Team Building Activity | Team Building Facilitator Dana Brownlee

Team Building Activity

As a team retreat facilitator, I’m constantly working to identify new, innovative team building activities that are fun and engaging but also make a point.  Full disclosure admission….Even though I’m a corporate team retreat facilitator, I HATE those touchy feely team building activities that don’t seem to have a clear point or purpose. Sometimes, the point is to break up cliques on the team and/or enhance relationships (e.g. get to know each other better), and that’s fine, but it’s just important to me as a team retreat facilitator to understand the purpose for the retreat and identify (or customize) specific team building activities that support that purpose.

Potential Team Retreat Topics

Oftentimes teams identify other goals for their team retreat:

  • Conduct strategic planning
  • Clarify team mission/objectives
  • Identify metrics to support team objectives
  • Review key projects
  • Clarify team roles and responsibilities
  • Conduct training in a relevant area (e.g. project management, time management, working smarter, communication skills, improving meetings, etc.)
  • Analyze a pressing problem (conduct root cause analysis)
  • Analyze workflow processes
  • Enhance relationships and have fun!

Oftentimes, facilitators make the mistake of thinking they have to choose between conducting an activity that is work related and one that is fun.  The truth is that the best team building activities can be both?

Defining Team Mission

I often work with teams who want to either define their mission or review/refine it.  I typically caution against setting an expectation of defining a complete mission statement (from beginning to end) during a team retreat.  The truth is that the “word smithing” of mission statements can be both very important and time consuming and it can be counter productive (and overly ambitious) to assume it can (or should) be done in a single session.  More typically, the team retreat can be used to get a great “head start” by soliciting consensus on the key elements of the mission (including clarification of what might be considered out of scope).  The goal might be to conclude the retreat with one or more draft mission statements that will be assigned to one or more team members as an action item.  Their action item would be to develop a refined mission statement for review by the full team (at a later date).

Sample Team Building Activity | Defining Team Mission

As a team retreat facilitator, I often use an interactive team building activity as part of this Mission Definition agenda item.  The activity is conducted as follows:

  1. Give each group few rolls of pennies
  2. Ask them to design a team logo using the pennies
  3. Have each group present their logo and explain why they chose that design
  4. Ask the entire team to come up with a listing of key phrases they noticed several groups use.  These key phrases become elements for a potential mission statement.

For additional tips on designing an effective team retreat, watch this video.

Team Building Activities | Corporate Team Retreat Facilitator Dana Brownlee

Team Building Activities 

As a team retreat facilitator and corporate trainer, I’ve definitely learned that selecting effective team building activities can make or break a corporate team retreats, training workshops, or even corporate meetings.

The question becomes….what makes an effective team building activity?  When I select an activity I’m looking for something that meets these criteria:

  • Is it fun?
  • Does it make a broader point?
  • Does it allow team members to get to know each other in a different way or learn more about one another?

Over they years I’ve identified a nice toolbox of tried and true team building activities that work every time.  It’s important though to match your team building activity to the goals for your retreat.  My list of team building activities is categorized by focus area (e.g. adapting to change, enhancing leadership skills, increasing collaboration, communicating effectively, etc.)  One of my pet peeves is facilitators who use random team building activities that aren’t tied to the retreat’s goals so don’t make that mistake.

Here are just a few of my favorites….

Ice Breaker Challenge – This is a great, really light and easy team building activity that gets groups energized and having fun.  Simply, split the group into smaller sub groups (of 4-6 participants) and provide each subgroup 3 different ice breakers.  Teams compete to see which one can complete all ice breakers first.  (It’s helpful and interesting to mix up the groups so that participants get to know others that they may not know as well so think about assigning teams.)  Always announce a prize.  The prize does not have to be great.  I’ve literally wrapped a can of SPAM and offered it as a prize, but just announcing a prize revs up the competitive energy!

You can find lots of ice breakers online, but here is one of my favorites:

Change Management Team Activity

In this activity, teams compete to build a wireless tower using materials provided.  Each material has a cost and each team must decide how much to “purchase” before the activity begins.  Each team will be judged on the following criteria:

  • Tower height (taller is better)
  • Tower aesthetics (how attractive is it?)
  • Tower cost (lower cost is better)

During the competition, the facilitator introduces two twists (to simulate change that often happens in the workplace), and teams must make real time adjustments without losing focus on the goal. After the competition, the larger group discusses how their teams performed and they draw parallels to the workplace.

