If only people wore a sign saying I’m not listening.
On May 7th a tragedy occurred. A warning was given. Twelve-Thousand and one people drowned many who were children. Sadly, this day in history could have been avoided. On May 7th, 1915, the Lusitania, one of the fastest liners in the world was hit by a German torpedo causing it to sink within 20 minutes. The great tragedy of this day was this disaster may have been avoided if only the captain had listened. The “British admiralty warned the Lusitania to avoid the area or take simple evasive actions, such as zigzagging to confuse U-boats plotting the vessel’s course.” For whatever reason the captain ignored them, and the rest is history. Is there a lesson to be learned? We think so.
Certainly most of us do not face life or death decisions like the captain of the Lusitania faced, however all of us face relational conflicts that are vital to our relational health. Whether at home, school, work or other social areas we all experience the ups and down that come as part of being in relationships with family members, co-workers and friends. And if we want to have healthy relationships, we must shrewdly navigate the tortuous waters in order not to find ourselves relationally shipwrecked. We would like to share with you a few recommendations that could be useful as you avoid certain areas of conflict or use evasive tactics to elude or lesson the blow of the relational missiles that are sure to come.
Learn to listen.This is an area that we all struggle with especially in the midst of conflict. Because we operate a team building company, we have the opportunity to witness this struggle up close and personal. Experiential learning, which basically means learning by doing, is the vehicle that we use to help groups grow in their ability to navigate the conflicts that they experience in their work groups, school groups or teams. When presented with a challenge, a group learns healthy ways to work through conflict and problems. Because of this work, the group ultimately establishes relationship patterns that permanently impact the group’s long term success. We have observed that a major hindrance to many groups has been the inability to listen in the midst of conflict. Stephen Covey made this same observation saying, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Another author addresses the problem by simply saying, “Be quick to hear, slow to speakand slow to anger.” We like to paraphrase it by saying “If spend most of your time listening and trying to understand, you will spend less time defending and being a hot head.”
Learn what to avoid. Yes, sometimes conflict needs to be avoided all together. It’s called sensitivity! Going back to the tragedy of the Lusitania, the British admiralty warned the captain because they had experienced conflict in those waters before. Their basic message was “Don’t Go There!” We sometime need to learn from past experience that certain topics are “Don’t Go There” topics for some people. Learning what those sensitive topics are will go a long way in knowing how to approach, or not approach, areas of conflict.Another way to avoid conflict is to learn how to de-escalate situations. The basic message here is “Back Away!” In their article “How to Avoid Conflict With People,” Jennn Fusion and Demand Media suggest, “If someone is angry, respond compassionately by acknowledging their feelings and finding points of agreement. If the anger is directed at you, a sincere apology is always disarming.” You will be amazed how being able to acknowledge fault can help de-escalate a situation.
Learn helpful conflict tactics. In Jack Canfield’s book “The Success Principle,” he talks about something called “Heart Talks.” “Heart Talks” are useful before meetings, when an emotionally charged event occurs, when there is conflict between people or groups; and on a regular basis at home, in the office, and in the classroom.
How is a “Heart Talk” conducted?
Begin a Heart Talk with two to 10 people. Explain that by following the guidelines, a safe, nonjudgmental space will be created to support everyone. Assemble the members in a circle and introduce the basic rules:
1) Only the person holding the heart (or other object) talks.
2) No one judges or criticizes what anyone else has said.
3) Pass the object to the left after your turn.
4) Talk about how you feel.
5) Keep the information you hear confidential.
6) Don’t leave the room until everyone agrees that the talk is complete.
Post these guidelines where everyone can see them. If someone gets off track, point to the guideline they’ve broken.
Go around the group at least once so that everyone gets a turn. Keep starting over with the first person and going around until nobody has anything else to say. In that case, say “pass” when the object reaches you.
What benefits can be expected from a “Heart Talk?”
A “Heart Talk” enhances people’s listening skills, provides a constructive outlet for feelings, improves conflict resolution skills, enables people to let go of old resentments, develops mutual respect and understanding, and creates a sense of unity among the members.
