Wheel, people will naturally generate a round wheel alternative based on their cognitive dissonance. The real question is one of motivation, reflected as, “Why bother; no one cares…”

Managers need to be identified as coaches and mentors, in addition to their other roles. They need to act as if they care about improvement and about people. Managers should be looking ahead, identifying possibilities and future outcomes, and involving and engaging their staffs for the long pull ahead.

Square Wheels image of Mentoring Change Haiku

Below should be part one of your thinking about people and performance. The focus is on the front end of the process of generating higher levels of involvement and building strengths. Doing some training and some team building will allow people to develop their own ideas and potential as well as improve workplace results. We have one of the truly best team building simulations focused on alignment and performance. Click on the image below to see The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.

Square Wheels image of muscle building improvement

If we continue to do the same thing, we can pretty much expect the same results.

The key is to Involve. Engage. Enlist. Align. Expect. Impact.

And generate more fun and involvement out there among the people who we depend on to get things done,

 

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company

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