Generating Solutions for Team Problems

Generating Solutions for Team Problems

“There is a beauty and clarity that comes from simplicity that we sometimes do not appreciate in our thirst for intricate solutions.” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf

It is important to generate as many solutions as possible to the problem before analyzing the solutions or trying to implement them. There are many different methods for generating solutions. This blog begins with some ground rules for brainstorming sessions. Then it presents several idea-generating techniques, including free-association style brainstorming, brainwriting, mind mapping, and Duncker Diagrams. We will also be looking at additional tools and information to consider when generating solutions as part of the creative problem solving process.

Related: Problem Solving Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Brainstorming Basics

In order to come up with a good idea, the team must come up with many ideas. The first rule of brainstorming is to come up with as many ideas as the team possibly can.

Some of the ideas will not be good. If the team starts analyzing the ideas while they are generating them, the creative process will quickly come to a halt, and they may miss out on some great ideas. Therefore, the second rule for brainstorming sessions is to defer judgment.

Allow creativity and imagination to take over in this phase of the process. The next rule for brainstorming is to come up with the wildest, most imaginative solutions to your problem that the team can. Often the team might not consider a solution because of assumptions or associational constraints. However, sometimes those solutions, even if they do not end up implementing them, can lead them to a successful solution. So along with deferring judgment, allow those ideas that might be considered crazy to flow. One of those crazy ideas might just contain the seeds of the perfect solution.Finally, use early ideas as springboards to other ideas.

Basic brainstorming is a free-association session of coming up with ideas. Use the other team member’s ideas to trigger additional ideas. One member of the team should make a list of all of the ideas.

Brainwriting and Mind Mapping

Brainwriting and Mind Mapping are two additional tools to generate ideas.

Brainwriting is similar to free-association brainstorming, except that it is conducted in silence. This method encourages participants to pay closer attention to the ideas of others and piggyback on those ideas.

Before a brainwriting session, create sheets of paper with a grid of nine squares on each sheet. You will need as many sheets as there are participants in the brainwriting session with one or two extra sheets. Plan to sit the team members in a circle or around a table. Determine how long the session will last, and remind participants that there is no talking. Remind participants of the other rules for brainstorming, especially deferring judgment.

For the session itself, state the problem or challenge to be solved. Each participant fills out three ideas on a brainwriting grid. Then he or she places that brainwriting sheet in the center of the table and selects a new sheet. Before writing additional ideas, the participant reads the three ideas at the top (generated by a different participant). The hope is that these items will suggest additional ideas to the participants. The participants should not write down the same ideas they have written on other sheets. This activity continues until all of the grids are full or the time runs out. At the end of the activity, there should be many ideas to consider and discuss.

Mind mapping is another method of generating ideas on paper, but can be conducted alone.

The problem solver starts by writing one main idea in the center of the paper. Write additional ideas around the sheet of paper, circling the idea and connecting the ideas with lines. This technique allows for representing non-linear relationships between ideas.

Duncker Diagrams

A Duncker diagram generates solutions by creating possible pathways from the present state to the desired state. However, the Duncker diagram also addresses an additional pathway of solving the problem by making it okay not to reach the desired state.

Duncker diagrams can help with refining the problem as well as generating ideas for solutions. The diagram begins with general solutions. Then it suggests functional solutions that give more specifics on what to do. The diagram can also include specific solutions of how to complete each item in the functional solutions.

For example, Michael wanted to address the problem of his job being too stressful. He is responsible for managing up to 1500 work hours per month. He cannot find a way to complete all of his tasks within a desired work week of no more than 45-50 hours per week. He has over 10 years’ experience in public account and is interested in moving into industry. However, he is so busy, that he does not even have time to look for a new job.

The present state and desired state statements are:

  • Present State: Job requires more demands on my time than I am willing to dedicate to a job I do not really care about.
  • Desired State: Work a job I care about with adequate free time to spend with family and pursuing personal interests

The Morphological Matrix

Fritz Zwicky developed a method for general morphological analysis in the 1960s. The method has since been applied to many different fields. It is a method of listing examples of different attributes or issues to an item (or problem), and randomly combining the different examples to form a solution. Depending on the number of issues or attributes identified, there can be quite a large number of possible combinations.

