Team assets? A simple tool to find them

Photo Credit: danbuck57313 Flickr via Compfight cc

Teams that can at first glance look like a hot mess, inevitably have strengths if you look close enough.  Upon second & third look, interesting stories start to emerge.


I encourage all teams to look for their assets or strengths (as well as their challenges).  Every team has them, even the team that I once worked with that regularly yelled at each other & banged the tables when they talked.


Here’s an easy way to do that (find your team’s assets that is, not bang tables).


Before your next staff meeting ask your colleagues to give you three pieces of information about themselves that their colleagues don’t know AND they’re okay with sharing.  Be very, very clear that you’ll be sharing the information, as you don’t want any nasty surprises down the road with sharing something that wasn’t intended to be public.


Then simply read out some of the information & see if others can guess who you’re describing.


I love watching people’s faces as they discover new things about their team members.  It always leads to much storytelling later on.


You can do this all at once (read 1 piece of information from each person on your team) or spread it out over several meetings & simply read one piece of information at a time.  Your choice.


How does this relate to assets?  Knowing each other & hearing each other’s stories is a huge asset for a team.


So give it a try & let me know how it went in the comments below.  What did you learn about your colleagues?  I’d love to hear.


Tags: , ,

Your team building results are in- check out the most common pitfalls for teams

We all need a little help from our team mates, as the video above so charmingly displays.  Yet high functioning teams, that work well together, & know & understand each other well, while critical to success in the workplace, are rare.


While Forbes says team building is ‘the most important investment you’ll make,’ by the time a client calls me in to design & deliver a team building event, I usually hear horror stories about previous team building events.


Hint: doing a company golf game just because the boss loves to gold isn’t team building.

Team building survey

Spoiler alert – I’m about to talk about a survey about teams I did a few weeks back with you.  If you didn’t get a chance to fill in the 1 question survey & want to before you see the results simply go here & then continue reading.


A few weeks ago I asked you what your needs & assets were when it comes to teams.  Here’s what you had to say.

Team building needs & assets survey

Team building needs

Trust.  Communication.  Conflict resolution.  Those are the 3 things I see most often that teams need to work on.  It makes sense – how can a team work well together if they don’t trust each other, can’t communicate & can’t resolve conflict.


As a learning & development professional I’ve worked with some 20,000 participants in & from more than 80 countries.  I utterly adore being invited into organizations to peek under the hood- to see what’s revving the engines & what’s causing traffic jams so to speak, then designing workshops accordingly, including on team building.


Is your interest piqued?  Check out this link that has a downloadable overview of my ‘Working Better Together’ team building workshops.


Next week I’ll share a simple tool for how to find & illuminate your teams’ assets or strengths.


In the meantime share some needs you’ve observed with teams you’ve been a part of or observed, in the comment section below.



Tags: , , , ,

5 lessons from trekking with camels

A blast of pungent, loamy, putrid smell wafted by my nose.  Next came an odd, indescribable sounds of protest – a whine, guttural groan & deep, back of the throat rumbling wrapped into one.

Turning around I saw our beasts of burden for the first time – 3 camels that would accompany us on a trekking safari in Tanzania with 3 Maasai guides.  Another 2 camels & 5 more guides would meet us at our camp each night, with camping gear & food.

I had a lot of time to think as we ambled along the foothills of misty Mt. Meru, alternating between acacia studded, dry, scrubby brush & verdant, green, grassland shared by goats & cows, whose bells sounded the way long before we saw them.

Here are 5 lessons I learned from trekking with camels.


1. Pole Pole Pacing

Camel breath

Temperatures soared during the 42 km we trekked, as we alternated riding the camels & walking alongside them.  This trip was a big stretch for our family, for while we’re adventurous in other ways, extreme physical feats not so much.  When I started to lag, our guide Philipo would murmur ‘pole pole,’ which means slowly, slowly in Swahili (& rhymes not with toll, but mole, as in the Mexican sauce).

