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Category Archives: Team-building Tools

3 Valuable Lessons Dolphins can Teach You About Teamwork

 Lessons in teamwork from dolphins

Most of us think of dolphins as playful and cute. They’re also very smart.

In fact, Dolphins can teach us quite a few lessons about teamwork, leadership, and life that can help us grow as leaders—and as members of a team.

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Teamwork: Lessons from the Meerkat

teamwork lessons from a meerkat

This article was originally published on March 13, 2014 and has been updated

When you think of teamwork, the last thing you probably think about is meerkats, those strange little denizens of the Kalahari Desert.

By rights these cute, squirrel-sized members of the mongoose family shouldn’t be able to survive in such an inhospitable, dry and scorching environment.

They’re defenseless—surrounded by predators.

To add insult to injury, they have to dig for food—not just a little digging, but up to several times their body weight, just to get at one small morsel of caterpillar or beetle larvae.

Yet—cute, frenzied, tough and tenacious, survive they do, and quite successfully.

Their secret? Teamwork.

That’s right.

Meerkats are one of the few animals on Earth that can work together as a team—almost as well as humans. Continue reading

A unique employee team-building idea from one of my client organizations

Three weeks ago, I shared a fantastic idea from a client organization about a unique way to acknowledge and motivate employees – to hold “fake” retirement parties.  Well, today I’m thrilled to tell you about another great example of employee team-building and motivation from another client organization.

Monthly culture “moments”

employee team-buildingThis particular company has a very diverse workforce with people from a variety of different ethnicities and cultures.  So as a way to build understanding, to strengthen teamwork, and to have fun, their Corporate Finance team created monthly culture moments.  At their monthly team meetings, over a period of several months, they’ve showcased the different cultures and nationalities represented in their department.  Even though they’ve called it culture “moments”, it is in fact the theme for the entire meeting.

One or two employees (who are from that culture) make a short presentation sharing the background and history of their heritage countries.  They also tell the rest of the team about a core societal value and a common workplace behaviour.  Continue reading

Leaders need to exude a positive confident energy

jeffmowatt_2Earlier this past summer, my professional colleague, friend, and widely-respected customer service strategist Jeff Mowatt wrote a guest post titled How to motivate younger employees.  His contribution was received with such interest that I asked him if he would guest again, and I was delighted when he agreed.  His column today is about the importance of the positive, confident energy that leaders should create and model in their organizations, and it follows below.

P.S. I am excited that Jeff and I will be sharing the platform later this fall at the Customer Service Leadership Summit in Calgary.  We’ll both be delivering mainstage keynotes at this November 15 event, and if you are thinking about attending, you need to act now because this event is already tracking to be a sellout.  Early bird pricing is still in effect so get your tickets while you can.  More information about the Summit is at the end of Jeff’s post below.

How would Others Describe Your Energy?

Having worked with literally hundreds of managers and business owners who’ve brought me in to provide customer service training for their teams, I’ve discovered that when it comes to a leader’s vibe, there is a magic mix. To inspire others, a leader needs to be positive and optimistic while also being realistic. And your energy needs to be higher than average without being frenzied. In other words, the most effective leaders are those who exude quiet, confident energy. Easier said than done. Here are 3 tips for setting the kind of tone that positively engages teams. Continue reading

Here’s what Google discovered about team effectiveness

Business SeminarIn my practice, I am routinely asked by leaders in organizations for the definitive factors that lead to team effectiveness.  After all, leaders in every organization want to know what it takes to create high-performing work groups that not only exceed objectives but also play well in the sandbox together.  Well Google wanted to know the answer to this question as well, so in 2012 it embarked on an ambitious two-year project to codify the secrets of team effectiveness.  Code-named Project Aristotle, this sizeable initiative, in true data-crunching Google style, set out to study and analyze over 180 of Google’s internal teams to figure out why some stumbled while others soared.

Google’s Project Aristotle

Julia Rozovsky is an analyst in Google People Operations, and here is what she had to say about Project Aristotle.

Over two years we conducted 200+ interviews with Googlers (our employees) and looked at more than 250 attributes of 180+ active Google teams. We were pretty confident that we'd find the perfect mix of individual traits and skills necessary for a stellar team -- take one Rhodes Scholar, two extroverts, one engineer who rocks at AngularJS, and a PhD. Voila. Dream team assembled, right?  We were dead wrong!