The Morphological Matrix is a grid with several different columns. The problem solvers enter a specific attribute or issue about the item or problem at the top of each column. Then for each column, problem solvers generate a list of examples for that attribute. Once there are many different ideas in the columns, the solutions can be combined strategically or randomly. While some combinations naturally are incompatible, problem solvers should not rule out ideas until they reach the analysis phase of the problem-solving process.

As an example, let’s look at the traffic problems experienced at a new elementary school. The administrative staff of the school has identified the problem statement as: “Get approximately 500 students to class safely, on time, and with no more than a five minute wait for parents and drivers in the neighborhood.” A few sample attributes to this problem are safety, timeliness, pedestrians, and drivers.

This matrix can help identify different considerations of the problem. It can also help formulate comprehensive solutions to complex problems.

The Six Thinking Hats

Dr. Edward de Bono introduced a concept for thinking more effectively in groups in his book, Six Thinking Hats. The premise of this idea is that the brain thinks about things in a number of different ways.

The identified different categories of thought are assigned to a color-coded “hat,” as described below. The hats provide a structured way to think about different aspects of a problem.

  1. White hat – Facts and Information: This hat includes Information collected or identified as missing.
  2. Red Hat – Feelings and Emotion: This hat includes feelings, including gut reactions to ideas or items identified in another area.
  3. Black Hat – Critical Judgment: This hat includes details about obstacles to solving the problem or other negative connotations about an item or idea. Since people are naturally critical, it is important to limit black hat thinking to its appropriate role.
  4. Yellow Hat – Positive Judgment: This hat is the opposite of the black hat. It includes details about the benefits of an idea or issue, or thoughts about favoring an idea. It is still critical thinking and judgment, as opposed to blind optimism.
  5. Green Hat – Alternatives and Learning: This hat concerns ideas about new possibilities and thinking about implications rather than judgments. Green hat thinking covers the full spectrum of creativity.
  6. Blue Hat – The Big Picture: This hat serves as the facilitator of the group thinking process. This hat can be used to set objectives both for the problem solving process and the thinking session itself.

The six thinking hat methodology allows a deliberate focusing during problem solving sessions, with an agreed-upon sequence and time limit to each hat. It ensures that everyone in the team is focused on a particular approach at the same time, rather than having one person reacting emotionally (red hat) while others are being objective (white hat) and still another is wearing the black hat to form critical judgments of ideas.

The green hat is the main thinking hat for generating solutions in the problem solving process. The other hats can be used as a reminder of the rules of productive brainstorming sessions, such as limiting critical judgment (positive and negative – yellow and black hats).

The Blink Method

Malcolm Gladwell popularizes scientific research about the power of the adaptive unconscious in his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Gladwell’s premise is that in an age of information overload, our decisions based on limited information are often as good as or better than decisions made with ample critical thinking.

In the examples and research Gladwell presents, experts and average subjects alike are better able and happier with choices made through what he calls “thin-slicing,” or coming to a conclusion with limited information. An example presented is the case in which many experts identify a statue as a fake, when the museum that spent money on the statue did not identify it as such with weeks of research.

Gladwell also presents the cautions of the adaptive unconscious. Our power to make effective decisions by tapping into this power can be corrupted by personal likes and dislikes and stereotypes. Rapid, intuitive judgment can have disastrous consequences, as presented in his example of an innocent man shot on his own doorstep 41 times by New York policemen.

Gladwell summarizes the dilemma between when to tap into our unconscious, and when to use a more critical approach as thus: “On straightforward choices, deliberate analysis is best. When questions of analysis and personal choice start to get complicated – when we have to juggle many different variables – then our unconscious thought process may be superior.”

Analyzing Your Team’s Problem Solving Solutions

Analyzing Your Team’s Problem Solving Solutions

With many different solutions in hand, the problem solvers in your team need to analyze those solutions to determine the effectiveness of each one. This blog helps you consider the criteria or goals for solving the problem, as well as distinguishing between wants and needs. This module also introduces the cost/benefit analysis as a method of analyzing solutions to the problems your team has to solve.

