Posts Tagged ‘problem solving’

Why Team Building Activities to Start the New Year?


Are you looking for ways to improve your team culture for the new year? Team building activities help build a purposeful team culture within your organization, so why not include a workshop in your annual kick-off meeting?  One of the reasons companies have offsite team meetings is to not only share and gather information but also to improve their team culture by giving people “face time”.  If you’re planning an offsite meeting, here are some things to keep in mind.

In today’s economy everybody has to learn to do more with less.  What happens when we have limited resources?  How do limited resources impact our relationships and integrity?  Teams can learn to think creatively through team building activities. Oftentimes in team building workshops, participants are given a series of creative challenges and problem solving activities. What they realize is just because they’ve always done something a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s the way they should continue to do it. To not only survive, but thrive we need to do things differently to get better results.  Rather than looking for what’s not working – ask what’s possible.  This releases creativity and attracts those who care and are committed to making it happen.

When you have an annual meeting it’s a great opportunity for your team to get to know each other through interactive team building activities.  You can build camaraderie with interactive sessions because when we are connected to each other, we participate.  When we have trust, we take risks.  When we care, we are willing to go the extra mile.  Collaboration and creativity start when we begin to know each other as human beings, not just roles or titles.  For example, we provided our Build-A-Bike® team building workshop for a client in the Seattle area last month. Because of the interactive team building activities, the participants said they knew each other better after a half day session than after a year sitting next to each other in cubicles.  And when times are uncertain, it’s the relationship that matters.

Team building activities that include a philanthropic twist have become increasingly popular in recent years.  And with good reason!  Service to others is a strong part of the culture within many companies who want to feel good by giving back – and not just during the holidays.   Our charitable bike building workshop is by far our most popular because teams build bikes that are then donated to children in the community.  Do you remember what it felt like when you got your first car – how it expanded your world?  A new bike can change the life of a child, and it’s a goose bump moment when you watch them ride it for the first time.  Decide if a service mentality is an important part of your culture, and send that message at your next offsite meeting.

So if you want to improve your team culture, start at your next offsite meeting by learning to think creatively and be resourceful, building camaraderie with interactive sessions, and feeling good by giving back in some way. Your team will discover together what it cares about and set your company up for a successful new year.

Colette Johnston is a Corporate Development Manager who works with clients in over 30 major cities including Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and New York. Interested in a Team Building Event?

Good is the Enemy of Great

Voltaire said it first, and while many people have said it in various ways, it all means the same thing. When we try to be good at too many things, we end up being great at none of them.

Consider this scenario.

Stressed out and overextendedMary is the manager of a medium-sized division in her company. She is responsible for the work that her division does for the company, as well as managing the 25 associates that work in the division. She reports to a company Vice President, and is occasionally asked to make reports to the entire group of Vice Presidents. Mary has job responsibilities that extend beyond managing the people in her division. Yet she spends much of her time putting out fires with and for them. They like and trust her, and it makes her feel important to help them with their work issues.

 Mary finds herself constantly feeling like she is trying to catch up at work. She often works very long hours, staying way past everyone else, and lives with her Blackberry glued to her hand. She feels guilty for not spending more time with her family. She often misses evening or weekend family commitments to take care of something at work. Mary is totally stressed out and over extended. She feels like she can’t get a handle on the never-ending ‘fires’, and wants to quit.

Mary’s scenario may not be your own. However, I would assert that too often, many of us are guilty of getting caught up in other people’s expectations or demands on our time without taking the time to consider our effectiveness.

Are you trying to be good at too many things and sacrificing being great at just a few? Are you losing sight of the bigger picture, scrambling around, and feeling trapped on a hamster wheel?

To engage in ongoing development as a leader means evaluating these questions every so often. And to really evaluate them, you need to get specific.

Everyone, regardless of your position at work, can benefit from engaging in intentional reflection. Here are some steps to get you started:

  1. Get it on the calendar: Decide how often you want to reap the benefits of the process and then write it into your calendar. Treat it with the same importance that you treat any other meeting. We recommend allocating two hours to this process, and scheduling it once a week, once every two weeks, or at the very least, once a month.
  2. Problem Solving Time Goes First: Spend the first hour of your reflection time on problem solving. The focus of this type of reflection is short-term and tactical. We are inundated with problems at work every day. To address them effectively, we need to reflect on them. Make a list of problems. Pick the priorities and work them out. Do as many as you realistically can.
  3. Think Strategically and Seek Wisdom: The second hour of your time should be spent on this longer-term type of reflection. It is more proactive and requires discipline and accountability. There will always be dozens of immediate demands! But without this type of reflection, you will find it very difficult to control your time and your situation.
  4. Take Action!: Using what you’ve done in the two hours of reflection, make a plan of concrete steps that you can follow to get you there. Take it to the next level and find someone with whom you can share your plan of action who will hold you accountable for actually doing it.