For tips on designing and planning  your upcoming corporate team retreat, consider these best practices:

Leadership Skills for Women | Keynote Speaker Dana Brownlee

Leadership Skills for Women – Tips and Best Practices

The truth is that women leaders often face unique challenges that require more specialized leadership training.  As a corporate trainer and keynote speaker, I’ve worked with many women leaders who struggle to strike a balance between being assertive and focused on results while also being sensitive and focused on building and sustaining relationships.  Too assertive – they’re often labeled a tyrant (or worse).  Too sensitive – they’re not viewed as strong.  In many ways, walking that tightrope is a bit of a lose/lose proposition.

In my experience, one of the best ways to walk that fine line is to work towards a balanced leadership style that focuses fairly equally on task and relationship.  I call this the Thoroughbred Leader.  These are the leaders (male or female) that I’ve seen be most successful in the workplace.  This type of balanced approach enables women to address difficult situations with poise and results orientation simultaneously.  These videos provide specific examples for how to use this balanced approach when managing difficult meeting situations.

One of the most powerful techniques that women can use particularly during times of conflict is turning your comment/statement into a question.  When you’re in a group situation and things get tense and you’d like to move the conversation along, that can happen two different ways.  You might say something like….

  1. “Jack, I understand your point about the vendor delays, but we’re getting off topic with that and need to refocus on the inventory discussion.” or
  2. “Jack, that’s an interesting point that we hadn’t surfaced previously.  Vendor delays have certainly been a big problem.  I’m glancing at the clock and realizing though that we only have 10 minutes allotted for the inventory discussion and we’ve been discussing this issue for a few minutes.  Is this something that needs to be discussed/resolved now, or could this possibly be placed on our Parking Lot for future discussion?”

Option 2 is inherently less threatening and allows the speaker to decide on net steps (but gently guides them to move on).  I would never advocate questioning all the time.  That could be perceived as being too passive.  But when you’re in tense, conflict situations and need to intervene to move things forward, it’s a great technique.

Effectively Managing Meeting Time | Meeting Facilitation Training Tips

Tips for effectively managing meeting time:

The Problem:

Let’s face it – one of the reasons why many people hate attending meetings is that they too often drag ON and ON and ON with no end in sight!  We’re all frustrated by the meeting leader who drifts casually from one topic to another during the meeting with very little regard for time.  Not only does this waste everyone’s time but it also irritates participants (who may become turned off and hesitant to participate in future meetings).  You don’t want to be one of those meeting leaders.  Let’s explore a few tips you can use to better manage time during your meetings…

Consider these suggestions….

  • Include specific timings for each agenda topic (not just for the overall meeting). This enables you to determine more realistic time limits for the entire meeting and also positions you to better monitor timing throughout the meeting.
  • Set realistic agendas! Some leaders’ meetings always run late because the agendas aren’t realistic at all.
  • Ensure you have identified a process (or facilitation method) to use for each agenda topic. In other words think through how you’re going to manage each section before you get there!
  • As the meeting leader, you should role model timeliness by starting on time (even if all participants aren’t present), ending on time, and keeping to specified time breaks.
  • Establish an odd start time (e.g. 9:10 instead of 9:00). This slight adjustment sends a signal that you’re serious about time.
  • Ask someone to act as the timekeeper (and rotate this role). This gets participants involved in the meeting management and also sends a clear signal to everyone that you respect their time and intend to stick to the predetermined time limits.
  • For conference calls, empower all participants to help keep the group focused (and on time) by hitting the # key anytime they feel the discussion is becoming too protracted. This works particularly well because it’s anonymous – no one knows who hit the # sign!
  • Actively use the parking lot to “park” off topic issues and questions
  • Ensure you assign time consuming tasks as homework to be completed prior to the meeting. Don’t try to use meeting time to conduct these types of tasks (e.g. reviewing documents, doing research, conducting detailed analysis, etc.)  Check out next month’s Monthly Tip for more information on how to do it!
  • Use timers to help manage the agenda or a particular discussion (as needed). Sometimes just having a timer in the center of the room can act as a powerful visual cue that the leader is serious about managing time effectively.
  • Suggest that everyone stand (and keep standing) if the discussion becomes too long winded.
  • Place sensitive issues towards the end of the agenda (as long as that placement makes logical sense). If there’s an explosive issue that might generate a lot of discussion, it’s better to tackle it near the end of the meeting.
  • Actively manage rambling discussion (see the 9/09 monthly tip for detailed suggestions on how to do it!)