Related: Problem Solving Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Developing Criteria

Return to the information the team generated when they defined the problem. Consider who, what, when, where, and how that the potential solution should meet to be an effective solution to the problem.

When developing criteria that possible solutions to the problem should meet, also consider the following:

  • Ask questions such as “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” or “Wouldn’t it be terrible if…” to isolate the necessary outcome of the problem resolution.
  • Think about what the team wants the solution to do or not do.
  • Think about what values should be considered.

Use the answers to these questions as the starting point for team’s goals or problem-solving criteria.

Additionally, the criteria for an effective solution to the problem should consider the following:

  • Timing – Is the problem urgent? What are the consequences for delaying action?
  • Trend – What direction is the problem heading? Is the problem getting worse? Or does the problem have a low degree of concern when considering the future of the circumstances?
  • Impact – Is the problem serious?

It is important to think about what the circumstances will look like after a successful solution has been implemented. Use your imagination to explore the possibilities for identifying goals or criteria related to the problem.

Analyzing Wants and Needs

The creative problem solving process is a fluid process, with some steps overlapping each other. Sometimes, as the process provides additional information, the team needs to go back and refine the problem statement or gather additional information in order to effectively solve the problem.

Wants and needs seem like a fundamental aspect of defining the problem. However, in order to analyze the potential solutions, the wants and needs for the desired state after the problem is solved must be very clear.

Needs are items the potential solution absolutely must meet. If the potential solution does not meet a need requirement, the team can disregard it from further analyzing.

Wants are nice to have items. The team can provide a weight to each item to indicate its importance. For each potential solution, the team can provide a rating for how well the solution addresses the selected want. Multiply the rating by the weight of the want to score the potential solution.

With scores for each item, it is an easy matter for the team to rank the potential solutions in order of preference.

Using Cost/Benefit Analysis

Cost – benefit analysis is a method of assigning a monetary value to the potential benefits of a solution and weighing those against the costs of implementing that solution.

It is important to include ALL of the benefits and costs. This can be tricky, especially with intangible benefits (or costs). Some benefits or costs may be obvious, but others may take a little digging to uncover. For example, imagine you want to replace three employees with a machine that makes stamps. A hidden benefit is that you may be able to use large feed stock instead of individual sheets, saving materials costs. In the same example, you would not only consider the salaries of the employees, but the total cost for those employees, including benefits and overhead.

The value assigned to the costs and benefits must be the same unit, which is why monetary value is suggested. The valuations assigned should represent what the involved parties would actually spend on the benefit or cost. For example, if people are always willing to save five minutes and spend an extra 50 cents on parking closer, they are demonstrating that time is worth more than 10 cents per minute. The considerations should also include the time value of money, or the value of money spent or earned now versus money spent or earned at some future point.

Preparing the Way for Creative Problem Solving

Preparing the way for the creative problem solving process.

“Creating something is all about problem-solving.” – Philip Seymour Hoffman

This blog introduces common mental blocks to productive team brainstorming sessions, as well as techniques for dealing with the mental blocks. It also presents some ideas for stimulating creativity.

Identifying Mental Blocks

Brainstorming can help your team arrive at a solution to the problem, even for problems that seem unsolvable or that seem to only have inadequate solutions. However, before beginning a successful brainstorming session to generate ideas, you must remove any mental blocks. Mental blocks can eliminate great solutions before they are thoroughly examined as possibilities or springboards to other possible solutions.

Related: Problem Solving Outcome Based Team Building Activities

There are many types of mental blocks. Most blocks to problem-solving fit into the following categories.

  • Emotions: Emotional blocks can include anything from a fear of risk taking to a tendency to judge or approach the problem with a negative attitude.
  • Distractions: Too much information, irrelevant information, or environmental distractions can prevent a productive team brainstorming session.
  • Assumptions: If problem solvers assume there is only one correct solution, they will be unable to generate additional ideas. Assumptions also become mental blocks from stereotypes or perceived boundaries where none exists.
  • Culture: Culture defines the way we live and limits the ideas we may generate or consider. However, not every culture is the same. Sometimes the cultural blocks are unnecessary, and sometimes we do not consider cultural limitations when we should.
  • Communication difficulties: If we cannot communicate our ideas in some way – speaking, writing, or pictures – these communication difficulties can block our progress in generating ideas.

