5 Ways to Ensure Your Teambuilding Will Suck

By James Carter

There are many reasons why a team building activity will fail.  Meaning it sucked.  Let’s be honest, there are many that are really terrible.  We have run a few of them ourselves that utterly failed.  It is embarrassing to admit and it is almost always because we committed one of the 5 below.

Avoid the Top 5 below and you are definitely on the right track to having a GREAT experience.

#5 – Wrong Activity, Wrong Time

There are MANY different activities to select from and each of them has their own place.  You use the right one at the right time a MAGIC – the best discussion you have ever had as a group.  Yet you use the wrong one at the wrong time and it’s like someone volunteered everyone to go to the dentist for a root canal.


#4 – No Application to Work / Life

Spending time away from making money or saving money – the only two end results of every employee – means that you need to make the time matter and make sure the participants can apply what they have learned.  You don’t have to directly apply it to work even.  But they need to be able to learn something AND have a way to make a meaningful change, even if that change is very small.  If every person makes one small meaningful or positive change, that adds up!


#3 – Make it a Quasi Therapy Session

Make it a focus on Personal Issues or a way to confront a small group of trouble makers.  This inevitably creates a ‘bitch’ session that is very hard to stop.  We have been hired more times than I can count because two or three people had a personal issue and the manager did not to deal with it directly.  Instead, they decide to have a ‘team building’ session!  Everyone knows why they are there and resent it.  Please, please, PLEASE do not put your people through a team building session unless you are there for the entire team to learn and do something different as a result.


#2 – Focus on ‘Getting out of our comfort zone’

It is inevitable that some individuals will be pushed out of their comfort zone and almost everyone at some point.  That is a given.  But pushing people beyond their comfort zone should not be the goal.  When is that the goal at work?  Typically we need to be out of our comfort zone to learn in an experiential way.  Or, at least learn the fastest.  That is why immersion learning for language works so well.  In order to be back in your comfort zone, you have to learn REAL fast.  So getting out of your comfort zone is good but only as a way to create a better learning environment and not as the goal.


#1 – Focus on ‘FUN’

Fun is great.  I LOVE fun.  But if that is all you are doing, you are NOT building a team.  You just had a great time.  And maybe have a couple of cool stories.  But that is all you have.  And there is a place for that.  There is also a place for taking everyone out to a ball game or bowling on a random afternoon.  But that is simply having a good time together and NOT team building.   Call it something, but do not call it ‘team building’.  That is easily the #1 way good team building gets a bad name.

I hope this helps you think about your activity before you run it and will help you run a kick-ass activity!


We would love to hear your thoughts about other ways and build this into a TOP 10 Ways to Ensure your Team Building Will Suck!


Common Questions About Corporate Team Building

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Corporate team building is the newest innovation that is being used to incorporate positive attitude to the workforce for the main goal achieving the aim of the company. In the present working environment, we are faced with the fact that we have no choice but to work with people who have multifaceted characteristics. We use this kind of strategy to ignite team spirit from each other that will be the main tool for people to achieve success for the company. Success comes from team unity and not just from divided effort, they have to work as one to get the company’s mission.

What are the advantages of corporate team building?

There are a lot of benefits that you can get from conducting team building activities and one of the main reason is to improve communication within the group or workers. If done well, management of the group can be done easily because there is a smooth communication between them and they will be able to discuss problems without barriers. It is very important that they understand each other well enough to achieve their common goal. Factors like attention to details, problem solving, decision making and good communication should be targeted to avoid stress.

When do you proceed to team building activities?

You will know when to apply team building activity when the communication within the group is not working anymore. When the company or organization is losing their potentials for better meant, it just means to say that they need to repair something that is missing within the workforce. May it be poor problem solving capabilities, conflict within the group, and resentment between employees.

Various techniques with corporate team building

Facilitators and organizers of team building activities provides different techniques to instill motivation and positivism within the group depending of the effort needed. Experts do have an accurate clockwork to follow once they will be able to find out the main problem of the company. You may either go for outing, camping, go to the beach, hunting, or do something extreme and adventurous just to rekindle the fire within. There are extreme, adventurous, mild and moderate activities that can be done.