Easy does it is great advice.  As we ease into 2017 I wish you a good pace – fast enough to get stuff done & feel accomplished, balanced with slow enough to get you to this time next year in good health & with no burnout.

2. Find your fit

Camel train

Our lead camel was always the lead camel.  She doesn’t like to follow other camels.  And the other two were happy to let her lead.

Sounds like good self-awareness to me.

Aka know thyself. Find your best fit, for example, with:

  • your work environment: noisy, hustle & bustle with lots going on, quiet & serene or somewhere in between?
  • your work related technology: I so adore apps that help me be productive, like workflowy, fiverr & wunderlist
  • your creative space: I’m headed to a weekly art class this year & am searching for a zumba class that will fit me & let me get my groove

3. Reflection

Wait a moment tree

This is a ‘wait a moment’ tree. It’s softly rounded, innocuous looking leaves are deceptive, for if you get too close it continuously catches on your clothing & hangs you up.

I loved our guide Isiah’s wise perspective as he patiently & slowly untangled things.  There was no rush, no fuss.

Time flowed more slowly.

It was a delicious break & I was constantly delighted at the places my mind took me when I let it wander.

I encourage you to find your own ‘wait a moment’ tree – places that let you slow down & reflect.

4. Take a second look

Can you see the animal in this video we shot while on safari?  My oldest kid is an outdoor enthusiast & since the time he could walk, he’s been pointing out things to me that I’d never have seen otherwise.  This trip was no exception.

Many times he saw things I’d have walked right past.  Like the critter below.

As you head into 2017 find people & experiences that literally & figuratively open your eyes.

5. Collaboration & symbiosis

Whistling thorn bush

This wicked looking spiky plant is a whistling thorn bush, aptly named as when the wind blows through them an eery, haunting, whistling sound results. Giraffes love to eat them as they’re able to bypass the thorns.  The sneaky plants have a hidden ally to protect them though.  Inside the large bulbous pods live ants, which eat the inner, sweet tasting fruit.  When the plant is being attacked / eaten, the ants rush out & bite the attacker.

Quid pro quo.  You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

For 2017 seek out interesting opportunities to collaborate – where each of you can benefit.

So there you have it, 5 lessons from the back of a camel: pole pole pacing, find your fit, the importance of reflection, taking a second look & seeking out collaboration.

Now that I’m back home in Nairobi, I’m looking forward to putting them into practice.

I’d love to hear about how these lessons resonate (or don’t) with you.  Pick one lesson & leave a comment about it below.


Tags: , , , , ,

I don’t wish you a fabulous 2017

Photo Credit: seaternity Flickr via Compfight cc

We’ve become so used to superlatives. At the best they’re empty & meaningless & at worst they set a ridiculously high bar.


So with that in mind, I don’t wish you the most amazing year yet.


I don’t wish that 2017 is better than all others for you.


I don’t wish you an awesome new year nor an incredible 2017.


Instead I do wish for you peace of mind, most of the time. I hope that you greet the days to come with a certainty that you (& your thighs, lips & hips) are loved without question. And when that certainty deserts you, which it may from time to time, I wish that you have someone to hold & reassure you.


I wish for you a space & place to do what has meaning to you & brings meaning to others.


I wish that 2017 brings you opportunities to learn – about the things that make you grin & the things that make you groan. I wish that, for you, 2017 is a year for learning about beauty, delight & mystery. And I wish it’s a year for learning how to counter the hardness, the awkwardness & ugliness that can sometimes blot out the beauty & goodness.


I wish you adventures- adrenaline pumping, mind expanding, horizon growing, ah ha provoking, curiousity seeking, adventure sating experiences.


I wish that when tough times visit you, that you have a safe harbour, to regain your bearings, to rest & repair your sails.


And I wish that when tough times visit others around you, that you have the strength not to recoil, but the courage to walk with tenderness towards those who are suffering & to simply be with them & be a witness.


I wish for your physical health – to able to rise & greet the day with all or most of your bits working, your cells dividing & repairing & your heart pumping.