This video provides insight into how to improve your status meetings…

Facilitating Group Consensus | Meeting Facilitation Training Tips

Tips for Facilitating Group Consensus

The Problem:

Do you ever feel that you’re herding a group of feisty cats instead of leading a meeting because your team members simply can’t agree?  Well, take comfort in knowing that this common problem plagues most meeting facilitators at one point or another.  Indeed, if your group is disagreeing vehemently (but respectfully), that’s a sign of healthy conflict…congratulations, you’re likely on your way to some great ideas and solutions!  Unfortunately as meeting facilitators, we often need to guide the group towards a consensus decision and oftentimes that just doesn’t seem possible.  The good news is that reaching a consensus decision does not mean that a two hour session must turn into a two week session…or worse, a real knock down drag out.  Let’s explore a few tips you can use the next time you’re faced with this situation…

Consider these suggestions….

  • Remember first that consensus does NOT mean everyone gets exactly what they want. It does mean that everyone can live with the decision and support it outside the team.
  • Develop a ground rule with the team about how the group will make decisions BEFORE you need to make those decisions. If the group has already reached agreement on the decision process, making those subsequent decisions becomes much easier (and less emotionally charged).  For example, if the group has already agreed on the decision criteria and selection process before initiating the discussion of which employee gets the “Employee of the Year” award, this decision suddenly becomes much easier.
  • When you get bogged down in disagreement, separate areas of agreement and disagreement. Clearly identify and document areas of agreement to continue to move the group forward.  For areas of disagreement, clarify the range of disagreement.  (e.g. Mike, it sounds like you and Beth both agree that the current cycle time of 5 days is too long.  It sounds like the area of disagreement is around just how much that should be reduced.  Mike proposes 2 days while Beth thinks 1 day is a better target, so we have a difference of opinion of 1 day.  Is that correct?)
  • Sometimes we can’t agree because we don’t have enough information and we’re operating based on poorly informed assumptions. Inviting key stakeholders to participate in the discussion (e.g. IT experts, members of the leadership team, HR or Finance subject matter experts, etc.) can often shed light on critical issues and help the group more easily expose the best alternative.
  • If you have a tendency to think the group may be quibbling over trivial differences, consider suggesting that they conduct the remainder of the meeting standing (until a decision is reached). This technique is sometimes used as an “out of the box” method for encouraging brevity and a spirit of compromise.
  • Use a facilitation technique that encourages collaborative decision making (e.g. affinity diagramming, dot voting, etc.) These techniques typically offer each participant a certain number of votes; then participants vote simultaneously and the option(s) receiving the highest numbers of votes overall is typically selected.
  • If you sense that the disagreements may be driven by personality conflicts or other personal reasons, address those issues offline in a more private setting with the individuals involved.

Part of facilitating group consensus effectively is learning to manage difficult personalities in your meetings.  This video share helpful tips that we teach in our meeting facilitation training.


Managing Rambling Meeting Discussion | Meeting Facilitation Tips

Tips for managing rambling meeting discussion and keeping the team focused…

The Problem:

Does your group ever find itself engaged in a deep conversation on the viability of one vendor over another when you’re supposed to be prioritizing a list of requirements that have to be finalized within the next two hours?  Worse yet, sometimes, groups allow themselves to become sidetracked by the latest office gossip, personal discussions, or anything other than what they’re supposed to be covering on the agenda.   Too often, the meeting leader anxiously sits on the sidelines hoping (even praying) that somehow the conversation will come back around to the topic at hand.  That kind of “staying on the sidelines” facilitation style may seem safe and respectful of the ramblers in the group, but it’s not benefiting the team.  Indeed, the facilitator must “get in the game”!  Let’s explore how…

Try these techniques….

  • Have a printed agenda (on a flip chart or whiteboard) in the room. When conversation strays off topic, stand up and point to the specific agenda topic to refocus the group.
  • Include timings for each section of the agenda so you can more easily focus the group on the time allotted for each discussion point. Possibly ask someone on the team to provide a 5 minute warning before the scheduled end time for each section of the agenda.
  • Simply, raise your hand and interrupt discussion to ask if the conversation is on topic and helping the group reach their goal for the meeting. “Guys, allow me to step in for a moment to ask whether the vendor discussion is relevant for this particular section of the agenda?”
  • Introduce the Parking Lot at the beginning of the meeting and announce that you’ll interrupt discussion to place any off topic discussion points on the parking lot to help keep the group on track. “Jill, I realize that you feel strongly about the inventory control issue, but I’m wondering if we should try to resolve that now or could we possibly place it on the parking lot?”  (Review all parking lot items at the close of the meeting and assign action items for each.)
  • Assign someone on the team to act as the “rambler police” (use a badge if appropriate). This person is responsible for raising their hand anytime the discussion veers off topic.
  • Consider using the ELMO technique. ELMO = “Everybody, Let’s Move On!”  Whenever anyone in the group feels the group is rambling too much, they’re expected to pick up the ELMO doll (in the center of the table).