Ask from the experts

You will be able to know more from facilities that offer training for team structuring events and they have their packages depending on the kind of activity you want to indulge in. It will all depend in the king of activity that you want to incorporate with your teams as well.

James Carter is the Founder and CEO of Be Legendary, a socially inspired team and personal development company. James has created emotional learning experiences for thousands of participants through executive retreats and large meetings. James’ passion lies in helping each person feel valuable as an individual and as part of the whole.

Just contact James Carter HERE.

Cargill Builds 15 Bicycles for the Geneva Boys and Girls Club

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Cargill set a Legendary precedent kicking off their three-day, northeastern conference building 15 bicycles for the youngsters of the local Boys and Girls Club of Geneva.

With corporate responsibility threading together their international initiatives in food and agriculture, they were given a unique opportunity to literally give back to their customers.

As 180 Cargill employees and their spouses gathered at the Watkins Glen Park Community Center, they gazed upon 15 large rectangular boxes.

“Today you will be building Cargill’s latest and greatest product,” said Be Legendary’s Founder and Chief Instigator James Carter.

With a simple countdown, these participants were off and building what they now found to be bicycles.

As wheels were attached to frames and these new products were beginning to take shape, Carter redirected the crowds attention.

“These are not just ordinary bicycles,” said Carter. “This is a dream come true for a child. And we just so happen to have some special guests here for you.”

With that, music blasted as Cargill was greeted by the smiling faces of 15 children of the Geneva Boys and Girls Club.

Try not smiling at that.

It was not the fact that these individuals built a bicycle, it is about what that bike means.  To a child it means freedom.  It means wind blowing in your hair and two tiny pedals at your feet.  It means happiness.

Building a bicycle may not be super exciting.  You screw in pedals, attach a handle bar, put on a reflector, and all the while, hope you are doing it correctly.  But the moment that child’s face comes into the picture, every action that went into building a bicycle takes on a whole new meaning.

There is meaning behind everything we do.  Although, children do not come into our offices everyday and remind us of this.  You may have to look a little to see it.

When a child brings home a lump of clay from art class, there is meaning behind that.

When a company launches a new product, there is meaning behind that.

When your spouse asks you to cook dinner tonight, there is (definitely) meaning behind that.

When we choose a life of meaning, we are choosing an intentional life. Everything you say or do means something.

For the participants of Cargill they came together as one team to build bicycles for the local Boys and Girls Club.  But the meaning of their actions is in the value they place on their company, their community, and on Tuesday, making a child’s dream come true.

Extreme Executive Retreat

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By James Carter

Tim Hume of CNN interviewed Founder and CEO, James Carter, about the extreme nature of our executive retreats and why they are essential for some executive teams:

A short article can never capture everything that is important but Tim does a great job of highlighting the role these retreats have in the ‘Executive Retreat’ realm.

There are many other articles out there that emphasize the value of extreme retreats but they are not to be selected randomly.  Like every other format for retreats, the structure must support the overall goals and outcomes.  Or you just end up having a great time – not a bad thing, but you are losing the value of an executive retreat.

The most valuable time you can spend is having a firm understanding of where you are now – A, and where you want to be – B.  While this is simplistic, it is not necessarily easy.  It may require  great deal of courage to face the current situation!

And once you know A, understanding B is the next step – where do you want to be?  What do you want from your executive team?  Generalities DO NOT work here.  What are specific behaviors you want members of the executive team showing.  If you answer with something like ‘collaborating’, you are not digging deeply enough and keep going.  What will more collaboration do for the organization?

In addition, what are the goals the team must hit?  What are those ‘B’s’?

With those answers in mind, you select the format and structure for an executive retreat.  And perhaps something extreme is in order!

Read more about the A to B strategy.

Read the article here!


The Carrot and Stick Approach No Longer Applies

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Most of the time, business is at the forefront of change in our society. Sometimes, on the cutting and bleeding edge of change.

But from time to time, business is sadly behind what we know to be fact.

This is especially true when it comes to what motivates employees within a company.

Traditionally, a ‘Carrot and Stick’ approach to rewarding employees has worked very well.

