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We Win! 5 Musts for Epic Team Building

"Out of the office" Team Building at  National Conference Center  - Leesburg, Virginia

"Out of the office" Team Building at National Conference Center - Leesburg, Virginia

As I stood in front of the group, charged with leading them in a 90 minute team building activity, I was inspired by the cohesiveness they brought to the activity, having spent the previous 30 hours bonding, building and reinforcing the ties that brought them together. The group, an entirely volunteer board, pressed pause, and left behind the daily push-pull of emails, text messages, staff meetings, agenda making and dozens of other responsibilities (including their families), for the greater cause of coming together as a unit. They realized without this retreat, forging solid bonds is sometimes a difficult thing to do.

What I walked away with was something entirely different than I had expected. I only had a brief sliver of time with them (just about 90 minutes), but its impression will have a permanent mark in mind. It was me who walked away inspired, motivated and completely charged up. Although I already knew many of the people in the group (we all belong to the same Washington, D.C. area chapter of an association called Meeting Professionals International), the filter I will see them through from this point moving forward will be forever changed.

My takeaway and five points I think are valuable when considering any team building program:

Take it out of the office. Although short programs that will encourage team building can be done in the office, there is a huge value placed in doing team building outside the four walls of an office. Just the change of environment can make a huge impact. Meals, socializing and conversations all happen outside the team building activities, but this, in and of itself provides a great opportunity for team building too.

Ground rules should be set at the onset of any team building activity, allowing for open and honest conversation.

Encourage open, honest conversation. Ground rules should be set at the onset of the activity allowing for open and honest conversation. Team building provides an environment for change, growth and improvement for the greater good. Although bonding is obviously one of the results of team building, the sharing of ideas freely will help everyone grow in the group. Natural leaders will rise during this program and you will be amazed with the results.

Pass the pillow. I witnessed this firsthand and it was truly inspiring. At the tail end of the second full day of activities, everyone in the group had an opportunity to discuss what they have gotten out of the team building program. A pillow passed from one person to another helped control the conversation, if you had the pillow, the floor was yours. Even the quietest of participants (yes, there are always a few shy ones) had an audience. It was an emotional time. What I found most interesting about this portion of the team building retreat, was that this was an unscheduled portion of the program, but still had a tremendous impact on all attendees.

Team building provides an environment for change, growth and improvement for the greater good.

Open the no judging zone. You want everyone involved in the program to feel as though any comments they make or views they present will be heard, discussed and a part of the conversation without judgement. I sat in on several conversations before and after the 90 minute team building activity I facilitated that, outside of this environment, I feel would have never occurred for fear of statements made would have been judged by others.  A byproduct of spending two days with others?  The lines between business and personal become blurred and your judgement of them becomes less critical; you begin to understand what motivates and inspires those you are with. Keep this time as a judgement free time.

Stretch limits and explore new ideas. Team building activities challenge you to think outside the box. Although there are hundreds, more likely thousands of activities, they do not have to be physically demanding. When I pulled up to the retreat, there were companies doing ropes challenges and obstacle courses on the grounds of the retreat. Alternatively,  I have seen tabletop chocolate bridge building, television trivia and game show fun provide a great opportunity for team building as well. Inherent to the activity are the positive results when you have an opportunity to brainstorm with others. Troubleshooting solutions while breaking down obstacles and removing barriers are common, encouraged and expected results. This translates very well when the team building activities are completed and re-entry to the “real world” occurs.

Inherent to the activity are the positive results when you have an opportunity to brainstorm and bond with others.

It’s not what you do or even how you do your team building, but it is the sheer fact that you are doing it that creates an impact. Team building does just that, it builds your team. If you have not done it for a while and you are in a position to make it happen, I would encourage you to do it, soon. It will make a difference. What I found most interesting is that each time I go out to facilitate a team building project, I am the one that comes back pumped up, motivated and inspired, ready for action and feeling like a part of the team. We all win!