 Removing Mental Blocks

The first technique is an attitude adjustment. To remove blocks arising from a negative attitude, the team lists the positive aspects or possible outcomes of the problem. Remember that problems are also opportunities for improvement.

The next technique deals with risk taking. To remove emotional blocks arising from a fear of failure, define the risk, then indicate why it is important. Define what the worst possible outcome might be and what options there are in that scenario. Think about how to deal with that possible failure.

The next technique encourages the team to break the rules. Some rules are important, but when rules create an unnecessary imaginary boundary, they must be disregarded so that problem solvers can come up with innovative solutions.

The fourth technique is to allow imagination, feelings, and a sense of humor to overcome a reliance on logic and a need to conduct problem solving in a step-by-step manner.

The fifth technique involves encouraging the team’s creativity.

Stimulating Creativity

The creative problem solving process requires creativity. However, many people feel that they are not creative. This is the sign of a mental block at work. Everyone can tap into creative resources in their brains. Sometimes, it just takes a little extra prodding.

Creativity is not something to be turned on and off when needed. The potential for creativity is always there. We just need to learn how to access it.

Here are some tips for creating a creative mental space to encourage productive brainstorming sessions.

  • Go outside for a few minutes, especially for a nature walk or bike ride. Exercising and getting sunshine even for just a few minutes are sure ways to redirect your brain to a more creative outlook.
  • Change your perspective. Work on the floor or go to the park for you brainstorming session.
  • Breathe deeply. Especially when stressed, we tend to become shallow breathers. Fill your entire lungs with air to get some extra oxygen to your brain. Practice deep breathing for 5 to 15 minutes for not only more creativity, but for a great burst of energy.
  • Write in a journal. Write for 15-20 minutes in a spare notebook or plain paper. It does not have to be about the specific problem you need to solve, but you may discover some mental blocks if you do write about the problem. Dump all of your mental clutter on to one to three pages that no one will ever see (unless you want them to). Then let the pages and their recorded thoughts go, even if just in your mind.

Once you get your creative juices flowing, keep them going by trying the following ideas everyday:

  • Carry a small notebook or jot ideas in your PDA. Be prepared for ideas whenever they come. Ideas often come as you are drifting off to sleep or as you are waking.
  • Stretch your boundaries by posing new questions to yourself, learning things outside your specialty, or breaking up set patterns of doing things.
  • Be receptive to new, fragile ideas that may still need time to develop.
  • Be observant of details, including self details.
  • Find a creative hobby, including working puzzles and playing games.

To Solve The Problem First Define The Problem

To Solve The Problem First Define The Problem

“There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.” – Bernard Williams

One of the most important parts of the creative problem solving process is to identify the problem. In this blog we will explore why your team needs to clearly define the problem before they can solve it. We will also introduce several tools to use when defining a problem and writing a problem statement.

Related: Problem Solving Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Defining the Problem

Defining the problem should be the first step in your team’s creative problem solving process. When a problem comes to light, it may not be clear exactly to your team what the problem is. The team must understand the problem before they spend time or money implementing a solution.

It is important to take care in defining the problem. The way that your team defines the problem influences the solution or solutions that are available. Problems often can be defined in many different ways. The team must address the true problem when continuing the creative problem solving process in order to achieve a successful solution. The team may come up with a terrific solution, but if it is a solution to the wrong problem, it will not be a success.

In some cases, taking action to address a problem before adequately identifying the problem is worse than doing nothing. It can be a difficult task to sort out the symptoms of the problem from the problem itself. However, it is important to identify the underlying problem in order to generate the right solutions. Problem solvers can go down the wrong path with possible solutions if they do not understand the true problem. These possible solutions often only treat the symptoms of the problem, and not the real problem itself.

Four tools your team can use in defining the problem are:

  • Determining where the problem originated
  • Defining the present state and the desired state
  • Stating and restating the problem
  • Analyzing the problem

The team may not use all of these tools to help define a problem. Different tools lend themselves to some kinds of problems better than other kinds.