A goal is set and if you achieve it, you get the carrot. If you fail to achieve it, you get the stick.

According to Dan Pink, author of Drive, the Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, the carrot and stick still work, but in narrowly defined areas.

These areas are in simple problem situations – ‘in the box’ creativity versus ‘out of the box’ creativity.

Using Duncker’s famous ‘Candle Problem’, intrinsic versus extrinsic motivators were tested by Princeton professor Sam Glucksberg.

In one experiment, two groups were asked to solve the problem of how to affix a candle to a wall, given a simple wax candle and a box of tacks.

One group he told he was just timing them for norms. The other group he told if they finished in the top 25% of times they would get $5 and if they finished fastest overall they would get $20.

The key to solving the problem is to use the box of tacks as a holder for the candle, a rather creative and ingenious solution to the task.

So what happened? The group that was promised rewards for the fastest times actually took longer to complete the task.

In fact, they took and average of three and half minutes longer than the group that was not promised incentives.

How does this happen?

It’s simple.

External rewards to increase motivation can serve as blinders for our creatiivty.

A lot of the solutions to our problems are out on the periphery. But the external reward cause us to narrow our focus and our potential solutions.

But what if you take the tacks out of the box to begin with?

The solution becomes obvious and the external motivators WORK! The groups that were incented by money do, in fact, perform more quickly.

What does this tell us?

Pink does a fantastic job of highlighting this in his TED presentation.

External, carrot and stick, reward systems worked in the 20th century because most of our problems were more simplistic.

Dont’ get me wrong, even with the tacks out of the box, it is still a creative solution to tack the box onto the wall!

But in the 21st century, we will have more and more need for solutions that require us to take the tacks ‘out of the box’ and create a solution.

For that to occur, we need to intrinsically motivate people.

What does that mean? Well, many things. Google famously created the 20%. 20% of the time, Google employees spend on whatever they want. Most of the new products that come from Google come from the 20% time.

Pink also mentions ROWE environments, Results Only Work Environments, in which employees set their own time, come in when they want and are not required to attend any meetings. These have shown to be highly effective in white-collar work situations.

Bottom Line

Moving forward, organizations need to intrinsically motivate employees if we care about achieving greater results and creating positive workplaces. It will take extra time and energy up front, but the dividends will pay off huge if done correctly.

If you are unsure where to start, you might want to look at our activities. They are set up to help individuals be introspective and truly understands themselves.

We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”

Marshal McLuhan

About the Author

James Carter is Founder and CEO of Repario. Repario helps companies connect the hearts, hands and minds to their organization through Emotional Experiences and sustaining the individual motivation through unique technology applications. Additionally, James recently authored Discovering Your Inner Strengths with Ken Blanchard, Brian Tracy and Steven Covey.

About Repario

We are a commited group of individuals focused upon helping you improve individuals, teams and leaders through experiential opportunties that connect the heart and mind.

Myers Briggs (MBTI) as a Team Building Tool


We talk a lot about tools for use in team building.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of tools available and used in ‘team building’ situations.

Whether it is a true ‘team building’ or not is not relevant here as Myers Briggs is actually an individual tool first.

However, a short discussion of tools are necessary before we can talk specifically about Myers Briggs.

You can give individuals the best tool in the world and they will still not use it or use it correctly.

Think of a shovel — you bring in a shovel and train the participants to use it. Then ask them to dig a hole. Shovel ready

Some will take the shovel and begin to dig.

Some will actually turn the shovel upside down and dig with the wrong end.

And yet some people will throw the shovel aside and begin digging with their hands.

It does not matter how great the tool is, many people will simply not use it. It may too difficult to learn yet another new tool. It is much easier to just do things the way I have always done it.

Team building tools, like Myers Briggs, are shovels.  They are simply tools to help you accelerate your learning, your productivity, improve yourself and your relationships.  But no one can make you use it if you don’t want, no matter how great the tool is.

Now, specifically about the Myers Briggs.

I like the Myers Briggs. However, I have found several common themes:

1. In a ‘team’ setting, I have found it is simply too much information. Myers Briggs is incredibly in depth. However, to it’s detriment. I cannot tell you how many times have come into a group setting after they have just taken the MBTI and all they can remember is the first of four letters, “I am an ‘E’…. something”.

