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April 2005
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June 2005

A full day of teaching team and leadership skills

The 7-hour team and leadership program with the 37 high school students went well.  The students were fun to work with because of their eagerness to participate and learn.  We started at 7:30 am and finished at 2:30pm with the day going by quickly.

Here is a list of the activities I led during the 7-hour team and leadership development program for high school students: 
OPENING SEQUENCE >> Welcome, Bus stop, Quick draw numbers, Partner tag, Neighbors, Balloon triangles, Big Question & Mrs. Wright, Group Loop (yurt, race car), Turnstile, Reading
AM EXERCISES >> Team Pictionary, Beliefs, Hole Tarp, Infinite Loops, Tennis Ball Madness, Focus Ring 1-2-4
PM EXERCISES (after lunch) >> Funderbird, A Different Drum, Appreciative Inquiry Mini Session, Rapport, Poster

It’s likely that the list above will make little or no sense to the average person.  Each activity leads to a lesson and discussion.

I had a 30-minute break and then led a 60-minute workshop for 24 teachers.  I was pleased with the energy the teachers had in the program.  Many teachers are exhausted by the end of the day and attending an after school workshop is the last thing on their mind.  These teachers however were engaged and having fun as they learned new ways to teach team skills in the classroom.

From 7:30 – 8:45pm I delivered a keynote presentation to teachers, students and parents in the school auditorium.  I spoke about a theory of generational history that I first learned about in a book entitled “The Fourth Turning – What The Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous With Destiny” written by Neil Howe and William Strauss.   

Internet telephony

I’m in the lobby of the hotel waiting for my ride to the high school where I’ll be leading workshops today.  I called Anne using a free internet telephony service called Skype and it worked great (my first time using internet telephony).  With Skype I can call anywhere in the world for free (or you can call me for free).  Isn’t the internet amazing?

Props I carried to New Jersey

For my trip to NJ I carried a briefcase (laptop) and two small rolling suitcases.  I check one suitcase which contains gear I can easily replace the night before (it also contains none workshop essential Suitcase1supplies like me extra clothes) - - the thinking here is that if the suitcase is delayed or lost I can still lead my program with the gear I carried on the plane.  The suitcase I carry on the plane is packed with teambuilding activity props.  The third and final piece of luggage I carried is a brief case for my laptop (Applie iBook).  Here is a photo of my two carry-on size suitcases.

Program Design

I’m sitting in my Best Western hotel room in New Jersey reviewing my program design for tomorrow. 

When I create a program design I first get clear on the messages (lessons) that I choose to teach or reinforce.  This process starts through conversations with my client.  I put on my detective hat and begin asking questions that reveal what the group “really” needs - - it’s not uncommon for the group representative contacting me to be less than crystal clear on what’s really going on with their group.  “We need teambuilding training” they say.  Why?  What will the training help your team do that it can’t do now?  How will you measure success?  What will the training look like?  On a scale of 1-10 how is your team performing now?  What are the demographics of the team?  Who is the team leader?  What are the leader’s (organization’s) values and beliefs? 

Here’s how I prepare for a program: I map out the beginning/opening sequence of activities, which allows me to get a feel for the group.  This sequence of activities may last 15 – 90 minutes.  After watching the group interact during this introductory session I know which exercise to lead next.  I’ll select an activity from a “menu” of activities that I’m prepared to lead.  This means I come prepared to lead more activities than I can possibly lead during the program.  The menu is made up of two categories of activities that I label “long” and “short” (the long activities require more time and are more involved, more intense).  I also have a category called “fun” and I intersperse activities from this category to help bring levity to the program and key points. 

This approach to working with a group is much like “performance art” - - I create the program as I go.  I’m constantly asking myself this question:  How may I serve?  I listen to my intuition and I pick the next activity.

There are some situations where I map out the entire program and don’t make any changes from my plan.  I’m able to design a program like this if I’m able gather enough detailed information about the group in advance.   

Missing my family already

I’m waiting in the Asheville airport for my first flight.   There is free high-speed wireless and I love that.  My plane starts boarding in a few minutes.  Traveling became much more difficult for me now Lizathat I have children.  When I left home Anne (my wife) and Liza (my 18 month old daughter - - that's here in the photo) gave me kisses goodbye.  My son Joseph (age 6) gave me a big hug as he left for kindergarten.  I already miss them.  At the same time I love traveling to lead workshops I also love being home with my wife and children.  My dad was absent for most of my childhood and I remember missing him a great deal. Working for myself allows me a freedom when it comes to spending time with my family.  I get to drop my son off at school and pick him up and I’m usually home when Liza takes a nap which allows Anne to go for a bike Anneonparkwayride on the Blue Ridge Parkway which is a half mile from our home. 

Teambuilding in New Jersey

Today I leave for Newark, NJ to lead a 7-hour (7:30-2:30) teambuilding workshop (tomorrow) with a group of 37 high school students enrolled in a school leadership program.  After the training I’ll lead a 60-minute introductory how to lead team games workshop with a group of teachers.  And finally I’ll deliver a keynote presentation to the larger school community in the evening - - I’ll be sharing a theory on generational history and the implications for society (esp. for those of us teaching team skills).

The teacher who contacted me from the high school for this program found out about me through someone (a YMCA trainer) who had attended one of my train-the-trainer workshops almost two years ago.


One reason to invest in the development of team skills is to improve individual and team creativity.  Creative teams have a competitive advantage in the market place. 

Creativity is about finding unique solutions to difficult problems, coming up with new products and services, having fun.

Dan Pink, author of "A Whole New Mind -- Moving The Information Age to the Conceptual Age", goes so far as to say that your creativity is what's going to save you (and your busieness) in the market place.  