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Let Your Moral Compass Lead the Way

Where is your moral compass taking you?

Where is your moral compass taking you?

I was raking leaves in my front yard this past Sunday, getting lost in the Zen-like action of pulling the rake through the brown, yellow and red leaves, uncovering the still green color of the grass below. I have not experienced this task for many years, having lived in a condo for several years and prior to that, living in a house with only one token tree in the front yard. Just like Charlie Brown loved his Christmas tree, we loved our tree since it belonged to us. It just wasn't the same experience as having a mighty oak or two or several maple trees shedding their leaves in autumn. As is often the case, when left on my own, without supervision, my mind started to wander. And since it was Sunday, thoughts of the upcoming week were pulling strong at me. As I mentally started a check-list of to-do items, I quickly stopped myself and  redirected my firing synapses.

What if, I thought, instead of a list of tasks, I completed a list of intentions, a focus on big picture actions instead of daily minutia. I'm a big list maker. I know if it somehow manages to get on my list, my goal is to accomplish the task and get it off my list. This week, however, I wanted to try something different. What if, instead of just doing the little things, I wrote down a list of the really big picture things that I wanted to do. I know I can't make the world a better place by making one big decision or by taking one action step in the right direction. I could however, make the world a better place if EVERY decision I make and every action I take is guided by my moral compass. Without a doubt, we all have a moral compass. The question is, do we follow it  as we make our way through life? 

I can make the world a better place if EVERY decision I make and every action I take is guided by my moral compass.

I can't answer any of these moral compass questions for you, but I challenge you to write them at the top of your task lists you write this week. I also challenge you to let the answers to these questions help guide you as you make decisions, take action and follow through with others you come in contact with this week.

  1. Did I bring good to the world and did I make the world better through my actions today?
  2. Did I treat others with respect and did I treat them fairly?
  3. Am I staying true to my beliefs and to myself?
  4. Am I being compassionate, empathetic and caring?
  5. Did I do the right thing, even when the right thing was hard to do?

I am confident there are many other questions you can ask yourself to help guide you, direct you and carry you along your journey. If my questions don't put wind in your sails,  come up with a list of your own questions. Your moral compass may not point to the same place as mine (and that's ok), but, keeping your set of questions in mind,  I am pretty sure wherever it takes you, you will feel a huge level of satisfaction when you turn around and recount the journey you just traveled.

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Piggy Bank Moments

They are the defining moments in your life that have huge significance. They are turning points, transitions and our forks in the road. At the time, you may not have noticed the change. Only looking back did you see the hard turn to the left or right. Subtle changes, a little at a time, brought you to this moment. Once you arrive here there is no turning back, and that is good. 

She sat down on her living room floor, the movers had just collected all of her furniture and prepared her for the move. All that remained was for her to broom sweep the small apartment she was moving out of. She took a moment to look around and reflect, all of the great memories created in her little space. The conversations that took place within these walls, the business deals that were closed here, the relationships forged  -- all amazing memories. But it was time to move on.

She held one cherished item back from the movers, her piggy bank. Savings tapped out, she emptied the contents onto the carpet, the room void of furniture. She counted out $127. After paying the movers, that is all she had left. Sure, she had support from family, friends and others closest to her if she needed it, but she wouldn't need their support. Not this time. She wanted to prove to herself that she could do this financially on her own. She would accept all the moral support and encouragement she was given, but making the financial part work was her goal.

Although scared beyond words, she collected the money, put it back into the piggy bank, and sat there for several minutes collecting her thoughts, cherishing each of the memories that came to her. She could feel the tears on her cheek. They were not tears of sadness, but rather, a show of excited, scared, anticipation of what was to come.

She made her way to the door and closed it behind her, knowing that she would never be back. She has since moved her life forward, never backward,  nor for a moment second guessing her potential.