While some of that can be attributed to the ‘shovel’ problem, it also is an indicator that the tool is not simple enough to be digested in an 8-hour ‘team building’ session. And unfortunately, that is how it is used much of the time.

2. There are problems with face validity of the tool. People don’t like to think they are so simple that they fit into one of sixteen types. So there is resistance that must be overcome and that takes away from valuable time.

3. You must really know the MBTI on an individual basis before you can use it as a ‘team’ tool. Since the learning is difficult as mentioned above, using it in any kind of team setting is difficult to impossible.

So, overall, using the shovel and digging a hole metaphor, the MBTI is not the right tool. It is more like a roto-tiller — high-powered and very useful, but not in a shallow ‘team building’ session that only lasts a single day. It churns up too much with no time to ‘smooth’ out the service.

A confused mind says ‘no’, and so, the tool is simply not used.

Where we find it useful is in smaller executive teams that we work with frequently both as a team and individual coach. The nuances can be fleshed out and the potential learning is much deeper than many other tools available.

Use this great tool, but make sure it is the right tool.  After all, you might be needing a rake instead of a shovel!

10-Step Survival Guide for Tough Times


Times are tough.

2 million jobs lost in 2008, 533,000 in November alone, the most in 34 years.  Manufacturing is down.  Now the automotive industry is requiring a bailout.

The economy is moving into a very difficult and tumultuous time.  We are all feeling nervous about what is coming.  Even companies in strong positions are running scared.

But, in the meantime, we must accomplish more in less time! Why? Because of the 2 million lost jobs.

We MUST be more productive and it is quite possible our job depends upon it.

What can you do?

Surprisingly, more than you might think.  Below are some ideas that may help you and/or the people you work with.  Follow our made-up 10-step recovery system and you will at least feel better:

  1. Stop reading the news. Or at least read less.  The dire headlines will continue with every nuance discussed about how the economy will never recover.  It makes for good, continuous coverage for journalists but is bad for our psyche. When the economy is recovering, the news will trumpet that too. Absolutely stop watching the news, for the same reasons as above.
  2. Do something selfless. Go do something positive and self-less for someone else.  You will feel good, they will feel good and perhaps someone is watching your random act of kindness.
  3. Create a ‘Thankful’ List. Sit down as a group and create your ‘Most Thankful’ list.  Each person shares one item on the list. We really do have a great deal to be thankful for. Go volunteer at a homeless shelter if you don’t feel thankful. Trust me, you will after that.
  4. Think positive thoughts – you will, in fact, get through this.  Say it to yourself.  Say it to each other. This may seem silly, but thinking positively is a habit. Create a good habit.
  5. Find Motivational Quotes. Assign a task for everyone to go out and find their favorite motivational quote, then share it with each other about why you picked that particular quote.  What personal meaning does it have.
  6. Fund an Entrepreneur. Have everyone pitch in $5.00 and create a pool. Goto www.Kiva.org and invest in an entrepreneur in a third world country. There are dozens to choose from and through the process, you get to decided, as a group, the kind of person and industry you want to support. This can lead to a great discussion of values.
  7. Spend Time As A Group. Set focused time aside to problem solve as a group.  We have tremendous experience that we could share.  When times are good and the money is rolling in, no one needs to worry about best practices or share ideas.  Right now is the time.  Now.
  8. Communicate Clearly. Communicate VERY clearly about the above tasks and any other tasks, situtation or challenge facing your group.  Don’t make it sound more that it is – be honest and clear, yet positive. Tell people times are tough and you will all need to get through it together.  Difficult times and challenges faced are what bring out character, both individually and as a group.
  9. Buy One of Our Group Activities. Carve out 60 minutes and run it.  It will bring the group together and potentially discussion about how you can all be more productive as a group or possibly communicate better or any number of potential outcomes depending upon which activity you choose.  And worst-case scenario, you purchasing our product will help us and make us feel better!
  10. What is your idea for #10? Send us your best idea for what we should add to this list and you will receive your choice of a digital product — $24.95 value – simply for sharing your knowledge.