Determining Where the Problem Originated

Successful problem solvers get to the root of the problem by interviewing or questioning anyone who might know something useful about the problem. The team should ask questions about the problem, including questions that:

  • Clarify the situation
  • Challenge assumptions about the problem
  • Determine possible reasons and evidence
  • Explore different perspectives concerning the problem
  • Ask more about the original question

Defining the Present State and the Desired State

When using this tool, your team will write a statement of the situation as it currently exists. Then they will write a statement of what they would like the situation to look like. The desired state should include concrete details and should not contain any information about possible causes or solutions. They should then refine the descriptions for each state until the concerns and needs identified in the present state are addressed in the desired state.

Stating and Restating the Problem

The problem statement and restatement technique also help evolve the understanding of the problem. First the team writes a statement of the problem, no matter how vague. Then they use various triggers to help identify the true problem. The triggers are:

  • Place emphasis on different words in the statement and ask questions about each emphasis.
  • Replace one word in the statement with a substitute that explicitly defines the word to reframe the problem.
  • Rephrase the statement with positives instead of negatives or negatives instead of positives to obtain an opposite problem.
  • Add or change words that indicate quantity or time, such as always, never, sometimes, every, none or some.
  • Identify any persuasive or opinionated words in the statement. Replace or eliminate them.
  • Try drawing a picture of the problem or writing the problem as an equation.

Analyzing the Problem

When the cause of the problem is not known, such as in troubleshooting operations, your team can look at the what, where, who, and extent of the problem to help define it.

What? – Use “what” questions both to identify what the problem is, as well as what the problem is not. “What” questions can also help identify a possible cause.

Where? – “Where” questions help to locate the problem. Use “where” questions to distinguish the difference between locations where the problem exists and where it does not exist.

When? – “When” questions help discover the timing of the problem. Use “when” questions to distinguish the difference between when the problem occurs and when it does not, or when the problem was first observed and when it was last observed.

Extent? – Questions that explore the magnitude of the problem include:

  • How far vs. how localized?
  • How many units are affected vs. how many units are not affected?
  • How much of something is affected vs. how much is not affected?

Examining the distinctions between what, where, when, and to what extent the problem is and what, where, when and to what extent it is not can lead to helpful insights about the problem. Remember to sharpen the statements as the problem becomes clearer.

Writing the Problem Statement

Writing an accurate problem statement can help accurately represent the problem. This helps clarify unclear problems. The problem statement may evolve through the use of the four problem definition tools and any additional information gathered about the problem. As the statement becomes more refined, the types and effectiveness of potential solutions are improved.

The problem statement should:

  • Include specific details about the problem, including who, what, when, where, and how
  • Address the scope of the problem to identify boundaries of what you can reasonably solve

The problem statement should not include:

  • Any mention of possible causes
  • Any potential solutions

A detailed, clear, and concise problem statement will provide clear-cut goals for focus and direction for coming up with solutions.

Improve Communication With Your Team By Asking Good Questions

Improve Communication With Your Team By Asking Good Questions

Good questioning skills are essential to successful communication with your team. In this blog, we will look closer at questioning techniques that you can use throughout the communication process.

Open Questions

Open questions get their name because the response is open-ended; the answerer has a wide range of options to choose from when answering it.

Open questions use one of six words as a root:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Why?
  • How?

Open questions are like going fishing with a net – you never know what you’re going to get! Open questions are great conversation starters, fact finders, and communication enhancers. Use them whenever possible when communicating with your team.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Closed Questions

Closed questions are the opposite of open questions; their very structure limits the answer to yes or no, or a specific piece of information. Some examples include:

  • Do you like chocolate?
  • Were you born in December?
  • Is it five o’clock yet?

Although closed questions tend to shut down communication, they can be useful if you are searching for a particular piece of information from your team, or winding a conversation down.

If you use a closed question and it shuts down the conversation, simply use an open-ended question to get things started again. Here is an example:

  • Do you like the Flaming Ducks hockey team?
  • Who is your favorite player?

Probing Questions

In addition to the basic open and closed questions, there is also a toolbox of probing questions that you can use. These questions can be open or closed, but each type serves a specific purpose.

