A Little Mood Music  – Just Push Play

Over the last ten years I have had the pleasure of delivering a heck of a lot of team building programs for Summit and I have learned a lot about things that can make or break a successful event.  One detail that we consistently get great feedback about is the playlist that we have going on during programs like Put Your Chef Hat On! Once our iPhone is cued up and we hit “play” you can literally feel the energy in the room grow. People start dancing, sometimes a little Karaoke breaks out.  Tone setting is critical in my world – get it wrong and you have a mess on your hands… get it right and magic happens. My music tastes fall pretty solidly into the Classic Rock category but I am open minded enough to know that some of the greatest toe-tapping ditties came both before and after that era.

So, here are 5 tunes that I personally guarantee will lighten moods, bring smiles to faces and get people busting moves.  It would be impossible for me to rank these and I could list hundreds more… consider this a starter kit to your “Give Me Energy” playlist.

1. All the Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) by Beyonce.

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It is great when people start dancing – even our facilitators are not afraid to cut a rug sometimes…but not everyone is all that good at it (including me) and eventually you see some pretty awkward moves (including mine). This is not a bad thing though, it’s good to be able to laugh at ourselves and the bad dancing reminds me of that hilarious SNL sketch when Justin Timberlake and some cast members show up as Beyonce’s back up dancers.

2. Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrisonteambuilding events

Not sure what it is about this song but it’s been around for so long and it is so catchy that everyone seems to know it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a baby boomer or a millennial, this one is universally loved and we often use it as a kick off song to get things started. It’s never let us down. Take a listen here!

3. A Little Less Conversation – Elvis Presley

keynote program

You really can’t have a great rock ‘n roll playlist without including the King can you? No. You can’t. This one has been around since the late 60’s and was featured in the movie “Live a Little, Love a Little”  – check out this scene.

Elvis could bring energy to a room just by walking into it…when you add this song to the mix it’s a wonder people’s heads don’t explode from all the excitement!

4. Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen

I had to include something by this band…if I didn’t, those who know me would wonder if I were OK.  There’s something about the way Freddie evokes Elvis in that song that is just plain cool. This is another example of a tune that has stood the test of time. Everyone knows it from beginning to end and typically when I play it at a team building program at least 1/2 the room is singing along. By the way, a little Queen trivia—this is their only tune that featured Freddie playing a guitar – you learn something new every day right?

5. Uptown Funk – Bruno Mars

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There was a reason the Superbowl organizers got Bruno to headline a few years ago. This guy knows how to get a crowd moving and when this song plays it seems to trigger some weird switch in people’s heads that tells them “go ahead, you know you wanna dance like Bruno.”   Even though Uptown Funk has only been out for a couple of years it resonates with all ages and is super catchy.

Like I said, there are a million more links I could share but these are some of my favs. Try them out at your next office or home get together and see what happens. Don’t believe me? Just Watch.

Everest 9 Year Anniversary

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It is hard to believe it has been nine years since my summit of Mount Everest. Time sure flies when you are having fun. Even after nine years Everest still has a magical hold on me and a special place in my life. Everest has given me so much.

I never imagined I would climb Everest one day. I knew as a climber that is was out of my league. However, as I gained more experience my comfort zone expanded and I thought that perhaps it was worthy of a try.

After a failure on the 6th highest mountain in the world (Cho Oyu) in 2001 I put a lot of learning into future expeditions. Although I did not summit Cho Oyu, it became one of the greatest learning experiences of my life as failure often does (to those that are open to it anyway). We had failed due to a dysfunctional selfish team culture driven by an egocentric and abusive leader. We were not a team and we did not trust, support, communicate or collaborate with one another. Even though we had the skills, experience and fitness this was not enough to overcome the dysfunctional team environment and we failed miserably.

After Cho Oyu, I applied my team and leadership learning to several other mountains and after many successes, I thought I was ready for Everest.

In 2008 I went to Everest with my climbing buddy Angus and three others I did not know. We worked hard to build strong, trusting, supportive relationships because I knew that relationship was the foundation of a high-performance team.

Our original plan was to climb Everest via the North Col from Tibet, but due to circumstances beyond our control our permit was cancelled and the border into Tibet was closed to foreigners. We had to relocate our climb to Nepal which was a huge change for us and caused much anxiety and stress.

We worked hard to overcome this initial challenge and made our way to base camp to begin our ascent. However, international politics were not done with us yet. Again for circumstances beyond our control the military occupied the mountain and enforced severe restrictions upon all climbers, dictated when we could and could not climb, where we could go and they even confiscated all our video cameras and satellite phones. Anyone who rebelled was arrested and deported from the country.

To make a long story short, this was just the beginning of the challenges we were to face individually and as a team. We fought our way up the mountain through numbing temperatures, avalanches, wind storms and more and eventually on May 20 we were hunkered down on the South Col in our Camp 4.

