ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition — November 2003

In This Issue

Corporate Culture and Survival
In A Nutshell
Proven Strategies on Service and Life
Leading Wholeheartedly: A Quality Approach
Respectful Confrontation for Superior Results

Features

Articles in Brief
The Help Desk
News Bites
What’s Up?

Book Nook

AQP Connections
November 2003 News For A Change — Home Page

NFC Index

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Teams Can Have Fun

With all the pressures facing organizations, it can be difficult enough just doing your job without having to think about teamwork. But whether it’s at work, home, or in some community-based activity, you can always accomplish more working in teams than you can individually. So how can we build teamwork while still getting our work done? It’s tough, but sometimes you need to take a little time out of the office and get away from the work to make the big strides that are necessary to build effective teams.

A few years ago, I had been thinking a lot about how I could add more value to our leadership programs, how to better demonstrate the concepts, and how to add a team-building component to help the groups work together more effectively. As I worked on this in my normal environments of home, work, and client sites, I kept coming up with the same old ideas.

But when my family and I took a trip to Club Med in Sandpiper, FL, I was able to free my mind from the normal routine and explore some new directions and insights.

The Club Med family villages are great places for family vacations. One activity that our entire family enjoyed during our vacation was the flying trapeze. This is not simply a swing that you might find hanging from a tree in your backyard, but a regulation-size flying trapeze similar to what you would see in a circus.

During the course of the week, guests learn how to climb the ladder (no small task for some people) and step over onto the platform. Once there, a circus GO—a Club Med staff member—helps you grab onto the bar of the swing, step off, and “fly.” Next, you learn how to pull your knees up and hook them over the bar to get in position for the catch. When you’re able to do this, a circus GO on the opposite swing will grab onto your wrists and actually catch you as you’re swinging. This is an exhilarating and amazing experience to say the least!

What I began to notice as I watched others learning the trapeze was how the circus team seemed to know intuitively how to instruct each person individually depending on their level of readiness to perform this activity.

When a person was willing and interested, the circus team took a more hands-off approach and offered only general instructions. “Climb the ladder until you reach the net, turn around to the other side of the ladder, climb up to the top, and step over onto the platform,” they instructed.

When a person seemed nervous and apprehensive, the circus team gave very specific instructions on performing individual parts of the process. “I can see you’re a bit nervous. Just climb up six steps until you’re even with the net, then we’ll take it from there,” the GO coached.

The most amazing thing, though, was the way that the guests at the trapeze (from diverse cultures and literally a dozen different countries) began to support each other. Some guests were almost fighting over who would be the first to climb the ladder. Others took a wait-and-see approach. Still a third group stayed back in the shadows, not interested at all in trying the trapeze.

As each person climbed the ladder and stepped off the platform, the people on the ground cheered wildly and applauded after the swing and a safe drop into the net. And when people got caught for the first time, everyone on the ground rewarded them with applause and shouts of praise.
I watched this in amazement, and then it dawned on me. If a group of complete strangers could bond in a matter of hours, just imagine what an intact work group could accomplish!

The result was a new program called “Learning to Fly.” This three-day leadership retreat combines the fun of a Club Med trip, the excitement of the flying trapeze, and the practical value of a leadership-training program.

While a leadership retreat to Club Med is certainly an incentive to attend this program, there are other ways you can achieve similar results locally.

  • Do something unexpected. Show up at a staff meeting with team T-shirts for everyone. Bring in pizza for a lunch meeting. Have a staff meeting at a park.
  • Set stretch objectives. Set the bar high for deliverables and then reward the accomplishment with recognition worthy of the results.
  • Reward team efforts. Instead of singling out individual accomplishments, recognize team efforts, and do so in a way that encourages the team to continue working together.

Remember—the key to developing teams that can work together and have fun is to get all members of the team supporting each other’s individual and group efforts.

A nationally recognized customer service expert, author, and trainer, RON ROSENBERG, CSP, recently founded Drive-You-Nuts.com, a Web site dedicated to helping people get the service they deserve and to teaching companies how to provide it. He has been featured in publications including The New York Times, Smart Money, and Real Simple and has appeared as a guest on nationally syndicated radio shows including “Dateline Washington” and the “Gary Nolan Show.” For more information, visit his Web site at www.drive-you-nuts.com .

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