Clarification

By probing for clarification, you invite the other person to share more information so that you can fully understand their message. Clarification questions often look like this:

  • “Please tell me more about…”
  • “What did you mean by…”
  • “What does… look like?” (Any of the five senses can be used here)

Completeness and Correctness

These types of questions can help you ensure you have the full, true story. Having all the facts, in turn, can protect you from assuming and jumping to conclusions – two fatal barriers to communication.

Some examples of these questions include:

  • “What else happened after that?”
  • “Did that end the…”

Determining Relevance

This category will help you determine how or if a particular point is related to the conversation at hand. It can also help you get the team member back on track from a tangent.

Some good ways to frame relevance questions are:

  • “How is that like…”
  • “How does that relate to…”

Drilling Down

Use these types of questions to nail down vague statements. Useful helpers include:

  • “Describe…”
  • “What do you mean by…?”
  • “Could you please give an example?”

Summarizing

These questions are framed more like a statement. They pull together all the relevant points. They can be used to confirm to the team member that you heard what was said, and to give them an opportunity to correct any misunderstandings.

Example: “So you picked out a dress, had to get it fitted three times, and missed the wedding in the end?”

Be careful not to avoid repeating the team member’s words back to them like a parrot. Remember, paraphrasing means repeating what you think the team member said in your own words.

Speaking Like a STAR to Your Team

Speak Like a STAR

You can ensure that the message you are communicating to your team is clear, complete, correct, and concise, with the STAR acronym. This article will explore the STAR acronym in conjunction with the six roots of open questions (Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?).

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

S = Situation

First, state what the situation is. Try to make this no longer than one sentence. If you are having trouble, ask yourself, “Where?”, “Who?”, and, “When?”. This will provide a base for the message so it can be clear and concise.

Example: “On Tuesday, I was in a director’s meeting at the main plant.”

T = Task

Next, briefly state what your task was. Again, this should be no longer than one sentence. Use the question, “What?” to frame your sentence, and add the “Why?” if appropriate.

Example: “I was asked to present last year’s sales figures to the group.”

A = Action

Now, state what you did to resolve the problem in one sentence. Use the question, “How?” to frame this part of the statement. The Action part will provide a solid description and state the precise actions that will resolve any issues.

Example: “I pulled out my laptop, fired up PowerPoint, and presented my slide show.”

R = Result

Last, state what the result was. This will often use a combination of the six roots. Again, a precise short description of the results that come about from your previous steps will finish on a strong definite note.

Example: “Everyone was wowed by my prep work, and by our great figures!”

Summary

Let’s look at a complete example using STAR. Let’s say you’re out with friends on the weekend. Someone asks you what the highlight of your week at work was. As it happens, you had a great week, and there is a lot to talk about. You use STAR to focus your answer so you don’t bore your friends, and so that you send a clear message.

You respond: “On Tuesday, I was in a director’s meeting at the main plant. I was asked to present last year’s sales figures to the group. I pulled out my laptop, fired up PowerPoint, and presented my slide show. Everyone was wowed by my prep work, and by our great figures!”

This format can be compressed for quick conversations, or expanded for lengthy presentations. We encourage you to try framing statements with STAR, and see how much more confident you feel when communicating.

What Your Body Language is Communicating to Your Team

What Your Body Language is Communicating to Your Team

When you are communicating something to your team, your body is sending a message that is as powerful as your words. When talking about body language, remember that our interpretations are just that – common interpretations. For example, the person sitting with his or her legs crossed may simply be more comfortable that way, and not feeling closed-minded towards the discussion. Body language can also mean different things across different genders and cultures. However, it is good to understand how various behaviors are often seen, so that we can make sure our body is sending the same message as our mouth.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Think about these scenarios for a moment. What non-verbal messages might you receive in each scenario? How might these non-verbal messages affect the verbal message?

  • Your boss asks you to come into his office to discuss a new project. He looks stern and his arms are crossed.
  • A team member tells you they have bad news, but they are smiling as they say it.
  • You tell a co-worker that you cannot help them with a project. They say that it’s OK, but they slam your office door on their way out.

