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September 2005
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November 2005

What's your team ready for?

Is your group ready to take on the most difficult team challenge you have?  Are they really going to “get” the advanced distinction or model you have to share with them?

As a team leader or teamwork coach, you need to deliver a message that is within reach of your team.  If the message is too far out it will get lost. 

Think of a six-year-old in first grade.  If you introduce math to him by starting off with advanced calculus, it’s highly likely he will be lost.  The six-year-old just isn’t ready for it.

If a group operates at a level 1 (low) and all your material is level 10 then the group will likely have difficulty getting your message.  They may only be able to make the jump to level 3 or 4 and then have to sit with that for a month or two before they are ready for the next jump to level 6 or 7. 

How can you determine where the group is along their path of development so you can design your training to match their growth needs?

Team_labyrinthFirst thing, and this is important, is wherever the group is along their path, its perfect AND they can choose at anytime to evolve/progress/move forward.  Healthy teams enjoy the challenge and the rewards of evolving.

There are several assessments I use to determine where a group is along their path of development and the one I want to share with you now is called the "Path of Development" (clever name, huh?).  This assessment was originally created for an individual however it also works for teams. 

Download path_of_development_assmnt.pdf

As you’ll see, there are six stages of development:
1. Restoration Stage
2. Personal Foundation Stage
3. Adult Stage
4. Attraction Stage
5. Fulfillment Stage
6. Legacy Stage (the most advanced stage)

The length of time a team has been together does not necessarily reflect where they are along their path of development.  There are many well-established teams that are at the Personal Foundation Stage (and may remain there for the life of the team). 

One way to determine the stage of the team is to administer the assessment to all the team members.  Compile the data from all of the individual assessments and average the scores and you’ll get a clear sense of where the team is along their path of development.

If your content is designed for a team at the Legacy Stage but the team is actually at the Restoration Stage then you’ve got problems.  Conversely, if your material is designed for teams at the Restoration Stage and you are trying to sell it to a team at the Legacy Stage then you’ve got problems.  Knowing where the team is along their path of development will help you design your training event to meet the needs of the team.

Moving along the Path of Development takes dedication from the team and the team leader.  It’s not possible to move quickly along this path just like it’s not possible to grow corn quickly.  A short (1-3 day) workshop is only the beginning.  The team must commit to a long-term (6 months to 12 months) plan, which involves team and individual coaching most of which is delivered via telephone.  The coaching program is designed to help the team members make significant progress along the path – and this is important – they progress together.  As the individuals progress so will the team as a whole.  The benefits to this approach are remarkable, both for the individual and the team.

If you lead a team and you want to find out more about my team coaching program send me an email and we can schedule a time to talk. 

Keyboard team building game

Here's a team building game that puts your old keyboard to use.  You know that keyboard, it's the one you were thinking about throwing away.

Keyboard_keys_1First, you'll have to pull all the keys off the keyboard.  It's usually very easy.  Before you start pulling keys, make sure you don't need that keyboard anymore because there's no going back.  A warning note:  don't let your small children see you dismantle this keyboard or they might try it on one you need! You'll end up with around 60 keys (60 pieces).

At the beginning of your next workshop, when you need an "icebreaker", have everyone select a key while they are entering the room.  When the time is right, share what they are to do with this key (this is what you say)...

"I pulled all of these keys off of one keyboard.  If one of the keys was malfunctioning or missing (before I dismantled the keyboard) then it would not be possible to operate the computer at its full potential.  Each key brings a unique attribute to the keyboard (the team/community).  What does the key you've selected say about an attribute  you bring to a team (you bring to this/our team)?  Get in groups of three and share your thoughts and insights."

Give the groups of three enough time to talk and then ask everyone to re-focus their energy on the large group.  Ask if there are any insights or new understandings that people would like to share with the large group.