Project Confidence Leading Meetings…When You’re Really Not

How do you project confidence leading meetings when you’re really not?

The Problem:

Oftentimes we’re thrust into situations where we’re expected to lead a meeting, and we may lack the confidence we think we should have.  Maybe we’re not confident because we’re new to the organization, possibly we’re not as knowledgeable about the subject matter, or maybe we’re not as senior as some of the attendees….There are a whole host of reasons why we may experience feelings ranging from slight intimidation to downright terror!!  Don’t fret…Here are a few simple tips to help you when you need to lead a session with confidence

Consider these suggestions….

  • Use an ice breaker or other meeting opener that works well with groups. This allows you a few minutes to calm your nerves and establish a strong start with the group.
  • If possible, start the meeting with creative introductions (including a funny fact like each person’s first paid job). This shifts the focus from you to the attendees and also creates a bit of levity.
  • Scope out the room at least a day prior. If possible, test out all the AV equipment to be sure everything is working properly.
  • Gather information on the attendees prior to the session. The more information you have the less nervous you will be.
  • Meet with key players prior to the session. These pre-meetings can provide great insight that might impact your agenda or facilitation plan.  It also offers an opportunity for you to get to know you audience.  It’s always less threatening to lead a session if you know the attendees.
  • Make sure you have a written Purpose, Agenda, and Limit posted in the room before the meeting starts so you can easily refer to it once the meeting starts. Having these items posted and easily accessible ensures that you don’t get flustered and forget to cover them or miss key points.
  • Prepare! Prepare! Prepare! Review your agenda and facilitation plan with a key ally who can give you honest feedback a few days prior to the session.
  • There’s nothing like experience to help soothe your fears. Take a facilitation training class to build your skills.
  • If possible, try to have feed at the session. Food improves everyone’s mood!

Sample Meeting Ice Breaker

Tips for Developing an Agenda | Meeting Facilitation Training

Developing an Agenda…the Right Way

The Problem:

We all know that we should develop an agenda for our meetings to help them run more smoothly, but who has the time???  Do they really help anyway?  Too often agendas are sent out prior to the meeting, and the meeting is still a train wreck!  Exactly how do you develop an agenda the right way?

Consider these suggestions….

  • Identify the timing, agenda topic, and discussion leader for each agenda item
  • Contact anyone identified as a discussion leader prior to the meeting to ensure they are comfortable leading their section of the meeting
  • Instead of determining the meeting length first then developing an agenda, try developing the agenda and adding up anticipated lengths for each topic to determine the appropriate meeting length. This often yields a more realistic estimate and minimizes the likelihood of running over the allotted time.
  • For the facilitator’s agenda, document the facilitation method/process to be used for each agenda item. Most meeting leaders will document “what” they plan to cover, but few will consider and document “how” they plan to accomplish that.
  • Start each agenda item with a verb to encourage specificity on the action required (g. Prioritize functional requirements)
  • Ensure you include a break at least every 90 minutes if you’re planning a longer meeting
  • Consider both “task” and “relationship” for agendas with established teams. Remember to incorporate some emphasis on relationship by including agenda items or methods that encourage team interaction and bonding (e.g. creative introductions or small group discussions)
  • Ensure the agenda is physically posted in the meeting room (instead of just emailed out prior to the session). If you have the agenda written on a flip chart or whiteboard, you can easily point to it or check off items as the session progresses.  This creates a much more powerful facilitation tool for the meeting leader.
  • Develop realistic timings for each section of the agenda. It’s tempting to only designate 5 minutes for “Introductions”, but if you’ve got 15 attendees and each person takes 90 seconds, that section alone will consume 22 minutes…yikes!  You can obviously try to limit time per introduction, but start with a realistic estimate.
  • For regularly scheduled meetings, consider including a section for “Open Issues” at the end of the agenda. This can act as a placeholder for off topic or Parking Lot issues that may arise during the session.

