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8 Lessons on Teamwork from professional Adventure Racer and firefighter Robyn Benincasa

Learning how to build and lead a high performing team is easy.  So why aren't their more high performing teams?  One word:  IMPLEMENTATION

There are plenty of people who know what to do but can't pull it off.  They have the book knowledge and then stumble when it comes time to implement the ideas.

And I want to emphasize this - - I'm talking about building and leading HIGH PERFORMING teams.  The world is filled with mediocre, average and run-of-the-mill teams.  Poor implementation produces poor (or average) teams.

To build and lead a high performing team you must have a "force of will" that will carry you through the tough times (and there WILL be tough times). 

Another name for "force of will" is ATTITUDE.

To build a high performing team you must show up with a different attitude (different compared to what you'll find from leaders of mediocre teams). 

Robyn_01 I recently interviewed Robyn Benincasa who is an expert when it comes to having the right attitude for both leading and being a member of a high performing team.

Robyn is a firefighter in California and she is a professional adventure racer.  During the interview we focused on the lessons she's learned about teamwork through her exploits in adventure racing.

A little background...

Robyn has completed six Ironman races, with two podium finishes in her age group in Kona, Hawaii. In the past 10 years, she has completed over thirteen “expedition length” adventure races (7-10 days, non stop), and has earned World Champion honors in both the Eco-Challenge (Borneo, 2000) and the Raid Gauloises (1998). In addition to her work as a full time firefighter, Robyn runs a training and development business called World Class Teams and is a sought after motivational speaker.

Our interview focused on one of her most popular keynote speeches entitled “8 Essential Elements of Human Synergy”.

The 8 Essential Elements of Human Synergy are an acronym of TEAMWORK:

T -- Total commitment

E -- Empathy and awareness of teammates

A -- Adversity management

M -- Mutual respect

W -- "We" versus "I" thinking

O -- Ownership of the project

R -- Relinquishment of the ego

K -- Kinetic Leadership

To access the recording of this informative 60 minute TeleSeminar login to the Members Only Area of the IATF.  Not a member?  CLICK HERE to join.

Are you ready to become the ULTIMATE TEAMBUILDER?

Check out the new virtual leadership development program Leader As Coach Fast Track Program.  Over the course of this engaging 10-week program you'll make the shift from a traditional (command and control) model of leadership to a more powerful model of leadership based on a "coach approach".  Does it work?  YES!  And we're so confident in the results you'll experience that we offer a powerful guarantee.  CLICK HERE for details.

Watch the video clip below of Robyn talking about Element "K" - Kinetic Leadership

Marshal Goldsmith’s 6 Question Process - - Coaching for Leaders

My friend Ed Nottingham at FedEx points us to a great 6 minute video by executive coach and best selling author Marshal Goldsmith where he outlines his "6 Question Process".

Goldsmith's Six Question Process is designed to help team leaders give team members useful feedback in a coaching relationship. 

Every two or three months the team leader has a one-on-one dialogue with each direct report.

The six questions:

  1. Where are we going?
  2. Where are you going?
  3. What do you think  you're doing well?
  4. If you were the coach for you, what suggestions for improvement would you have?
  5. How can I help?
  6. What suggestions do you have for me to be a better manager?

Learn how to be the ultimate team leader in the Leader As Coach Fast Track Program


Teambuilding Game: Nine Dots

Ninedots_5_2QUESTION:  How do you help a team move to the next level, to shift, to evolve? 

ANSWER:  Help the team think differently. 

The evolution of a team becomes possible when the team begins thinking differently, thinking in new ways.

This teambuilding game called "Nine Dots" is a classic brainteaser used to help people "think outside the box".

Here's the challenge:  Connect all 9 dots using 4 straight connected lines.  You're not allowed to lift your pen/pencil when drawing the lines.

Yes, this challenge can be completed.  If you find someone who can do it in 4 lines then how about ONE line? (yes, that's possible to)

This is a great teamwork exercise to launch into a discussion about possibility thinking.

Would you like to lead this teambuilding game with your group?

Join the International Association of Teamwork Facilitators and receive immediate access to the growing online archive of teambuilding games.  The lead-it-yourself instructions include: 

  • Setup & Preparation directions
  • Rules
  • Comments and insights about the teambuilding game
  • Debriefing suggestions
  • Variations
  • Detailed "how to make it" if props are involved
  • Video clips and photos

Teambuilding Games in Nepal

I just received this email from a subscriber in Nepal (permission to share was granted).

Hello Tom

Excuse my informality. But I feel I know you so well after a year or more of your invaluable advice and my use of your book "Teambuilding Puzzles" and other stuff.

I thought you'd like to know how I've been using your "stuff".

Nepal_1 I am English.  I have aquired a job in a school in a small town here in Nepal as Progams Director.  This involves teaching just a few conversation classes to the higher grades, but more importantly I do teacher training and teacher assessments.

Using your skills I try to introduce both students and teachers to new ways of thinking by giving them problem solving exercises from your book and also to get them to do critical thinking "Out Of The Box".

They LOVE IT!!!!

Both students and teachers have never seen anything like the way I teach.  The teacher training sessions are looked forward to instead of thought of as a dreary and mandatory part of the job.  The teachers are improving their professionalism in leaps and bounds and the students actually enjoy it!

In the next couple of months I will be organizing a Teachers Team Building Day based on your programs.  I have no doubt it will be an eye-opening experience for them and one that will make them work better as a team.

It's sad that at the moment I'm unable to come to any of your workshops, but it's my one ambition to some day be able to do so. 

Of course, you could always come here to do some workshops?!  You'd REALLY love it here. You can see the peaks of the Himalayas as you walk to work every day, and meet some of the warmest people you'll ever meet in your life!


