Saturday, April 11, 2009

Corporate TeamBuilding as a Part-of your Meeting Agenda

I was engaged in an interesting discussion with a meeting coordinator from a large manufacturing organization.
We will call the meeting coordinator Sara.
Sara calls and we start talking about the organization she works with. I bring her through the opening questions.

We speak for almost 25 minutes the group wanted a Team Building Icebreaker for 30 minutes in the evening. I made some suggestions of what will work best. She tells me that one of the executive staff spoke to another participant from a separate Create-Learning Team Building Program and they want the do the “Circles of Influence” activity (From Sam Sikes Team Building Book Raptor).

I ask further questions to understand what they hope to achieve beginning with the end in mind (Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).
All of the managers, department heads, and executives are having a two day meeting in a Hotel at Buffalo, New York, and she wants Create-Learning to lead a Fun and fast moving icebreaker. I explain that Circles of Influence is not a best fit with the time and situation of the group. Circles of Influence is competitive highly paced activity that deals with Leadership negotiation, resources allocation, Abundance theories, Zero Sum game theory, and can get a little nasty. Create-Learning prefers to do this activity at the end of a half-day or full-day Team Building program. Not as a 30 minute fun icebreaker.

After speaking more Sara says, “They want to do it, they are worried about participation.”
Did I mention that this team building activity is going to take place in a large meeting room following 2 hours of open bar for 45 people, before dinner!

I explain to Sara my concerns and we end the conversation with the understanding that, Create-Learning will lead a 30 minute Ice Breaker and Circles of Influence will be the main initiative.

This is a challenge to me. I want the group to gain meaning and I still want it to be fun.

The group arrives and I meet with Sara she appears nervous and busy, perhaps I am just seeing my own behaviors because I was nervous and busy. I assure her that everything is set and the activity is ready for 7:30 PM. I meet the people in the group at the bar area. Business casual, heels and loafers, Khaki pants, some ties, dresses, slacks, polo shirts.
In my mind I am processing and believing that what I can do is light the spark to encourage team work and show the group that fun and learning can fit hand in hand (and I only have 30 minutes). 7:30 arrives I speak to Sara, “whenever you are ready we will gather in the meeting room.” She asks, “Can we bring our drinks?” “If it is alright with you, it is fine with me.” I say keeping a present perfect state of mind.

As they leave the bar I hear the complaints, “this is going to be stupid” “I have to pretend for 30 minutes that I like these people” “Yeah Team Building!” No one wants to be the one who admits that they can have fun; this is a corporate training peer pressure system.

I ask them to create a large circle around my Nalgene Bottle. One of the men asks me, “can I kick the shi^* out of that bottle?” I answer, “Sir let’s wait until 8:15 and then you can feel free to do whatever makes you happy with my bottle.” His friends laugh.
The Team Building program begins. I open with Gotchya, an activity that makes people laugh and they touch slightly. They are laughing and I am getting the group worked up for the Circles of Influence activity. We laugh and work through Gotchya the group is a little drunk and I feel confident. I lead the group to the other side of the room and break them into three small teams. I pull out the bullhorn explain the directions; create a frenzy of excitement, and yell “GO!”

The Team Building activity went excellent they ran, fought and argued over the resources. At the end some people in the group negotiated a win-win team building scenario. I end the activity. We process very light, they leave and they are happy, Back to the bar and Dinner.
I clean up and gather my thoughts. I go back inside and listen to the team while they talk over dinner. I here discussions of the fun team building initiative. As well as, “I thought I was not going to like it, the 45 minutes flew by and I had so much fun!”

The group is different than before we began.

They are all speaking to new people and now have a common experience to dialog, share opinions ideas and processes on. I speak to Sara they had a great time. I leave there thinking “I wish I had more time the Team Building initiative could have gone better, some of the people took to the lesson.”

Create-Learning encourages groups to understand that this learning is meant to be part-of your meeting agenda and not a-part-from the meeting agenda. As team building professionals we want to guide the group in choosing the best fit. For example Circles of Influence was a slight success with this group, although much of the meaning was lost because the time and situation were not correct. Additionally what works for one group may not work for your organization. In every situation Create-Learning Team Building strives to be the best, and customize initiatives to meet the client needs. To make the end product (your team) leave with new insights and understandings of each other and to see that new ideas and processes are within your people already. The obstacle is tapping that potential and leading it in the proper direction.

”It is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn’t
matter who gets the credit.”

- Unknown

-Michael Cardus is the founder of Create-Learning-Team Building, an experiential based training and development consulting organization, as well as a blogger for TeamBuilding NY. Mike specializes in team development and leadership development consulting and training, creating team-building programs that retain talented staff members, increase production and effectiveness of your team. He lives in Buffalo, NY, and travels to you to serve your team-building and leadership training needs, wherever and whenever fits your schedule.