What are the piggy banks moments that have helped to define your life? Know that as you make transitions in your life, it's ok to feel afraid. If there is no fear, there is no risk. Without risk, no reward. Stepping out of your comfort zone is supposed to be scary. Looking back, to see these moments, is so wonderful. As you look over your shoulder at your piggy bank moments, feel proud of all that you have accomplished. Sometimes, rewards do not come quickly, but they will come. Be patient with yourself, allow yourself to be scared, but don't deny yourself the opportunity to move forward with your life. Your adventure awaits.

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By Doug Sandler


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15 Signs That Say You Are An Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs. They are not normal by any stretch of the imagination. I am not sure why I am using the word “they” since I proudly consider myself in the “them” category. We are unusually unique, many of us labeled as certifiable (and proud) workaholics, with passion, persistence and tenacity as our calling cards. It takes a certain level of craziness to be an entrepreneur, but I wear the label like a badge of honor. Are you a member of the club? Below, read the list of 15 entrepreneurial signs and see how many you can identify with as traits belonging to you.

People believe in entrepreneurs because of their attitude and positive vibe.
  1. Instead of taking “NO” for an answer, entrepreneurs rephrase the question. The person who was asked, obviously did not hear correctly, so rearranging the words in the sentence is probably the best course of action.
  2. There is opportunity in every problem faced. As an eternal problem solver, entrepreneurs are driven to conquer issues, work towards a solution, and attain goals.
  3. As the beer man is walking through the stadium, entrepreneurs count up how much money he is making by multiplying the amount of beer he sells per inning by the number of innings he sells beer, subtracting out the stadium cut, adding in the amount he collects in tips if he makes a dollar tip on every beer sold, and totalling up all of those numbers.
  4. For each and every idea thought about, entrepreneurs mentally turn it into a business opportunity. Regardless of whether it’s car washing, lemonade selling, computer repair or business consulting, there is money in it and a profit to be made.
  5. An entrepreneur’s biggest problem is that they are not short of business ideas or even money to invest, but instead are flat out of time to initiate ninety nine percent of what they think about.
  6. When people come to an entrepreneur with a business idea, they have a better way to do it, and then become a partner in the business.
  7. Entrepreneurs think creatively and are constantly dreaming of ideas of how to take everyday ideas and turn them into extraordinary projects. Paperclips, empty water bottles, paint and scrap wood can turn ideas into cash flow.
  8. People believe in entrepreneurs because of their attitude and positive vibe. They care less about the idea brought to them and more about the way entrepreneurs present the idea with such enthusiasm.
  9. When entrepreneurs wipe out, they do it big. But without hesitation, stand back up, dust themselves off and get back at it again, knowing that the lessons learned from defeat will put them on the right path next time.
  10. Truly living by the motto, “I work hard, I play hard,” entrepreneurs enjoy life to the fullest. They are less likely to be found watching a ballgame on television and more likely to be at the ballgame with glove in hand, eye paint under their eyes and sitting way down close to the dugout. If given the opportunity to run the bases they would say, “Can I throw the first pitch too?”
  11. Focus is not their problem, but knowing when to call it a day is. Entrepreneurs wake up early, go to be late and love every hour in between. Often times, they will push themselves so hard they eat breakfast around noon, lunch about 5PM and dinner every once in a while at 11PM. Pee breaks are combined with checking email on their smartphones and pajamas can easily be the uniform of the day.
  12. Facebook friends are the proving ground for new products, services and innovations. Entrepreneurs are more likely to throw their first sales pitch to their best buddies than to a complete stranger because they want to share their best ideas with those closest to them. And every idea is their best idea.
  13. No need to turn off your computer if you are an entrepreneur. At 3AM when they can’t sleep because of their thoughts are running a million miles an hour, that’s the best time to return emails, work on a project or finish that Keynote presentation. Entrepreneurs are night owls.
  14. Why hire a graphic designer, bookkeeper, web designer, social media marketer or assistant? Entrepreneurs have children and spouses to do all that stuff. And if that doesn’t work, they do it all themselves to save money, and let’s face it, entrepreneurs do it better anyway.
  15. An entrepreneur will sneak into the bathroom in the middle of dinner with friends or family to take out their phone and Tweet, connect, post or share a great idea.
When people come to an entrepreneur with a business idea, the entrepreneur has a better way to do it, and then becomes a partner in the business.