What supplies are needed? Roll of duct tape, a marker and poster board for each team.
Purpose Communication and collaboration.
How it’s played?
1. Set up: Take some duct tape and draw a circle about ten feet in diameter. Place a poster board or flip chart in the middle of the circle (one setup per team playing). Give each team a roll of duct tape and a marker.
2. Objective: To get the group to work together and draw a picture or a word on the poster board using only a marker and duct tape.
3. Draw a picture of a smiley face within ten minutes on the poster board using the marker.
4. The face, eyes and mouth are the basics that must be drawn within the ten minutes.
5. Any additional features on the face like hair, nose, ears, hats or jewelry are bonus points. 25 points awarded for each additional feature.
6. No one is allowed inside the duct tape circle. Fingers and hands are not allowed to cross the barrier of the circle.
7. No one can move the poster board from the middle of the circle. You may not remove the circle from the floor. No creative cheating, please.
8. Using the roll of duct tape and the marker, fashion a device that will allow you to suspend the marker into the circle, MacGyver style, and draw your smiley face.
9. Everyone must participate in the drawing and building. Processing questions:
1. What were some of the ideas that were talked about before achieving your goal?
2. What kind of leadership characteristics did it take to have everyone participate to achieve this goal?
3. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best, how would you rank the success of your team and why?
4. Anything that you would do different?
As we spoke about in Part One of the series, an “era” is defined as a period of time marked by distinctive character, events, etc… I believe right now we are ushering in a unique and challenging era in corporate America. For the first time in history, employers are struggling to balance the different needs and working styles of four different generations in the workforce. What challenges are leaders faced with and what are some ways to successfully “bridge the generational gap” and build a great team?
Let’s begin by exploring the eldest generation represented in the workplace, the Traditionalists. As we learned last month, Traditionalists were born before 1946(before World War II) and are also called the Silent Generation). Some basic characteristics are:
Sharply dressed and often conservative
Believe that hard work has its own reward.
More comfortable in a command-and-control structured hierarchy.
Traditionalists value hard work, sacrifice, loyalty and a respect for authority.
How do the members of this generation typically operate in a work environment? They have a strong work ethic and will not hesitate to sacrifice to get the job done. Their style of communication is typically formal and sober and will tend to write notes rather than send email messages. They also struggle with technology and many times see it as a necessary nuisance.
How other generations might interact successfully with Traditionalists:
Baby Boomers believe in collective decision-making while Traditionalists believe in a more unilateral decision-making model. It behooves the Baby Boomer to demonstrate the value and power of collaborative thinking while respecting the Traditionalists paradigm.
Generation Xers do not like to be micromanaged while Traditionalists are accustomed to that model. Gen Xers must communicate fluidly and openly about outcomes. The more they communicate successes, the less the Traditionalists will want to know how you achieved them.
Generation Yers (Millennials) are comfortable in a remote, highly technological, team oriented environment while Traditionalist are used to more traditional approaches to work. Millennials will need to be patient with Traditionalists when it comes to the use of technology and as often as possible connect with them either on the phone or face-to-face.
Next month we will explore the Baby Boomers and how their characteristics and values impact the work environment. Stay tuned…
The other day CBS’s 60 Minutes ran an inspiring story about a man’s innovation that was literally born in the closet of his house. That man’s name is Sal Khan, and his innovation is called Khan Academy. According to CBS, Khan Academies goal is to “revolutionize how we teach and learn” by providing free online educational videos for classrooms and for those who can access the Internet. Video of Sal’s Story
The Washinton Post wrote a follow up article and commented on what Google chairman Eric Schmidt told 60 minutes about Khan academy:
“’Innovation never comes from the established institutions. It’s always a graduate student or a crazy person or somebody with a great vision.’ He’s right, of course. Think for a moment of all the industries that have been disrupted by outsiders. Netflix founder Reed Hastings knew how to write code but was an outsider to the world of film. Steve Jobs was known primarily for his beautiful design of computer hardware before he upended the music industry. The list goes on. (Read Full Article)
Not sure if we fall into the category of crazy person or someone with great vision, but the Khan story reminds us of our story here at Group Dynamix. Group Dynamix evolved from the construction of a small indoor ropes course at the Dallas Fun & Fitness Center in 1995. Today Group Dynamix’s facility is 17,600 sq. ft. making it the largest team development center of its kind in the nation. Having worked with over 300,000 people since we started, our goal has been simple, “to connect people in fun ways.”(Read more about our story)
Like all innovations, our grand vision faced many difficulties ranging from fear of leaving a predictable, though unfulfilling, work environment to determining how to fund a vision while still providing for one’s family. Many times these difficulties lead to the death of an innovation, so how does an innovator continue to pursue their innovations in the face of profound challenges? We would like to share five ways innovators can keep their motivation up and overcome the trials they’re certain to face.