I wish for your mental health – that the voice in your head is a trusted ally & if when/ it’s not, that you seek support for there’s absolutely no shame in that, in fact it’s the one of the bravest things you can do.


I wish for your heart & your hands to make art – no matter the form – whether a painting, baking a beautiful cookie, writing a poem, or making people laugh.


I wish you enough –

  • enough money to meet your basic needs & then some
  • enough time to create meaningful adventures balanced with pockets of peaceful reflection
  • enough ability to do the things you’d like
  • enough patience to simply be you


I wish for you friends & family (whether or not they’re biologically related) to build you up, to love you up.  And I wish you courage – including the courage to let people go from your life if they don’t build you up & are intent on tearing you down.


I wish you a steady diet – of giggles, chuckles & belly laughs.


I wish that you receive the power of human touch- a hand to hold, someone to rub your back, a face to caress, or a cheek to kiss.


I wish that 2017 is a year that you dance with diversity- that you spend time both with those much older & much younger than you, time with those who carry a different passport than you & those who hold different political views.


I wish you hope- that when times are dark & despair is near, even if only in a small corner of your heart- that the flicker of hope & belief that tomorrow will come sustains you.


Most of all I wish for you that you share your bright light, your unique gifts & your contributions to this big, messy, chaotic complex beautiful world.


What do you wish for yourself?  Let me know in the comment section below.  In the meantime, while you read this, I’ll be on a camel trekking safari in Tanzania.  More about that in an upcoming post.



Tags: , ,

A holiday wish for you – treat him right, he is your brother


I’m a huge ABBA fan.  I think Mamma Mia is one of the best, feel good movies ever.  Much to some of my friends’ dismay, I can get lost on the dance floor while grooving to ABBA songs.

ABBA museum here I come


I was over the moon when I got to go to the ABBA museum in Stockholm, Sweden this fall.


My (very patient, Swedish friend) Anna & I danced & sang our way through the exhibits.  There’s a player piano that’s connected to Benny’s studio, so when he starts playing so does the piano in the museum.  We waited to see if would magically start belting out tunes but no such luck.  No worries, there were lots of other things to keep us entertained.




He Is Your Brother

Along the way I heard a song there that was new to me – He is your brother.  The lyrics are very fitting for this tumultuous year, as we head into the holidays & prepare to the turn the page to a new year.

Treat him well, he is your brother
You might need his help some day
We depend on one another
Love him, that’s the only way
On the road (on the road) that we’re going
We all need (we all need) words of comfort and compassion
Treat him well, he is your brother
Love him, that’s the only way

My wish for you

Whatever form of celebration this time of year takes for you, wherever this post finds you & with whom, may you cast a wide net to include many a brother & sister.  May you lean in with love, may you lean on a shoulder when you need it & may you provide a shoulder to others.  We all need that, no matter where on the road we find ourselves.
Now please excuse me, I’m going to dance with abandon to an ABBA song or two.
But in the meantime I’d love it if you’d leave a comment below & let me know what your wish is for the holidays.



Tags: , ,

Need to assess your team’s assets & gaps? Here’s an easy, one question tool

My peacock pal

As I write this from my hotel room there’s a cacophony of birds chirping outside, which is blending with the sweet sounds of Zap Mama (a Belgian, Congolese group) singing Brrrlak from my playlist. 


The sun is streaming through a lush canopy of trees, with Mount Kenya shrouded in the mist in the background.  I woke up to a peacock outside my door, quietly strutting its gorgeous technicolour gown of feathers (that’s him there).


It’s delightfully chaotic.   Like working with people & teams.


Yesterday I did a full day of team building with a World Bank client.  I’m about to hit the road home back to Nairobi but first I wanted to share some themes I’ve picked up from working with clients in & from more than 80 countries, plus give you a chance to assess your own team’s assets & gaps (& see how others have assessed theirs).