If you’re developing an agenda for a team retreat, consider these best practices…


Team Motivation for Project Managers | Retreat Facilitator Dana Brownlee

How Project Managers Can Provide Team Motivation During Meetings

Dear Dana,

I’m leading a team of six and our motivation seems to be dwindling quickly.  Even my best team members seem to be running out of steam these days.  We’ve got about three more months to go and a lot of meetings during that time.  What should I do?

Shaun in Atlanta

Dear Shaun,

Your team sounds like their motivation tanks are running on “E”, and they need a fill up!  If you can’t identify a significant structural problem with the team (e.g. unclear charter, difficult client, faulty product, etc.), they may just need a bit more acknowledgement and motivation.  Step back and think about how you can best motivate the team to finish the work with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and purpose!

Tips for increasing motivation in your team meetings…

  • Let the team know that you’re sensing a drop in morale and ask for feedback. One of the best ways to gather this feedback is to conduct a meeting debrief.  Simply conduct a round robin asking each person to share one thing that’s working well on the team and one thing that could be changed to enhance the team environment or performance levels.  Simply record all responses on a whiteboard or flip chart and discuss how the team can make changes to incorporate the team’s feedback.  If you’re concerned about team members not being candid, ask team members to record their comments on cards anonymously and drop them into a basket on their way out the meeting room.
  • Embed acknowledgment into your meeting agendas by creating an agenda item for peer recognition. Spend 5-10 minutes at the end of the meeting to allow (and encourage) team members to recognize anyone on the team (or outside the team) who has gone above and beyond and deserves recognition.
  • Ask each team member how they would prefer to be rewarded and attempt to customize rewards as much as possible. Some team members want additional visibility, leadership, and responsibility while others would prefer to have more time off, ability to work from home, or training opportunities.  Make sure you understand what type of reward would be most meaningful to an individual team member and don’t assume everyone is similarly motivated.
  • Jazz up your meetings! If you’ve been meeting onsite, try meeting offsite.  Bring some exotic coffees and pastries and have a “Name that Country” contest at the end of the meeting (with a gag prize awarded to the winner).  Close each meeting by asking each team member to share the best idea they heard that wasn’t theirs.
  • Recognize that the tendency on most teams is to punish the team stars by giving them more and more work. Remember that your team stars need (and deserve) timely acknowledgment and rewards.

See our video clip for more information on motivating team stars.

Conducting team retreats can be a very effective method for starting a new project or providing a motivating boost to a team that may be flailing a bit.  Retreats can be used to build relationships, develop ground rules and other project charter elements, provide a shared vision/clear goals, engage key stakeholders, define strategies, and/or celebrate successes.  Dana has designed and facilitated many team retreats for project teams.  This video provides insight into her team retreat design philosophy.


Motivating Teams During Difficult Times | Retreat Facilitator Dana Brownlee

Motivating Teams During Difficult Times

Dale Carnegie said “There is only one way to get anyone to do anything. And that is by making the other person want to do it!” That simple statement represents a profound shift in thinking for many of us.  I’ll admit that when I’m thinking about motivating my husband to wash the dishes, I’m really thinking OK…how can I get him to do what I want him to do?  That sort of thinking may elicit short term results (or not), but it definitely won’t yield the longer term results I’m seeking.  In many ways that is the exact challenge that team leaders, managers, and executives have with their teams – how to motivate in a way that is truly lasting?

Even more daunting is the thought of trying to motivate during difficult times.  These difficult times often come in the form of a down economy, layoffs, organizational changes, etc.  The good news is that many of the best motivation techniques still hold true even during these difficult times.  In fact, in many ways motivation becomes even more important during these times.  Let’s explore a few secrets…

Secret #1 – Get to Know Your Team Members Beyond the Resume – Relationship Building is Key!

It sounds simple and basic, but this principle is truly the basis for most motivation strategies.  Motivation is very personal.  What is motivating to one person might be viewed as a punishment to another.  You simply cannot effectively motivate individuals without knowing them as a person – their likes/dislikes, strengths/weaknesses, idiosyncrasies, lifestyle, etc.

A friend of mine was trying desperately to launch a line of soaps and lotions out of her apartment.  Although her heart was in her own business, she kept her corporate job to pay the bills while her business was getting off the ground.  When she gave out some of her products as gifts during the holiday season, her manager asked her more about her business.  Although she initially was a little hesitant to discuss it, she eventually beamed as she talked about her new product line.  Seeing her level of excitement and natural motivation, he asked her if they might explore some new responsibilities that she might take on that would build her skills in a few areas beneficial not just in the workplace but equally valuable to her as she grew her business.  This approach was amazingly effective.  She attended a few courses in internet marketing and was able to not only use these skills in her primary job but also to help grow her business.  She was highly motivated and also appreciated his taking an interest in something so important to her.