Another way to use this activity…

My wife attends a local Toastmasters group once a week and she recently led this keyboard activity but in a slightly different way than described above.  Each person was given a key and then certain people were asked to stand up and (using impromptu speaking skills) answer a question such as:

  1. The key you're holding represents an important speaking skill.  Identify the skill and describe why it's important.
  2. The key you're holding represents something you're thankful for.  What is it and why are you thankful for it?
  3. The key you're holding is actually a vitamin.  What does this vitamin do?

This keyboard activity reminds me of the following Universal Truth:  what you sow so shall you reap.  My wife and I describe it to my six-year-old son as “what you put out is what you get back”.  Cause and effect.

When typing on a keyboard (when it’s hooked up to a computer) you expect to see the letter “e” appear on the screen when you press the letter “e” on the keyboard. The letter “e” shows up after you take action.  You wouldn’t sit in front of your computer and say “I’ll press the “e” only after it shows up” or “I’m going to hope for the letter “e” to show up on the screen”.  In a similar way, if my son wants to experience more kindness in his life then he must first express kindness to others. 

How does this work?  Read on… 

We are magnets.  We attract things, situations and people into our lives by what we think, say and (most powerfully) by what we strongly FEEL on a regular basis. The strong feelings act like a giant magnet and begin to draw MORE things, situations and people that are in harmony with what we are feeling.

This Universal Truth is called the Law of Attraction and is in effect all the time, which means it’s working as powerfully for the things you have intense emotions for that you do want (joy, creativity, love, health, abundance, etc.) as those you don’t want. For example, if you have strong feelings of anger towards someone on a regular basis then you are attracting more anger into your life.  This anger may show up in many different ways – it could be an angry motorist cuts you off or you might receive an angry phone call from a customer or you may intensify your own feelings of anger thus making you sick.  On the other hand, when you feel joyful then you are attracting more joy into your life and this joy will manifest in many different ways. 

The Law of Attraction is like the Law of Gravity.  Gravity is neither good nor bad.  Gravity just is.  You can use gravity to have fun, like skiing down a hill.  Attraction is the same way.  You can choose how  you’ll interact with it.  When you become conscious of what you are feeling you can begin to consciously attract more of what you desire.

For instance, if you’re on a dysfunctional team and you’re angry and upset about it then you are going to attract more dysfunction.  The path out of this cycle is to imagine, with as much clarity and emotion as possible, that the team is running perfectly.  Imagine what it feels like when all of the team members are caring, respectful, creative, courageous and wise.  Imagine this situation frequently and enjoy the feeling.  When you do this you will attract the people, situations and resources necessary to create a high functioning team.

Are you new to the Law of Attraction?  Listen to this free audio interview with Law of Attraction expert Michael Losier HERE.

Looking for more innovative teambuilding games?  Members of the International Association of Teamwork Facilitators have access to a growing online archive of teambuilding games (complete with video clips and downloadable directions).  Read all the member benefits CLICK HERE.

Learn how to teach Law of Attraction principles through experiential teambuilding games HERE.

How to Get Unstuck

As a coach to individuals and teams I often work with people who feel stuck.  I use a number of tools to help people and teams get unstuck and I'd like to tell you about a new one I've found - - it's a book entitled "Get Unstuck & Get Going - - On The Stuff That Matters" authored by certified coach and consultant Michael Bungay Stanier.

GuggsystemGet Unstuck & Get Going is a remarkable tool. I wish I had thought of it myself. It uses an innovative design to tap right and left brain styles of thinking combined with an easy to follow "Action Acceleration Sheet" so that you follow through on the insights you glean from the process.

I've been so impressed with the book that I contacted Michael and arranged an interview - -
Icon_audio_7click on the link below to listen as Michael and I discuss tools and techniques for helping people get unstuck.
Download michael_bungay_stanier_mp3_sm.mp3

Click here to order the book.

During the interview, Michael mentions something called a "Drama Triangle".  It's worth taking a look at this e-newsletter article

Teams In Trouble 5: Communication Breakdown

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
-- George Bernard Shaw (Nobel Prize winning playwright)

When it comes to communication within a team, Mr. Shaw hit the nail on the head.  Lack of communication (clear, timely, purposeful and considerate communication) is a problem faced by many every team.

