Previous month:
March 2005
Next month:
May 2005

Teambuilding Games at an Orphanage in India

Images_1 A couple of months ago Rich Swannell called me from Pirth, Australia (Rich found me through a mutual friend).  He said he was headed to Southern India to begin an amazing project. 

Rich is teaching a hand picked group of children at the Hebron Children's Home to trade on the US stock market with the goal being to help make the orphanage and community self-sustaining financially.  This project will take years to see through to the end.

Rich is teaching the children how to work as an investment team and is using the resources at to help him learn how to teach in a memorable way.

A group is documenting this project and Rich sent me some video of one of the initial team training sessions. 

I had tears in my eyes as I watched these children participate in teambuilding activities taught to them by Rich who had learned them at  This was one of the greatest gifts I've ever received. 

Listen to a 30 minute interview I did with Rich Swannell by clicking on the link below:

Download rich_swannell_mp3_sm.mp3

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Hebron Children's

Below you can view the video clip of the kids playing these games.

Do you have an inspirational story you'd like to share about how you're using teambuilding to change lives?  Please send me your story and I might just write about it in this blog.

Large Group Activity

Focusring6I led a teambuildng workshop a few weeks back for a company that had experienced a recent merger.  One company bought out another company and the group was facing all the challenges that come with that.  I worked with 100 of the managers in a hotel conference setting for one day. 

I led a series of activities that explored the relationship of small groups (small organizations) coming together (merging) with another small group.

The photos here show an example of one of the activities I led.  I call this activity "Focus Ring"  and it's a variation on an activity I learned from Jim Cain who is the coauthor of a great teambuilding games book called Teamwork & Teamplay.

ROUND # 1:  The first photo shows a group of eight participants delivering their product (a tennis ball) to their customer (a piece of 1/2 diameter PVC pipe).  I had the entire group of 100 working in small teams of 8, with each small team working on placing a tennis ball on their own piece of pipe.  The "delivery system" is a steel ring with nylon twine attached to it (the tennis ball rests on top of the ring).

ROUND # 2:  Small teams (of 8 people) pair-up (merge) with another small team. The two small teams place their tennis balls on a PVC pipe structure that holds two balls.  It's tricky because the PVC pipe structure will fall over if the balls aren't placed on the structure just right.

ROUND # 3:  Small teams (of 8 people) merge with three other small teams and must deliver their products to a PVC pipe structure which holds 4 balls simultaneously.  It's much more difficult than the previous two rounds. 

Focusring4_2The debrief centered around the strategies, tactics and tools necessary for creating a successful merger.  I asked the group to identify what worked in the activity and how the knowledge/awareness gained can be applied in the work environment.

Check out the faces of the participants.  I made them blurry to hide their identity.  It reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode.

Members of can find detailed instructions for this activity (including how to lead it and make it) in the members only section.

A Teachable Moment -- an interview with Michelle Cummings

The teambuilding activity is over.  The group is circled up and looking at you.  It's time to debrief - - to help the group make sense of what just happened and apply lessons "back in the real world".  I call this "debriefing"while others might call it processing or reviewing or reflection.

When I started in the field of experiential learning, it was the debriefing that gave me the greatest challenge.  Learning how to lead the activities was a breeze compared to debriefing.  Whenever I observed a skilled leader work with a group in the debrief session I thought I was witnessing magic.

Michellecummings_1 This is where Michelle Cummings steps in (that's Michelle in the picture).  She's the coauthor of a great new book entitled "A Teachable Moment -- A Facilitator's Guide to Activities for Processing, Debriefing, Reviewing and Reflection". 

On April 7, 2005 I interviewed Michelle about her book.  She offers some great insight on how to become a more effective facilitator of teams, especially when it comes to debriefing the activity. 

Listen to the 30-minute interview here (mp3 file).
Download michelle_cummings_mp3_sm.mp3

Super Size Me

Supersizeme3In February my wife and I rented an award winning documentary entitled "Super Size Me" .  It's an amazing story about a New Yorker by the name of Morgan Spurlock (that's Morgan with the french fries stuffed in his mouth) who sets out on a quest to eat McDonald's food (and only McDonald's food) for 30 days.  He looks at the legal, financial and physical costs of America's hunger for fast food.  It's funny and it's scary.  The short story is that many Americans are killing themselves with fast food.  Particularly frightening is the rapid increase of childhood obesity.

During the film, Morgan visits a school outside of Chicago and meets with a physical education teacher named Phil Lawler who has taught for 29 years.  Phil and his colleagues have developed a physical education program unlike any I've seen or heard of.  Only 6% of the students at his school are overweight or obese (because of the program).  This is truly remarkable when you consider 70% of the general population in the US is either overweight or obese. 

I was so moved by Phil's story and work that I contacted him via email after watching the movie.  He called me the next day and we talked at length about his work with students around creating a healthy lifestyle. 

And for all of you teachers and parents out there, here is some radical news:  EVERY student K-12 at Phil's school attends PE classes EVERY day (contrast this with the kids in my area who get PE once a week for 20 minutes).  "But what about test scores?" you say.  Everyone knows that PE takes away from classroom time.  And if you take away from classroom time, test scores drop.  Right?!  "Not exactly" says Phil.  Their test scores are higher than average.  And the best part is they have healthy kids in the school.

Phil shares his excitement for the work I do because, he says, teaching team and leadership skills through experiential exercises is the best thing he does.  Phil organizes an annual conference serving 1500 PE teachers and invited me to present two teambuilding games workshops.   

Phillawler2This is Phil and me at the conference.  It was an honor to meet a teacher so fired up about making a difference in the lives of his students.