Indeed, managers will naturally vary in their level of focus on task and relationship in daily interactions with our team members.  During difficult times, it can seem even more important to “crack the whip” so to speak and focus on task, but to truly motivate the team, focusing on the relationship component can often yield longer lasting benefits.  This does NOT mean that you should spend inordinate amounts of time socializing with team members or becoming overly personal.  It does mean that in almost any interaction you can strive to strike a balance between task and relationship.

Secret #2 Walk the Talk!

As a management consultant, I often worked really long hours.  But no matter how late I stayed up perfecting a presentation, I knew my director Jim was up just a little later.  I also knew that he would never ask me to do something that he wasn’t willing to do himself.  That simple fact made me extremely motivated to do whatever he needed.  In contrast, years later a new director joined the organization.  Shortly thereafter the company sponsored an all employee retreat and asked employees to room two to a room to reduce costs or pay an additional amount for a private room.  Most members of our team roomed with someone, and a few paid a bit extra for a private room.  The new director decided that she didn’t want to stay in the designated hotel at all (a four star hotel on the Las Vegas Strip) and paid for a room at the Four Seasons instead.  That one decision caused irreparable damage between her and the team…indeed her actions spoke loud and clear!

A wise man gave his young daughters very sage dating advice, “Ignore everything they say, and just pay attention to what they do”.  That is exactly what team members are doing…watching what leaders do!  If you’re constantly telling your team that times are lean and everyone needs to do more with less, let them see you doing it!

Secret #3 – Provide Support for Personal Crises

Part of what makes leadership so difficult is the fact that team members aren’t robots and are constantly dealing with personal issues and problems that impact them significantly (and can spill over into the workplace).  As a team leader, the reality is that you’re wearing several hats and one of those hats is friend/mentor/confidant.  Don’t ignore the reality that sometimes crises strike, and at those times team members need support.

As a public school teacher in the Bronx in the 60s, my mom struggled with the daily challenge of how to motivate her students.   She taught the “drop out” class – those who had performed the worst academically and were just expected to likely drop out as soon as they reached the minimum age required to drop out.  She’d decided to use the DMV’s driver’s permit exam prep materials as her course materials because her students were all 15 years old and VERY motivated to get their drivers permit.  Her thought was that she could use virtually any reading material to teach reading skills; she just needed the right topic to really motivate them.  This approach was extremely effective…with one exception.  One student (Melissa) seemed impossible to motivate.  After using every motivation technique in her arsenal, she decided to have a heart to heart with her after class one day.  She asked about her home life, and Melissa immediately burst into tears.  Evidently, her mother was gravely ill and needed a kidney transplant.  Melissa’s mom had asked her to donate one of her kidneys, but Melissa’s own health problems made that option very risky.  She was torn and couldn’t concentrate on anything else.  Immediately, my mom shifted from teacher to mentor/supporter.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs clearly indicates that a person’s physiological and security needs must be addressed before higher level motivation tactics will be effective.  As team leaders, we must remember this and check in with team members who seem to be particularly unmotivated or distracted.  Whether the crisis is personal or generated by workplace difficulties, any real crises should be addressed proactively.

Secret #4 – Tell the Ugly Truth

Remember that during difficult times, it’s vitally important to be honest about the organization’s health/current state.  Most managers make the mistake of decreasing communications during difficult times when just the opposite is what is really needed.  In the absence of information people create their own information, and it’s usually not positive (think rumor mill).  If the group’s project is really an “ugly baby” or if budget/headcount cuts are likely, be honest about it!  People are motivated to work in an environment where leaders will be candid and honest…even if the news isn’t good.

Motivation is certainly one of the keys to effective leadership, but figuring out how to do it in the midst of a difficult environment can certainly be challenging.  The reality is that there isn’t a bag of tricks – just a few proven secrets that will enhance your ability to motivate your team in virtually any environment.


Team retreats can be a great tool for teams during difficult times.   They provide an effective opportunity to recognize hard work, roll out organizational initiatives or strategies, enhance relationship building, analyze/address team specific issues, celebrate successes, etc.

Dana has designed and facilitated many team retreats (large and small) for a variety of teams.  Learn more about Dana’s team building design philosophy!