Rockin’ teams know how to “Role” with it

Hobbling down a cobblestone street in New Orleans’ French Quarter, her hand pressed firmly to her lower back, Catherine is clearly struggling with her first treasure hunt experience — and boy is she not happy about it! Her boss Steve — far, far ahead – is setting a breakneck pace, so intent is he on solving the next clue and leading his team to a morning victory. At last the lunch break arrives and, not surprisingly, all hell breaks loose! Catherine is spitting nails with Steve for driving the team so hard as to ignore her ongoing recovery from recent back surgery. Steve is hight on the defensive, declaring he was only pushing everyone so hard for the sake of team motivation and performance.

What has gone wrong here, and how can it be resolved?

Healthy Competition

“Competition is the worst possible arrangement as far as relationship is concerned” –educator Alfie Kohn (1986)

A few weeks back I was invited to observe a teambuilding session involving the cooking of a group meal — call it “team cuisine”. Working in small groups, each team was assigned the task of preparing pizza, salad and dessert for the day’s lunch. The activity started with a food auction, with teams bidding for ingredients. It continued with an hour of food preparation, after which each of the team’s “culinary creations” were judged by a panel for both taste and presentation values. The winning team received a nice prize-and bragging rights.

Sounds like fun, right?

Can People Really Be Motivated?

There’s an old story that goes like this:

“An elderly man has endured the insults of a crowd of ten-year-olds each day as they passed his house on their way home from school. One afternoon, after listening to another round of jeers about how stupid and ugly and bald he was, the man came up with a plan. He met the children on his lawn the following Monday and announced that anyone who came back the next day and yelled rude comments about him would receive a dollar. Amazed and excited, they showed up even earlier on Tuesday, hollering epithets for all they were worth. True to his word, the old man ambled out and paid everyone. “Do the same tomorrow,” he told them, “and you’ll get twenty-five cents for your trouble.” The kids thought that was still pretty good and turned out again on Wednesday to taunt him. At the first catcall, he walked over with a roll of quarters and again paid off his hecklers. “From now on,” he announced, “I can give you only a penny for doing this.” The kids looked at each other in disbelief. “A penny?” they repeated scornfully. “Forget it!” And they never came back again.”

– Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards – The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes, 1993, Houghton Mifflin, pg. 71-72

Bump Set Teamwork

Every week for over 15 years now, I’ve spent my Sunday afternoons playing pick-up volleyball in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. The group’s official name is the San Francisco International Volleyball Club, but it’s not as organized as all that. There are no league tournaments to compete in, no trophies awarded at the end of a successful season. Our interest lies simply in laughing and joking with friends, and playing the game that we all love.

Every session of Sunday volleyball plays out like a Homeric epic, a Shakespearean tragedy. There’s laughter and tears; emergent heroes; flaring tempers; and occasionally, some truly superior volleyball.

If ever there was a spot to observe teams and team dynamics in action – in all their glorious successes and ignominious failures – this is the place!

Birth of a Clue

Over the years, a lot of people have been curious to know about how I got into the teambuilding/clue business. To which I answer, “What, being a Treasure Hunt Master is not a normal career!” As I’ve related my story, however, people have frequently told me that they found it inspiring and worth sharing.

So here, then, is my story, alternately titled: The Reluctant Entrepreneur

Getting a Clue with Teambuilding Treasure Hunts

Racing down the street on a cool Colorado morning, the treasure hunt team converges on Denver’s retro baseball stadium, Coors Field. One team member clutches a map and a list of street names; another bears a digital camera; a third has her eyes glued to a wristwatch; the fourth wields a reference book; and the fifth holds a full-color clue sheet. The group’s instructions for this clue are as follows: “Split the distance between three baseball statues, then look down for a 5-letter name beginning with ‘P‘”. As two teammates pace off the instructions, a third player shrieks “Eureka!” There at her feet — equidistant to all — is a dedication brick siting Rockies’ benefactor Julian Ponce. The team earns itself 10,000 points! But wait: they have nine more clues to go…

Whether the venue is Denver’s LoDo district, New Orleans’ French Quarter, San Francisco’s Chinatown, a tropical island or somewhere under the sea, treasure hunting has an almost irresistible attraction—as old, perhaps, as civilization itself.

7 Steps for Choosing the Right Teambuilding Company

Run a Google search under “team building” and behold the dizzying array of entries scrolling down your screen: drumming circles, fire walks, laser tag, paint ball, team cuisine, murder mysteries, treasure hunts, ropes courses, improvisational theater – the list goes on and on. Choosing the right team building company from the myriad options can be like picking a cereal from your average supermarket breakfast row – all the boxes are pretty and well-packaged, but what is really the best-tasting and most nutritious meal for the price?

Whether it’s cereal for your family or team building for your corporate meeting, the key to making informed choices is knowing your group and understanding your expectations. Following the seven steps below can start you on the right track to selecting that one right team building company for your organization.

Houston – Museum of Natural Science

A fun site to hold a team building exercise in Houston   Event Description: A riveting place to participate in a corporate team building activity, Houston’s sparkling Museum of Natural Science has it all:  Egyptian mummies, gems and minerals, Texas wildlife, butterflies and more dinosaurs than you can shake a…