Email James Carter at jcarter@buildingteams.com and tell him your idea and which digital product you would like to have and she will respond to you. Pick them here.

We will accumulate the responses and ideas and put them in a future blog post.

Let’s talk seriously for a moment — during these difficult times many organizations struggle with decisions to reduce expenses and even lay off employees.

But now more than ever, it is imperative that companies optimize their employee’s potential and strive to develop a high performance teams.  When companies work with minimal resources, it is more crucial to improve interpersonal relationships in the workplace.  Teams with the right combination of knowledge, skills and motivation to excel can give the organization a competitive advantage.

Whether conducted by company trainers or outside consultants, team initiatives can promote greater cooperation, better communication and minimize dysfunctional conflict.  Experiential learning techniques such as interpersonal trust exercise, collaborative initiatives or interactive games can be very beneficial.

Remember, it is the Holiday season. Give Thanks. Reach out. Help a Stranger. Smile.

The Five C’s Of Managing Virtual Teams


Written with Jennifer Rasmussen

Your face to face kickoff meeting has just been deemed nonessential travel by the powers that be. The project, however, is just as essential as ever. The team members are scattered in offices all over the country. They’ve never met, seen, or heard each other, but they need to work as a unit. Getting them to gel together is your challenge.

Even managers who excel at team building in a live environment can find themselves frustrated when faced with a virtual team; yet fostering a strong team dynamic among people who never meet face to face is fast becoming a necessary skill. These five essential best practices will help you do it.

Communication is the most basic of management tools, and you probably think you have this one down. You know you need to include your team in project planning. You know you need to give timely feedback and immediate updates. But whatever your normal level of communication is, double it with your virtual team.

Clarity, frequency, and responsiveness are the keys. Experts will tell you that anywhere from 65-95 percent of communication is nonverbal. Yet for virtual team members, your words are often most or all of what they have to go on; they don’t necessarily have the opportunity to pick up on the nonverbal cues that make up so much of your message. So make sure your words are clear, and deliver them often. Because their isolation prevents them from coming across information in less formal ways, regular meetings via conference call or other technology are essential for virtual teams. Have them weekly, and keep the appointment, even if you don’t have any big news to report. Keep the agenda posted electronically in an area the whole team can access, and encourage them to add to it. Finally, make answering your virtual team members’ emails and phone calls a priority to make up for the fact that they can’t drop by your desk or catch you in the hall with a quick question.

This is not the same as communication. Communication is professional. Chatting is personal. If you don’t think personal communication is part of your business life, ask yourself if you’ve ever had lunch with a colleague, or stopped to ask how somebody was doing at the water cooler, or looked at the pictures on somebody’s desk. Although your team members hardly need to be kindred spirits to work well together, some level of personal interaction is crucial for team bonding. Virtual teams don’t have lunches together. They don’t share water coolers. They can’t see each other’s desks. Chat cannot easily happen organically, so you need to provide a mechanism for it. Have a virtual pizza party: send a pizza to each location at the same time, and get together in an internet chat session or conference call to gab. Call your team members once in a while just to catch up. There are countless creative ways to introduce chat into your team dynamics; but you must make a conscious effort to do so.

Change it up.
It’s the wealth of technology that we have at our fingertips that makes virtual teaming possible. Telephone and email are far from the only tools at your disposal. Instant messaging systems, collaboration software, group bulletin boards or discussion areas, and chat rooms are all useful for working and meeting together. Many of these tools can be obtained inexpensively or free. Learn what’s out there, and use it all. Vary your methods of communicating, and learn which methods work best for which team members. Some people love email; others prefer the phone. Finally, make sure you are using each type of technology appropriately for the purpose it’s best suited to. If one email has been forwarded and replied to several times among several people, you’d be better off moving the issue to a conference call or online discussion.

Cut out.
One of the most often neglected pieces to building a virtual team is providing a safe place for interaction and discussion without the manager. Whether it’s a regular conference call, a bulletin board, or a chat session, your team needs a “staff room” that isn’t accessible to you. Your live teams can take advantage of their proximity to have discussions about issues without you there, and in doing so they often develop ideas they might not feel comfortable bringing up and working through in your presence. Your virtual team needs the same opportunity. Some managers are uncomfortable creating a space that they can’t get into, but if you ignore this need you not only eliminate a chance for a more free change of ideas, you risk ending up with a team that’s bonded well with you, but not with one another.