If you haven't already learned how to leverage the creativity of your team it might be too late.

Looking for a fun way to improve your creative thinking skills online?  Check out this web-based game that will get your right brain working:  Guess-the-Google

Influencing with Integrity -- an interview with Genie Laborde

Genie Laborde is fun and she happens to have a PhD, is a distinguished communications consultant to major corporations in the US and abroad and wrote a book entitled "Influencing With Integrity" which has sold over 200,000 copies and has been translated into five languages.   Genie has trained thousands of people from all over the world how to become more effective communicators and influencers.  She has even created an amazing web-based training program that teaches you how to become a master influencer (and you know how much I like web-based training!).

Today I had the great pleasure of interviewing Genie about how to influence people with integrity.  I thought this was an important topic because the most successful team leaders (and team facilitators) are masterful at influencing people.

But how do you influence without manipulating?  Listen to this interview and learn how. 
Download genie_laborde_mp3_sm.mp3

Check out Genie's blog HERE

Thanks to Coach Barbara Brady for introducing me to Genie Laborde.

Rejecting the Leader

A reader sent me this question: “What are some coping strategies for dealing with a team that is storming and has rejected its leader?”

This reader went on to suggest that one coping strategy would be for the leader to understand that “it’s not about the leader”, it’s about where the group is developmentally. “Leaders” he said “still feel unpleasant and not sure of what to do during this time.”

My response…

One line of thought suggests that when a leader feels rejected by his/her team then it is about the team (not about the leader).  I don't subscribe to this line of thinking.

If a leader is experiencing rejection it's all about the leader (not the group).  The world we experience (the "outer") is simply a reflection of what is going on with us / inside us (the "inner").

If a team can make a leader feel rejected then the leader becomes a victim.  Choosing the role of the victim is very convenient because the leader doesn't need to look inside.  The only problem with choosing to be a victim is... there are no victims. 

Groups that go through the storming phase experience storming.  Depending on ow the leader leads the group during this phase, the group will experience more difficulty or less but difficulty can not be avoided entirely during the storming phase of a group’s development. 

We attract to us people, situations and circumstances.  What we attract to us is a direct reflection of what we believe, speak and feel on a consistent basis. 

So if a leader is experiencing rejection (i.e. choosing to feel rejected) then the FIRST place to start looking to make changes is inside - within the leader.

The leader is always at choice.

Learn more about leadership coaching.

SmartMatch Alliances -- Audio Interview with Judy Feld and Ernest Oriente

Today I had the great pleasure of interviewing two people who are truly "possibility thinkers".  There names are Judy Feld and Ernest Oriente and they are master business coaches. 

Judy and Ernest are experts in the area of alliance building and in this 30 minute interview, they share some key insights from their book "SmartMatch Alliances"

Learn what an alliance is, how to assess your alliance-ability, determine your current and target "PINS", where to look for high potential alliance partners and more. 

As someone involved in the world of teambuilding, you need to become a master alliance builder.  Judy and Ernest teach an approach that produces a win for all concerned (producing truly synergistic relationships). 

As you listen, note how many times Judy and Ernest mention "community".  Building alliances is all about supporting your community.

Click on the link below to listen to the interview:

Download judyfeldernestoriente_mp3_sm.mp3

Group Coaching Call

Do you have a question about leading a teambuilding exercise?  Are you faced with a new team coaching challenge?  Are you looking for a model/metaphor to share with your group that can help them evolve with greater ease?  If yes, come to the open (and free) Group Coaching Call on Friday May 6 from 11-11:55 am EST (New York Time Zone).  I've reserved a conference line for up to 20 people.  Stay for as long or as short as you like.  I'll answer your questions and everyone can chime in to offer help as well.  This is an interactive session where we can all hear and talk with each other. It will be fast-paced, educational and fun. This call will be recorded.  Get call details here.

The one day (or one hour) team skills workshop

The sub-title of this post?  "When NOT to invest in a team skills workshop". 

I'm prompted to write this post because a friend called and asked me to lead a teambuilding program for the 40 staff of his growing physical therapy business. After a brief conversation I advised him to save his money and NOT hire me.

Here's the situation:  The group is to have a staff retreat (the last one was 3 years ago) which will take place after they work for half a day (attending to patients).  This retreat will last all of four hours and I was asked to deliver "some kind of teamwork training" that will improve communication - - the staff is experiencing some real communication challenges that are adversely affecting the bottom line.  My portion of the retreat is to last no more than 60 minutes.  There is no budget (or time) for an analysis of the current situation which will help reveal the root cause of the communication problems the group is experiencing.  There is no plan or budget for follow up / follow-through.

I explained that a quick-fix is not going to solve the problem and attempting to apply a quick-fix is likely to make things worse.

Quick-fixes don't work.  Imagine someone walking into a fitness center to announce they are willing to invest just 60 minutes to get fit.  The next time they are willing to invest in their fitness is in another 3 years.  Though 60 minutes at a fitness center is better than nothing, it is only a start.  The place to start is to determine the current level of fitness and then develop a fitness plan and then begin the plan and evaluate continuously.  Going to the finess center once every three years for 60 minutes will produce a short term "feel good" experience (maybe) but that's about it.

I shared the above analogy with my friend.  He understood the metaphor but, he said, "I have a business to run!  A business where patients show up everyday all day long.  I can't afford to stop my business to do team skills and leadership training with my staff."

Covey calls it the 7th Habit - - taking time to "sharpen the saw".

My friend couldn't believe I would turn down business.  I suggested his resources would be better invested coming up with clear mission and vision (something I would help with) and then determining how training would support that mission and vision.  He said he didn't have time for that.

Maybe he will call me back when his team (business) is in crisis.  People tend to have the resources (time, money, etc.) when there is a crisis.