We were now entering the Death Zone for the final push to the summit. We left camp at 8:30pm on May 21 and climbed steadily through the night. And a beautiful night it was. A cloudless sky, a bright full moon (so bright I did not need my headlamp on), and relatively warm temperatures with a light wind. There was a bit of a crowd that day with many very slow climbers in front of me. Passing is not really an option so patience was the word of the day. We passed various famous landmarks on our way to the top; The Balcony, The South Summit and the Hillary Step.

At 8:15am on May 21 I stood on the highest point on earth, let out a sigh of relief, smiled and cried. It was an amazing accomplishment, but I was only half way. Going up is harder, but going down is more painful. As your adrenaline levels drop the pain seeps in to fill the void. Going down is also very dangerous with a high percentage of deaths occurring on the way down.

We made it back to base camp May 23 and then started our journey back home to family and friends. What am amazing journey it had been.

Everest taught me a lot about myself, about team building, about leadership, goal setting, overcoming the challenge and so much more. I have gone on to use much of this in our Team Development and Team Building programs at Summit Team Building and especially in my keynote presentations.

I am fortunate to have such a great story to share from Everest and my training and academic background allow me to translate my experience into learning opportunities for others. I will deliver over 30 keynotes in 2017 to audiences around the globe.

I want to thank Angus, Alan, Ryan and Al for making this incredible journey with me.

Building Relationships With Team Building Activities

Team Building Activities & Ideas

Here at Summit Team Building we always say that relationship is the foundation of any high-performance team. After all, we don’t do things for each other because we have to, but rather because we want to.

So the key is to build a team of people that know, understand, trust, and support one another. This cannot happen virtually and takes time and many interactions. This is why the company dinner, the company picnic and other company events are so important.

As a leader, you need to look at formal and informal team building strategies to build your team. The dinner, team picnic, bowling and other similar events are informal team building and help to reinforce relationships.

The formal team building takes place in professionally run team building workshops or training sessions. It is in these facilitated sessions that team members truly begin to understand one another’s motivators, as well as their communication, problem-solving, and decision-making styles to name but a few things.

Therefore, as a leader, you need to build in a mix of team building opportunities throughout the year. Some formal and some informal.

 Team building activities are a simple way for people to build positive relationships in the workplace. In carefully-structured team building activities, people share success, have fun, and begin (or continue) to build a common, positive history together. They connect with each other.

Team building activities don’t need to be sophisticated … and certainly shouldn’t be hockey … but they must promote positive social interaction and be satisfying for the participants while keeping them in an emotionally “safe place”. Keeping it emotionally safe is what makes the difference between team building activities that elicit eye rolls and those that result in full participation, smiles and laughter.

What feels emotionally safe to one person may feel completely outside the comfort zone of another. It’s important to know the individuals on your team and to ensure that, in any team building activity you select, people can choose how to participate.

Here are a few things that we, at Summit, consider in our approach to team building:

  • We structure team building activities so that they offer a number of roles with varying degrees of physical activity and personal “exposure”. Many quiet people will be quite happy to participate in the background and let the extroverts go wild if they know they won’t be pressured to do the same.
  • When we organise big team building activities (say, several hundred people) we make sure people interact in small sub-groups for large parts of the program. This allows the introverts to develop a few deeper, more comfortable relationships away from the chaos.
  • We know that lightly physical team-building activity can work very well. But once again, we’re all adults now, not kids. We always make sure that success does not require the fitness of an Olympian.
  • We also know that people like to contribute to society. We have designed several team building activities that focus on the act of “giving back”, locally and internationally.

Good team building activities bring people together for a few hours of fun and result in lasting relationships. And that’s priceless.

Check out all our team building activities here

Failure Is A Great Teacher – Part 2

Motivational Speaker Mississauga

In the previous blog, I wrote about the power of failure to be an amazing teacher provided your mind, heart and eyes are open to the lessons available. Failure often produces very strong and not always favourable emotions. These emotions can block our ability to learn from failure. As a result one of the first steps in learning from failure is to give yourself some time for the emotions to stabilise. Then you can examine the event in depth and pluck out the learning and the applications to future challenges. This takes a certain level of emotional intelligence to accomplish.

This learning process is what is called the Experiential Learning Cycle. This method of learning involves three basic steps. Experience, Analysis, and Application. In order for there to be learning there needs to be an event or an experience. This can be something you were personally involved in, something you observed, or event something you read about. Next, you need to analyse what took place and look for the learning. Bring in relevant models and research to help you see clearly and make your own conclusions as it relates to your goals and challenges. Lastly, you need to figure out how to apply what you have learned in a practical and realistic way. You can follow the simple steps of What, So What and Now What.