• Be passionate: A 100% believer in your product and company. Tell your story, live your story every day.
• Be Reflective: When you run into a wall, step back and remember what inspired you to get started in the first place and remind yourself how good it’s going to feel when your work is done.
• Be a Flexible: Be a risk taker but manage it in ways that give you the most options to succeed. If you aren’t flexible, can’t change your vision when required, miss opportunity because of hubris, you minimize your potential for success.
• Be Commemorative: As you are building something, take time to celebrate each stage, every step forward, every discovery realized, each success earned. Innovation is an exciting adventure.
• Be Observant: Watch your competition, others in your industry, who is getting your business and why?
How it’s played?
Scream is a GDX twist on the game ”Look Up-Look Down” Make a circle of 6 to 12 players, all standing very close to each other. Each circle will have a player that will be the “caller.” This player will start the game by saying , “Look Down!” Each player lowers his or her head and looks down at the floor. When the caller says ” Look Up,” all the players must raise their heads and look directly at another players in their circle. This is where the GDX variation comes in. If any two players are looking at each other, they engage in a scream-off to see who is out of the game. The player who screams the longest stays in the circle while the other backs away from the circle, the circle closes up and the commands are given again. Players continue to dropout until there are only one player left.
Larry, Moe and Curly is a fun icebreaker that helps your group to get to know each other’s names.
How you play
Groups of 20-30 sit or stand in a circle. One person stands in the middle and points to someone in the circle and says “Curly,” “Mo” or “Larry”. The person who is pointed to must respond with a name before the pointer in the middle can count out loud to three. The name the person must shout depends on what he or she was called:
“Curly”: say the name of the person on your left.
“Moe”: say your own name.
“Larry”: say the name of the person on your right.
If the person shouts the correct name, the person in the middle stays and repeats the process with someone else in the circle. If the person fails to shout the correct name, he or she changes places with the person in the middle.
After a while, you may want to add a second person to the middle. After five minutes, rotate half of each group to another group, or combine two groups and put a second person in the middle.
Your group is on a safari in Africa surrounded by animals- you’ve got to clear an escape path to make it back safely to your camp by nightfall. The object of this game is to move your Safari Rover through the exit gate by shifting the animals out of the way.
How you play: Each team is given an over-head photo which maps out the positions of the character game pieces. Note: Only one participant can occupy a square at a time; however they must stay connected to the other individuals that make up their character. The map determines which characters are used in a game, a list of potential character game pieces are as follows; three Elephants (one elephant takes up three squares) , two Rhinos (one Rhino takes three squares) , four herds of Impalas (one herd of Impala takes up two squares), two Lions (one Lion takes up two squares), three Lionesses (one Lioness takes up two squares), two Zebras (one Zebra takes up two squares), two Terminate Mounds (one TM takes up two squares) and one Safari Vehicle (one SV takes up two squares).Movements: All pieces can move forward and backwards except three pieces. The two termite mounts and the safari vehicle can travel up, down, right and left.
Set up: You will need to create a 7 square by 7 square grid to play on, in which only one participant can occupy a block at a time. Each participant must stay connected at all times to the other individuals that make up their character game piece. The grid map attached tells you which game pieces will be used and how many participants make up a particular game piece. Example an Elephant is made up of three people, a Safari vehicle is made up of three etc. More complicated maps can be provided upon request. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org Subject- Teaming Tip: Safari game.