Just because you aren’t there to take your team members out to lunch or just stop by to thank them for a job well done, doesn’t mean that everything you know about rewards and recognition doesn’t apply. Accomplishments must be acknowledged and celebrated, as a group when possible and appropriate. There are literally hundreds of ways to achieve this. Take the time to create a periodic newsletter and email or post it; be sure to have a section in it for accolades. Institute a peer-to-peer award system. Send virtual greeting cards or gift certificates from any of the dozens of websites dedicated to these purposes. Send them each a jar of jam when you reach a milestone. However you do it, just make sure you do.

The principles of managing virtual teams well are not much different from the principles of managing anybody or anything well. Apply two more C’s to these five: consistent and conscious. Practice them that way, and it can be virtually painless.

Accountability Starts with You! Excuse Me?

Accountability is a funny thing. Ask almost anyone if they hold themselves accountable and you will receive one of several replies: ‘Of course!’, ‘Sure!’, ‘I do, but no one else seems to!’.

And then reading a book recently about personal accountability and read this statement:

‘Accountability starts with you!’

I could not stop laughing. Perhaps is struck me funny because it was late in bed. My wife thought there was something very wrong with me. Well, perhaps there is, but my response was normal.

I pictured Abraham Lincoln pointing a finger at me while saying very loud and with feeling, ‘Accountability starts with you!’

Houston, we have a problem.

Abe, buddy, turn that finger around.

I understand what the meaning was supposed to be and I even understand it was well intentioned. But that is not what it says. Let’s be correct and accurate if we are talking about accountability. Accountability starts with me. Let’s say what we mean, people. Don’t let Abe or ourselves off the hook here. Let’s hold ourselves accountable for saying what we mean.

Nevertheless, poor Abe is guilty of something we all do at some point. We point fingers. We look to find some outside source to blame for our circumstances. We rage, we yell.

· ‘It was the xyz department.’
· ‘It was the xyz department that forgot to ________.’
· ‘It wasn’t my idea.’
· ‘We could sell more if we had xyz.’
· ‘My manager doesn’t spend enough time with me to train me right.’
· ‘My manager interferes too much.’
· ‘My employees just stand around every chance they get.’
· ‘It’s Not My Fault!, and my personal favorite,
· ‘It’s not my job.’

Sound familiar? I do this EVERY day. This is victim thinking. What will any of those statements do to solve the problem? Nothing.

How often do we look inside and ask ourselves, ‘What could I have done to make that situation better?’ The answer to myself is, ‘Not too often.’

Honestly, I find I have to work very hard to not blame. It is so much easier that trying to work out a solution.

I am no pillar of strength. I fall into the same cycle of victimization as everyone else. I blame, mostly my wife. She is a handy target. But I will choose anyone so that I don’t feel responsible and accountable. Accountable to myself. And I don’t do this on purpose. It is a habit, and not just a habit at home. I carry it to work with me every morning.

How do we stop this cycle of non-accountability, even with ourselves? We already know the answer, the difficulty is sticking to it.

When is the subject of accountability brought up most? When it is CYA time. Very few discussions about accountability are held when things are going well. Why is that? Wouldn’t that be the best time for it? No one is in trouble yet. Everyone is on the same moral high-ground in the beginning. Establish the ground rules for accountability from the start. However, in today’s busy, fast-paced business world, there is simply not time. That is what I am told.

To illustrate personal accountability in it’s best form, I have a short story to tell.

We have recently been working with an employee of a particular company. This person was unhappy with their current work environment and was extremely concerned and frustrated.

This person mistakenly signed up for our free organizational assessment thinking that they would get an answer about her culture in five minutes or so with some great advice on some action they might be able to take.

After this person took the survey and asked where the report was, I explained the survey is for an organization. We needed more people for an analysis.

Most people would simply have said, ‘Thanks for nothing’, but this person made the decision to hold themselves accountable and make something happen.