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One more reason to create a customer-focused culture

jeffmowattWhen it comes to customer service expertise and creating customer-focused cultures, my professional colleague and friend Jeff Mowatt didn’t just read the book – he wrote it!  He’s the author of the best-selling business books, Becoming a Service Icon in 90 Minutes a Month and Influence with Ease.  In a recent conversation, I realized that while Jeff has guested on the blog previously, the last time was in December 2010 when he penned Use your intuition to make better strategic decisions.  Needless to say, it’s been wa-a-a-ay too long, so I was delighted when he agreed to write a guest post again today.  Jeff, let’s not wait this long the next time!

How do I get my staff to get along?

“I can accept it when one of my employees makes a mistake. What I don’t have patience for is when my employees don’t play well with one another.” This was a client, a business owner with 45 employees, who explained, “When there’s a problem with a customer, employees focus more on blaming other departments and covering their own backsides than stepping-up to help each other to resolve the problem. We need a stronger commitment to teamwork.” Continue reading

Polarized opinions? Use constructive controversy for problem-solving

you way or my high way different opinion,opposite disagreement oCollaborative problem-solving is a great way to arrive at better solutions, so I always encourage team members to work on issues in small groups rather than individually.  In the past, I have offered up problem-solving tools on the blog (How many hats? and The early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese).  But in today’s post, I want to focus on what happens if you find yourself with staff members who clearly fall into opposing sides on a single issue.  In such a situation, is a collaborative solution impossible?  Not necessarily.  I utilize a problem-solving tool known as constructive controversy.

Constructive controversy forces team members to look at the situation in terms of both the pros and the cons.  Here’s how it works.  Continue reading

What long-nosed bats can teach us about teamwork

I often blog about what the animal kingdom can teach us about teamwork – Canada geese, meerkats, crabs, ants and penguins have all come up in the past. So regular readers of the blog will not be surprised by today’s post about long-nosed bats. 🙂

LongnoseBatsLong-nosed bats, endemic to Central America, have a unique approach to discouraging predators. They feed primarily at night, so during the day they roost in a number of places, one of which is the surface of tree trunks. However, most trees are usually out in the open, so in daylight, the little bats can become very tempting morsels to predatory birds. Enter teamwork. Before settling down for the day’s nap, groups of eight to sixteen bats arrange themselves in a roughly vertical line, to take on the appearance of a long snake. When a hungry bird approaches hoping for a delicious delicacy, the bats’ defence mechanism is to individually move back and forth within the vertical formation to create the combined effect of a large snake about to strike. The cautious bird, vigilant of poisonous snake venom, flies off to find easier prey. Brilliant!

So what are the lessons here for leaders about teamwork? I see at least three. Continue reading

Commitment is more valuable than compliance

CommitmentAs a leader, you want commitment from your employees. Unfortunately, unless you are vigilant, what you may get is compliance. They both look and feel the same – objectives are met, clients are served, things get done – but that is only as long as everything is “situation normal”. It’s when things go wrong – a crisis occurs, emotions escalate, a routine process breaks down – that the difference between commitment and compliance becomes glaringly obvious. If all you had was compliance, look around; you’re likely on your own as your staff will have (emotionally, if not physically) abandoned you. Unfortunately, at that moment, it’s too late to build commitment, and that’s when you need it the most.

The sad truth is that people who are not committed to your vision and goals are unlikely to go “the extra mile” when things go wrong. Instead of rolling up their sleeves and tackling the problem as a team, they are more apt to take the “you’re the boss, you figure it out” approach. Continue reading

What Canada geese can teach us about teamwork

If you live in Canada or the United States, you’ve no doubt seen the annual migration of flocks of Canada geese as they make the long journey each fall from the north to warmer climes down south. Maybe you’ve noticed that they always fly in a characteristic V-formation; perhaps you’ve even wondered why. The answer: because they know that teamwork pays!

When geese fly in the distinctive V, it’s because each bird is taking advantage of lower air resistance and the free “lift” that occurs in the air upwash zones directly behind the bird in front. Essentially, all the birds (with the exception of the leader) are saving energy by freeloading off the air flow created by another flockmate. But the frontrunner isn’t losing either. Continue reading