If you can identify with many or all of the signs above, you probably are sorry you were distracted long enough from your emails, projects and tasks to get to the end of this post, but you are very likely to share this post with someone else you think is an entrepreneur. More likely than not, most of your friends are entrepreneurs as well, since your old friends think you are a bit crazy anyway. It’s ok though, you can join all of your entrepreneur friends at 10PM on whatever Twitter hashtag chat is going on. I’ll see ya there.

If you are an entrepreneur and want to take your business to the next level, check out my FREE live webinar coming soon from StartUP School. Join Charles Sidi and me as we share 10 secrets to getting the most out of your business. Register today and reserve your space.

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Training Wheel Moments Last A Lifetime

That amazing moment when you realize you are just as excited as your kid without training wheels .

That amazing moment when you realize you are just as excited as your kid without training wheels .

I must have been about six or seven when the training wheels came off my bike. I remember with absolute clarity the feeling of absolute control as my small frame first teetered, wobbled, then zoomed around the neighborhood. What is less clear to me is how many times I fell after the “L” shaped brackets with the little wheels came off. But it was time for them to come off. I had places to go as a kid and training wheels were holding me back. The pain of falling was dwarfed by the amazing feeling of the wind in my hair (I guess bike helmets were not invented yet in 1969) and the freedom that comes along with being a big boy on two wheels. I was off and rolling, feeling in charge, confident, and moving in the right direction. Had I not let go of the training wheels I would have never experienced so many of the amazing opportunities and freedoms that being a two-wheeler offers.

Not much can compare to going full spin on the open road atop a shiny red Schwinn with a white striped banana seat.

What are some training wheel moments in your life? There is nothing wrong with having training wheels, but at some point, it’s time to let go so you can go beyond making small circles in your cul-de-sac. Not much can compare to going full spin on the open road atop a shiny red Schwinn with a white striped banana seat. Plus, it’s hard to look cool with your mom standing behind you, holding onto the sissy bar screaming, “Pedal faster Dougie, faster!”

Additionally, think about who is behind you, helping you make your way, cheering, encouraging and applauding as you roll forward in your journey towards success. Little can compare to the enthusiasm and jubilation you experience when you celebrate victory with the very person that helped you achieve it. It may appear as though there is only one success, but you actually have two. First, your success, riding off into the great beyond. Second, your supporters success, without which you would not have been able to achieve your goal. There is a deep feeling a satisfaction knowing you are helping someone achieve a milestone as they reach a level of independence.

There is a deep feeling a satisfaction knowing you are helping someone achieve a milestone as they reach a level of independence.

I look back to when my kids first started peddling on their own, and I am sure I was just as excited (if not more) as they were, when they finally got the hang of it and I could let go. As a matter of fact, it was absolutely a Kleenex moment for me.

Look for opportunities to be supporter, a sissy bar holder, and a mentor to someone in need of your help. No matter where you are in life, if you turn around, there is someone behind you that wants to get where you are, and do what you do. There are many others that could use your help to get up and rolling. Your support may be all they need before their training wheels come off. It’s a great opportunity for you to give back to the future.

Whether you are on the bike with training wheels about to take your first jittery, unbalanced, independent ride, or supporting someone in that position, know that without one, we could not have the other. Little wins and 3 second successes turn into huge victories and miles and miles of road covered. As you look down the road, I will be the guy holding the box of tissues, ready to celebrate your win, regardless of you being on the bike or running behind it, yelling, “You can do it!”

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