And what happens when communication runs afoul on a team?

Team_buildingTRUE STORY...

A VP overhears some employees discussing how poor communication is between regional and corporate offices.  At the next senior management meeting the VP shares what he’s heard to determine the validity. 

And that’s when it happens.

Voices suddenly become raised, fingers start to point, and sweeping statements are made like “Forget about the communication issues between regional and corporate, we don’t communicate properly on this senior management team!” 

Suddenly, the group goes quiet.  The truth has been revealed.

You are the trainer called in to help the team.  What do you do?

On Wednesday October 5, 2005 I led a free teleclass along with my colleague Michael Goldman of to answer this very question.

Michael shared a proven tool to help a team develop an effective communication strategy.  His 2-step process is recommended for assisting a team or department in defining it’s internal (member to member) and external (stakeholders outside the team) communication strategy.

I shared two of my favorite teambuilding activities that help teams EXPERIENCE what it takes to communicate effectively and with focused purpose.

The number of people attending the Teams In Trouble TeleSeminars is growing.  For the first time, we actually ran out of space - - we reached the capacity of the conference bridge line (150 people). 

Access to the free recording of the teleclass and the written material has expired.

New Research Supports Team Building Games

MarkspringstonDr. Mark Springston (pictured) has recently completed (spring 2005) research indicating that teaching team skills through team building games works!

Here's the scoop: 
For his dissertation topic of "Teamwork And Technological Problem Solving" Mark conducted an experiment with 294 (99 teams) first year college engineering students at Virginia Tech. 

This large group of students was divided into two smaller groups and on a Saturday morning in October 2004 I worked with half of the group (the "treatment" group) for 3 hours, leading them through a series of experiential team building activities (the kind of activities I teach at  The other half of the group (the "control" group) were offered a series of cognitive exercises (they didn't receive team training).

After lunch, the students (all of them) were placed in teams of 2, 3 or 4 and then assigned a technological problem to solve.  It was challenging, taking four hours to complete, and it required team skills to do well.  More importantly, the results of their efforts could be easily measured. 

And the results?  Dr. Springston reports that group sizes of 2 and 3 experienced little or no benefit from the "treatment" (the team training I provided).  HOWEVER, the teams of 4 that received my training did EXCEPTIONALLY better than the groups of 4 that received no training.  During the interview I did with him (see link below) Mark shares his observations as to why the groups of 4 did so much better. I suggest that teams of 2 or 3 people without team training can essentially force their way through the exercise to achieve positive results.  However, when you get a group of 4 people who must work together, well, this is the "tipping point" - - a team this large can't perform at a high level without training.  Teams of 4 people or greater that have received training in how to work effectively as a team (especially using experiential activities) have a huge advantage - - they are way more likely to perform at the highest levels.

Dr. Springston is quick to tell me that his research doesn't prove anything - - rather, the results do support his hypothesis - - investing a short period of time (3 hours in this case) teaching team skills through team building games helps teams perform at considerably higher levels.

Icon_audio_4Listen to the 50 minute audio interview with Dr. Mark Springston to get all the details of this study.  Click on the link below to listen to the mp3 file.
Download mark_springston_mp_sm.mp3

Pdf_icon_3Dr. Springston's full dissertation will be made available online through Virginia Tech within the next year (I'll let you know when it's available).  Until then you can read the dissertation abstract here:
Download springston_abstract.pdf

Are you ready to help your team function at a higher level?  Teach them team skills through engaging and challenging teambuilding games.  I've developed a series of multi-media training CDs to help you:  Learn about them here.

Are you interested in the technological challenge the engineering students had to solve in teams in the afternoon of the study?  Click here

Dr. Springston has a degree in "technology education" from Virginia Tech (as do I).  Want to find out more about the field of technology education? Click here

Want to contact Dr. Mark Springston?  You can reach him through the "people search" function at the Virginia Tech website (Mark is trying to avoid spam otherwise I'd post his email address here).  Here's the link to the VT website.