Many of us are so busy putting out fires and responding to the immediate and never-ending daily demands of our lives that we do not carve out time to gain control. Often people refer to it as ‘taking time for themselves’. It falls again and again to the bottom of the priority list.

We challenge you to try carving out this block of time even once, and see what kind of benefits you can reap. And if you want a partner in this process, and more detailed guidance on how to engage in this discipline, we’re just a phone call away.

Problem Solving Tips

By Doug Staneart

Five years ago, a couple of instructors that I was working with and I were brainstorming about different ways to promote our training programs more easily. Up to that point, I had spent my entire career in training focused primarily on helping individuals become more successful by helping them strengthen certain skill sets such as public speaking, management skills, and selling skills. We noticed that out of our classes, about 80% of participants were individuals, about 15% came with a friend, and about 5% came as a group. We knew that these groups who attended together leveraged the results of the programs significantly, because they held each other accountable for implementation of the skills. They also discussed the class within the office setting. What we didn’t know was why more teams weren’t registering.

We decided to use the problem solving process that we teach in our classes to see if we could come up with different ways to increase group enrollment.

Step #1: Identify the Specific Problem and Create a One-Sentence Description.

This step sounds easy, but it is actually the most difficult and the most critical step as well. If your problem statement is too vague, then you will likely struggle with trying to come up with valid solutions. Also, if the problem statement is too encompassing, then a solution might be too complex to easily implement. For example, if we decide that the problem we want to overcome is poor customer service, then the group is likely to spend countless hours trying to first define customer service, and then coming up with every solution under the sun to try to fix the customer service problem. The success of the solution would be hard to measure. However, if we broke customer service into more specific parts such as eliminating rudeness from our call center agents or increasing repeat sales from existing customers, then we could more easily solve a complex problem.

In the example above where I mentioned that our instructors wanted to increase group participation, our original problem statement was related to increasing repeat business from first time clients. After a little investigation we found that companies that sent two or more people to our classes were 30 times more likely to send people in the future than companies that sent an individual. When we identified that trend, we created a more specific problem statement which was, “In what was can we increase group participation in our classes?”

Step #2: What are the Possibly Causes

A common error at this point in the process is to jump right into looking for solutions to the problem before trying to identify the root causes of the problem. This usually results in a “band-aid” solution or a solution that just treat symptoms. It would be like reaching under your dashboard and clipping the wire to your “Check Engine” light. Sure you won’t see the light anymore, but the underlying root cause and root problem in the engine is still there.

Take some time to identify what some of the root causes of the problem are, and your team will come up with solutions to these root causes much more quickly.

In our example, we started looking at the way our company marketed our programs and found some glaring causes that we had overlooked time and time again. The underlying root cause that we found was that our entire marketing effort was geared toward individuals. Our marketing pieces said things like “helps YOU overcome the fear of public speaking.” Our registration form only had room for one person’s name. We had no group discounts. These were all root causes.

Step #3: What are the Possible Solutions

Once the root causes are uncovered, solutions should start popping like popcorn. In our case, we redesigned our registration form and marketing pieces and began offering a group discount. In the next six months, out percentage of group registrations versus individual registrations tripled. In the next six months, the percentage of group registrations tripled again.

In our case, we had a number of solutions to choose from and each was helpful in helping solve our problem, but in some cases, you may have to weed out possible solutions to discover a best possible solution.

Step #4: What’s the Best Possible Solution

In this step, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of each solution to determine what is the best plan of action based on what we know today. You may find that half way through implementation that one of the other solutions might work better. It’s okay to regroup and begin to implement another solution if the first “Best Possible Solution” turns out to be a poor choice after all. Don’t be afraid to take risks, though. Be willing to go out on a limb to create a breakthrough.

Step #5: Create an Implementation Plan

Most problem-solving meetings end when the solution is determined. Don’t fall into this trap though. Once the solution is decided upon, create a detailed plan of action that hold specific people accountable for implementation. By doing this, you ensure that the solution that you worked so hard for actually pays off for you and your company.

Doug Staneart, is CEO of The Leader’s Institute® Entrepreneur Workshops. He can be reached toll-free at 1-800-872-7830.

Contact Us

(800) 872-7830

Contact Information

Corporate Office:
The Leader's Institute ®
5430 LBJ Freeway, Suite 1200
Dallas, TX 75240
Phone: (214) 989-4131

Site Map | Privacy Policy | © 2016 The Leaders Institute - All Rights Reserved