In this article we will show you how to use body language to become a more effective communicator. It is also important that as a team leader you learn to interpret body language, add it to the message you are receiving, and understand the message being sent appropriately.

All About Body Language

Body language is a very broad term that simply means the way in which our body speaks to others. We have included an overview of three major categories below.

The way that we are standing or sitting

Think for a moment about different types of posture and the message that they relay.

  • Sitting hunched over typically indicates stress or discomfort.
  • Leaning back when standing or sitting indicates a casual and relaxed demeanor.
  • Standing ramrod straight typically indicates stiffness and anxiety.

The position of our arms, legs, feet, and hands

  • Crossed arms and legs often indicate a closed mind.
  • Fidgeting is usually a sign of boredom or nervousness.

Facial expressions

  • Smiles and frowns speak a million words.
  • A raised eyebrow can mean inquisitiveness, curiosity, or disbelief.

Chewing one’s lips can indicate thinking, or it can be a sign of boredom, anxiety, or nervousness.

Interpreting Gestures

A gesture is a non-verbal message that is made with a specific part of the body. Gestures differ greatly from region to region, and from culture to culture. Below we have included a brief list of gestures and their common interpretation.

Gesture Interpretation
Nodding head Yes
Shaking head No
Moving head from side to side Maybe
Shrugging shoulders Not sure; I don’t know
Crossed arms Defensive
Tapping hands or fingers Bored, anxious, nervous
Shaking index finger Angry
Thumbs up Agreement, OK
Thumbs down Disagreement, not OK
Pointing index finger at someone/something Indicating, blaming
Handshake Welcome, introduction
Flap of the hand Doesn’t matter, go ahead
Waving hand Hello
Waving both hands over head Help, attention
Crossed legs or ankles Defensive
Tapping toes or feet Bored, anxious, nervous

 

 

Successful Teams Use SMART Goals

Successful Teams Use SMART Goals

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” – Tony Robbins

If your team cannot achieve their goals, there is a chance that they are not creating the correct goals. Whenever your team is creating goals, they will find that following the rules for SMART goals will be easier to achieve. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. When they combine the elements of SMART goals, your team will have a greater chance of success.

Related: Goal Setting Outcome Based Team Building

Specific

Goals need to be specific. Your team will not be able to reach their goals if they are broad and general because planning will be too difficult. For example, “Improve our performance” is too broad. The team cannot work towards this general goal. Specific goals explain what is necessary to complete a goal and guides the team as they try to reach the goal. Specific goals may also identify location, requirements, and the reasoning behind the goal.

Measurable

Goals need to be measurable in order to be effective. A measurable goal specifies the when a goal is accomplished by answering, “how much?” or “how many?” It provides measurable results. Without measurable goals, it is difficult to realize when the goal has been reached.

Attainable

Goals must always be attainable. It is important that the team creates goals that are challenging, but they still need to be within reach. When goals are unattainable, the team will give up on them without even trying. The measure of a goal should always be attainable.

Realistic

It is important that the team set realistic goals. Realistic goals are directly related to the team’s abilities. For example, a goal to reprogram the computer is not realistic if you do not have the education or experience to accomplish the task. Additionally, you need to make sure that the team has access to the tools necessary to meet their goals. If a goal seems unrealistic, break it down into smaller chunks to know for certain.

Timely

Your team should always create goals that have specific time frames. General goals do not establish any time frames, which means that you may continue to pursue goals that you should relinquish. Timely goals encourages the team to move forward in order to meet the deadline they have established. Once a time frame has been reached, the team should take the time to reevaluate the goal.

Achieving Team Goals Using “To Do” Lists

Achieving Team Goals Using “To Do” Lists

“To do” lists are important tools used for achieving team goals, but if “to do” lists are not done properly, they are useless. Too often, teams create lists that they never come close to completing. There are characteristics that effective “to do” lists share. If the team’s “to do” list includes these basic characteristics, the team will find it easier to accomplish the tasks that they established.