Email was very difficult in their organization, so they printed the survey, made copies, distributed them, collected them and them inputted ALL the data from each survey by hand. At last count they were up to 46 surveys with each survey having 51 multiple choice answers and four open-ended questions. 46 surveys, all by hand. She even typed in all of the comments in the open-ended questions. Do you realize the work involved with that?

This person is the epitome of personal accountability and the antithesis of apathy. At some point they made the decision to be ‘part of the solution’ and has put in huge amounts of work on their own time to help improve the work environment for themselves, their colleagues and their company. You know who you are and I hope you are as proud of yourself as we are.

It is the aware person who will recognize when personal accountability is lacking in his or her own life. The wise person who will listen to feedback openly. And the brave person who will say “Okay, I’ll do what it takes to change and improve my own life.”

Let’s challenge ourselves and try to be all three — aware, wise and brave. Accountability starts with me!

P.S. In a recent update from the employee above who remained anonymous to her company out of fear of retribution, the company (large, multi-billion dollar international service organization) has made a number of company-wide changes recently that were directly related to many of the comments and results from the organizational assessment. Who ever said that one person does not make a difference?

Team Building Turns Ugly For School Board


By James Carter

Did you see this article with the headline above?

If not, here is the gist:

TAMPA – A Hillsborough School Board training session erupted in accusations, scoldings and door slamming Tuesday as the group met to create a vision for the district.

Packed into a tiny conference room at Orange Grove Middle Magnet School, the board and superintendent met with a facilitator from the Florida School Boards Association to keep them focused.

The meeting had barely started with a discussion of “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” when the veneer cracked.

April Griffin, the newest board member elected in November, said she lacked trust – one of the five dysfunctions – and called board meetings “an orchestrated play” rather than an honest discussion.

She recalled the board’s negative reaction a week earlier at a televised board meeting when she questioned the process of appointing an administrator, not usually done in public.

The group devolved into finger pointing and blaming and ended with April leaving the meeting and vowing not to return to another voluntary ‘team building’ session.

Here is the link if you would like to read the entire story:

While an amusing story we can all relate to, this is a great example of ‘team building’ wrong from the beginning.

First of all, are these people really a team? Do they share the same goal, or do they each have their own goal?

After all, a team is a group of individuals with a common goal. My guess is that each individual of that school board has their own agenda they were more attached to than the ‘team’ goal.

Certainly Pat Lencioni’s book, ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a team’, is a decent place to start. However, the error of the facilitator is that she used the wrong context. It is too personal. The group immediately showed a lack of trust amongst each other and began discussing the lack of trust in the context of their work on the school board.

This is where the use of ‘team building’ activities is important.

I can talk about my lack of trust in the context of a silly game and that I screwed it up for the group. But I cannot make the same admission of error with regard to my work! I have too much ego and pride involved.

Additionally, activities and games help us experience what we actually do versus what we know.  We all know how to communicate well, we just often use all the knowledge we have when we practice communication.


Through the use of activities, the group can talk about what went wrong and right, how they could improve the group process and then translate that learning back to their work on the school board.

Because activities and the facilitation of the discussion after the activity focuses on the process the group went through:

  • Did they communicate well?
  • Was there a lack of trust?
  • Did the group plan?
  • How well did leadership work?

All during the process. Then the process is translated back to work by the group, not the facilitator.

This leads us to the secondary issue — was this a training session or a facilitation? Training and facilitation are very different and require different skills. Training is learning a skill and facilitation is a group process though discussion. Perhaps it was the journalist who made the error.

But this second error is very common in our profession. Trainers are NOT facilitators. A good trainer may also be a good facilitator, but typically not. Educators and trainers are used to teaching — helping individuals learn something new. And they are focused on the learning outcome. This is very necessary in an educational setting, but not in a facilitation setting.

Facilitation is about the group and the group process. The group may learn something completely different than what the facilitator had planned. But that is the power of facilitation. The group will learn what is most important to them, NOT what the facilitator wants them to learn.

When you combine activities with professional facilitation, the outcomes are much more likely to produce positive results.

Beginning a small group discussion and immediately moving into personal issues is sure to bring out offense and defense in each one of us.