Brian Stokes

Thanks for all your hard work on behalf of my students, my teachers, and above all...ME.

Should you provide a guarantee when offering teambuilding events?

What would happen if you offered a "100% satisfaction guarantee or your money back" pledge with all your teambuilding workshops?

How would this kind of guarantee require you to change the way you do business?

How would it change the way you interact with your client and staff?

John Springer of Four Winds training center recently shared this with me:

For twenty years we have offered every participant in every program this written guarantee:

YOUR GUARANTEE   Our promise is that the Four Winds experience will meet or exceed your participants' expectations – or you will not pay us. 

We've facilitated about 121,000 participants and to date have never been asked to tear up the check.  We quantify that guarantee very simply by asking each participant to answer a 5 question evaluation at the end of the program.  Each question allows the participant to judge the value of their experience on a scale of 1 to 10 - if we have not received an aggregate score of 8, 9 or 10 we simply can't afford to cash the check.

Our favorite aspect of the guarantee is the opportunity to hear and negotiate those expectations that our clients have of us - we think of it as being a 'set-up to succeed'!

Long ago, when I proposed that we institute this guarantee, it generated some thought provoking discussions. 

Staff wanted to know - "if the client's expectations are unmet and they don't pay us, will I still be paid?" 

Staff who are unwilling to accept that level of accountability for their performance choose not to work with us; those that shrug and say "I wouldn't expect to be compensated if I didn't meet or exceeded the client's expectations" are a good fit for our culture.

It was a case of asking staff to share the risk as well as the benefit - which is essentially the definition of entrepreneurship.  It's led us to a recognition that many of the most powerful facilitators have some very entrepreneurial leanings; the Socratic process of discovery through compelling questions requires genuine risk!  It takes courage to ask a question of your group when you don't actually know the answer yourself.  Trial attorney's are schooled to avoid any question to which you don't already know the answer.  Facilitators who fall prey to this view limit themselves greatly, in both the depth and the range of their questions. 

The initial incentive for our guarantee was focused externally, on the client - on building credibility and trust.  It turns out that the greatest value we derived from that process was to our own team -  improved internal  clarity, credibility and trust!

What would happen to your business if you offered the same guarantee John and his team offer at Four Winds?

How would your staff react to getting paid ONLY when the course evaluations result in at least an 8 out of 10?

What kind of customers would you attract if you offered this kind of guarantee?

Who Is Responsible For Your Training & Development?

Here's a true story that raises the question of "Who is responsible for your training and development?"

You be the judge.  What should this team leader do?

True story:  An IATF newsletter subscribers just wrote me and really wants to participate in our new leadership program called the Leader As Coach Fast Track Program.

This manager asked her supervisor if she can participate and the answer came back:

“No, you can’t participate.  We don’t have the money.” 

Then, the manager sends me an email saying:

“Much as I want to, I can’t enroll because my boss says we don’t have the money.”

How would you coach this manager?  What should she do?

Here’s how I responded:

Dear Manager --

It’s unfortunate that your employer doesn’t have the money to invest in your training.  However, the person who is ultimately responsible for your training and development is YOU. 

Now is not the time to place your future in the hands of your supervisor (she’s too busy watching out for herself her limiting beliefs are blocking your potential). 

When you allow your supervisor to determine whether you participate or not you’re abdicating your power and allowing someone else to decide how your future is going to play out.

If ever there was a time to investment in YOUR development IT IS NOW.  Leadership development is THE best investment you’ll ever make.

Why?  Because you’re replaceable.  You’re downsize-able. 

Investing in your leadership development is like investing in your job security. 

The people who will ALWAYS be seen as more valuable in an organization are the ones who demonstrate strong leadership - - the people who make things happen.

Strong leaders know how to make the most out of any situation and they know how to inspire a team to succeed regardless of what CNN is yelling at us.

Strong leaders become invaluable to organizations in uncertain times.

Becoming a Strong Leader

The Leader As Coach Fast Track Program is GUARANTEED to make you a stronger leader. 

That’s right -- GUARANTEED -- or your money back!

Are the results you’ll achieve worth your investment of money, time and energy?  You be the judge.  If you’re not satisfied I’ll refund your money.

If you think you can put this decision off then I would challenge your thinking.  NOW is the time organizations need strong leaders.  If you wait to invest in your own leadership development they may find someone to replace you who HAS made the investment and then...

Face it.  Challenging times call for strong leaders. 

A leader is a person who LEADS!.

Who are you?

Famed Teamwork Coach Cynder Niemela shares key insights for building high performing teams with participants in the Leader As Coach Fast Track Program

Over the past couple of years a profound and important shift has occurred in the way effective managers and supervisors lead their teams.

The Old Way:  Lead through command and control (my way or the highway).

The New Way:   Leadership based on empowerment and possibility thinking.  This new model of leadership is referred to as the "coach approach".

One of the masters of this new coach approach to leadership is Cynder Niemela who authored "Leading High Impact Teams -- The Coach Approach to Peak Performance" and during the summer 2008 Cynder was a guest speaker at the IATF "Leader As Coach Fast Track Program"

Some of the topics Cynder covered included:

  • Defining "authentic leadership"
  • Systems approach to working with teams
  • Best assessments to use with teams
  • Why it's imperative to coach the leader of the team (one-on-one)
  • and more!

Cynder has more than 25 years of experience in coaching executives and business teams worldwide.  Her clients include Ernst & Young, Lucent Technologies, Hewlett-Packard, 3Com Corp, and Oracle Corporation.

Get instant access to this audio when you become a member of the IATF.  Learn more about IATF Member Benefits CLICK HERE