Focus on the Important

The main mistake that teams make when creating “to do” lists is making them too long. It is not possible to place every little task on a “to do” list. For a list to be effective, the team must focus on the important tasks. The best method for making a “to do” list is to create a list of everything the team wants to accomplish and then cut that list down to a manageable size. Remember that an important task will align with the team goals. If a task is not important enough to make the list, do not attempt to squeeze it in later. You do not want to split the team’s attention. Focusing only on the important tasks will help the team complete the “to do” list and reach the team goals.

Chunk, Block, Tackle

When creating a “to do” list, the team should keep chunk, block, and tackle in mind. The first part of this strategy should be familiar. The team needs to break up a large task into smaller ones.

  • Chunk: Break projects into tasks that are 15 minutes or less.
  • Block: Block out time to complete each chunk.
  • Tackle: Tackle each specific task individually rather than looking at the entire project.

Related: Goal Setting Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Implementing chunk, block, tackle, will motivate your team to complete the project because they will feel a sense of accomplishment as they complete each chunk. When creating the “to do” list, the team should include the project chunks that they created rather than listing the project as a whole. The team should also include the time estimate for each task.

Make It a Habit

The team needs to make “to do” lists regularly for them to be effective. Creating “to do” lists should become a habit for the team. The best way to accomplish this is by creating the team “to do” list at the same time each day. When creating a new “to do” list, the team should transfer any unfinished tasks from the current list to the list for the next day. Once creating the list becomes a habit, it will become faster and easier for the team to revise the “to do” list every day.

Plan Ahead

“To do” lists will not help the team reach their goals unless they are implemented. Until they are executed, lists are just reminders of what the team still need to accomplish. The key to using lists is to plan ahead. The team should take time to prioritize and schedule the list each day.

How to complete the list:

  • Make a schedule: Schedule the tasks on your “to do” list each day.
  • Set a timer: Set a timer or an alarm for each task.
  • Stay focused: Do not be sidetracked by unimportant tasks.

If the team plans the day around the “to do” list, they will find themselves completing more of the tasks and getting things done.

Team Building Quotes From Norman Vincent Peale

Team Building Quotes From Norman Vincent Peale

Norman Vincent Peale was an American minister and author known for his work in popularizing the concept of positive thinking. First published in 1952, The Power of Positive Thinking, was by far his most read work. The book stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for 186 consecutive weeks. Some of his other popular works include The Art of LivingA Guide to Confident LivingThe Tough-Minded Optimist, and Inspiring Messages for Daily Living. Norman Vincent Peale served as a Reformed Church in America pastor at Marble Collegiate Church in New York, from 1932 until his death. During that time the church’s membership grew from about 600 to over 5 000. He was a personal friend of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan awarded Peale the Presidential Medal of Freedom on March 26, 1984 for his contributions to the field of theology.

We have put together a collection of quotes from Norman Vincent Peale, which you can use to motivate and build your team.

“Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

“You will soon break the bow if you keep it always stretched.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

“We’ve all heard that we have to learn from our mistakes, but I think it’s more important to learn from successes. If you learn only from your mistakes, you are inclined to learn only errors.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

“Getting people to like you is merely the other side of liking them.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

“Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding. Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade. Your mind will seek to develop the picture… Do not build up obstacles in your imagination.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

“Change yourself and your work will seem different.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

“If you paint in your mind a picture of bright and happy expectations, you put yourself into a condition conducive to your goal.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

“It is of practical value to learn to like yourself. Since you must spend so much time with yourself you might as well get some satisfaction out of the relationship.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

“Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure. The way you think about a fact may defeat you before you ever do anything about it. You are overcome by the fact because you think you are.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

“When every physical and mental resource is focused, one’s power to solve a problem multiplies tremendously.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

“Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them. You will find that they haven’t half the strength you think they have.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

“Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result, but the cause, of fear. Perhaps the action you take will be successful; perhaps different action or adjustments will have to follow. But any action is better than no action at all.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

“It’s always too early to quit.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

“Drop the idea that you are Atlas carrying the world on your shoulders. The world would go on even without you. Don’t take yourself so seriously.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

“If you put off everything till you’re sure of it, you’ll never get anything done.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

“There is a real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

“Part of the happiness of life consists not in fighting battles, but in avoiding them. A masterly retreat is in itself a victory.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.
– Norman Vincent Peale