As you may recall from my last blog I had failed to climb one of the world’s tallest mountains. Well, it was not just me, but it was my entire team of highly experienced mountaineer partners. Partner and team are not really the right words as we were neither. For various reasons every person there, myself included was focused on person success only. This was the result of a very dysfunctional team environment that had formed within our group. Trust, support, compassion, empathy, and teamwork were replaced by selfishness, mistrust, gatekeeping, conflict, and ego.

In the end, this devastating experience became one of the greatest teachers of my life and I used this experience to go on and summit Mount Everest on my first attempt and to complete many other arduous adventures.

Patrick Lencioni helped me to crystalize my learning in his book 5 Dysfunctions of Team. Through my personal experiences and the desire to focus on the positive, I developed my High-Performance Team Model.

I believe the foundation of all high-performance teams is RELATIONSHIP. We need to get to know and understand our fellow teammates as well as to bond with them emotionally. After all, I always say “we do not do things for each other because we HAVE to, we do things for each other because we WANT to”. And this is based on positive relationships.

This relationship foundation is the root of building TRUST as trust comes from positive experiences with others.

This trust allows us to COMMUNICATE openly and honestly. If we trust one another I will ask the stupid question, I will disagree with you, and I will express my opinions event if they are not shared by the rest of the team. This allows us all to express ourselves fully and to discuss and debate the issue at hand. Without trust I will keep my mouth shut and although the team will appear supportive and committed it is really a mask hiding tension just below the surface.

Only once we have communicated openly and honestly will we be able to truly COMMIT to a team vision, action or decision. It is through this open dialogue that we listen to one another and formulate our plans. As Stephen Covey writes in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People “seek first to understand, and then to be understood”.

Only through true and real commitment can we achieve ACCOUNTABILITY. Accountability of one’s self and accountability by others is critical for follow through. In an accountable team, we feel safe to follow up on each other’s actions and commitments and this is seen as supportive rather than threatening.

Although simple in principle, this model is not always simple to implement. It takes strong leadership to bring it to life, but after all, that is what leadership’s most important job it; to build high performance within individuals and in teams.

At Summit Team Building we use this model in our Team Development and Leadership Development training programs.

Failure Is A Great Teacher – Part 1

team building ideas

When looking for advice on building high performance we often look to successful people, successful events, and successful companies. However, don’t overlook the study of failure as this can be a great teacher. Obviously, it can teach us what not to do, but with analysis and contemplation, we can develop positive strategies from what happened.

One of my greatest learning opportunities was during an expedition to climb one of the world’s tallest mountains. The expedition environment, as I say in my keynote presentations, is a very rich learning environment provided that your eyes and mind are open to see it.

When I was climbing Everest there was a researcher from Harvard sharing our basecamp. He was conducting a study for NASA on conflict resolution techniques to be used with astronauts on the International Space Station. The theory was that high altitude climbers live in a similar world to astronauts on the ISS. High altitude expeditions are filled with danger, complexity, strong and often ego-driven personalities, intense pressure and stress and constant change. It is difficult to study astronauts, but climbers are more accessible. By observing these climbers and interviewing them they were digging into human behaviour in this unique environment and taking stock of what worked and what did not work when conflict arose.

My story of learning from conflict comes from a mountain not far from Everest. It is one of the 14 mountains in the world above 8000m and climbing it requires entering the accurately named “Death Zone”. A dramatic title for sure, but it is exactly what it says it is. If you venture into the Death Zone for too long you will die. And too long it not long at all, it is 2-4 days and lights out!

I joined a team of highly experienced and strong climbers all who had a strong passion for climbing and all who wanted to summit this mountain. I had never met any of these people in the past, but this is not uncommon in climbing and in life. We do not always get to choose our teammates but are often just assembled a team of strangers with similar skills and desires. When looking at our resumes we were the perfect team and success should come to us with no problem. However, it did not work out this way.

In the end, not a single person made it to the summit and it had nothing to do with bad weather, lack of skill or experience, or desire. We failed because we were not able to work together as a team. At the time this was devastation, but when I look back upon this expedition now I see it as one of the biggest learning experiences of my life and it was the event that taught me to look for learning in success AND failure.

For various reasons that I won’t get into here, we became a group of selfish strangers. We never really got to know and bond with one another and each person’s focus was on their personal success. Yes we all wanted the entire team to succeed and nobody want anyone of us to be injured or killed, but if only one person were to be successful it was to be “ME”. This very selfish environment fostered a lack of trust and this stifled communication. There was, therefore, no commitment and accountability.

In the end, I used this experience to formulate many of the ideas, theories and strategies we use today in our team development and team building programs, and it is a cornerstone of my keynote.

In the next blog, I will share one of the models I have developed as a result of this failure and it is this model that is critical for building high performance in teams.