Effective teams come down to point of view & perspective.  Teams that work well together build on their differences.  They are able to understand how, as individuals, they see the world & what their unique perspectives are, while at the same time, being able to shift & take in other points of view.


Easier said than done.  However here are 3 things that can help increase your team’s ability to expand their points of view & perspectives are:


  1. Assets & gaps: teams work better together when they are aware of both their assets/strengths, as well as their gaps/weaknesses.  Not one or the other but both. Teams who are too asset based can avoid conflict.  While teams that are too deficit based hamper motivation.

  2. Creativity: teams who can take advantage of their differences, tend to be much more creative & innovative.

  3. Assumptions: effective teams can identify when assumptions are blocking their thinking & move past them.


I’ll be talking more about #2 & #3 above, the role of creativity & assumption busting, in future posts but in the meantime check out this fast, one question survey that will help you identify your own team’s assets & gaps.  Once you fill it in you’ll be able to see how others have answered the question as well (don’t worry, it’s all anonymous). 


In the meantime I’m enjoying the feather from my fine feathered friend, which now adorns my desk (below).


Tags: , , ,

Two simple ways to get out of marshmallow sticky conflict


Photo credit: Tony Fischer

Photo credit: Tony Fischer

How do you illuminate the boxes that are limiting your thinking & unstick stuck thinking?


First of all, identify the boxes.

If you think you’re a Carrot Life Lens™ …

  • (See A from last week’s post if you need some background info)
  • Pat yourself on the back for your amazing systems & ability to organize
  • If you’re having trouble getting unstuck with your thinking, next time when you’re stressed &/or in conflict with someone you think might be a Mountain Life Lens™ try to loosen up the reigns on your attention to detail (not everyone is as brilliant as you at creating & maintaining systems) & look to them for some strategy or vision (they can likely help you with some perspective)


If you think you’re a Mountain Life Lens™

  • (See B from last week’s post if you need some context)
  • Congratulate yourself for your incredible ability to be visionary & strategize
  • Next time when you’re sticky, stressed &/or in conflict with someone you think might be a Carrot Life Lens™ try being more specific &/or detailed than you normally would (as Carrots love specifics) & in turn, help them see the big picture / your vision


Let’s put those marshmallow sticky situations to good use. Draw around the fire & tell me a story of a time you recognize being or seeing a carrot (detailed, organized, systems) &/or mountain (big picture, vision) in action. I’m collecting some great examples from readers & I’ll include some of them in upcoming posts.


Tags: , , ,

How to identify when frustration is limiting your flexibility

Photo credit: Pain Chaud

Photo credit: Pain Chaud

Quick – what the stickiest substance you can think of? Marshmallows that have been roasted over a campfire & are now all over your fingers? Chewing gum that’s annoyingly smeared on your favourite top?


Whatever substance you’re thinking of, multiple that by 100 & you’ll have an idea of how stubborn we humans tend to get when in conflict & how we get stuck in our own particular way of seeing & doing things.


What’s more whatever we’re thinking &/or doing in that moment of conflict has likely gone through the filter of this is ‘normal, natural & right.’ And the other person is the ______________ (fill in the blank – Moron? Idiot? Frustratingly horrible, no good, very bad person?)


The trick is, whatever is ‘normal, natural & right’ is based entirely on our own perspective. It can easily be ‘abnormal, unnatural & entirely wrong’ to someone else.


Frustration = Inflexibility


The more frustrated we are, & the more we’re in conflict, the less flexible we tend to be. And what’s worse, the more we’re stuck we get in same spot, with the same behaviour & the same thought patterns.


> of this


< of this


Frustration & conflict







To add fuel to that fire, the more different we are from the person we’re in conflict with, the more stuck we are in our own way of thinking because, well, they just seem that much more bizarre.


So where does that leave us? Typically it can mean doing more of whatever it is that’s not working.


But wait (she says with earnest hope in her voice having married someone very different from herself)– there’s hope! Honest.


When stressed are you more or less likely to zoom in on details?


First, here’s a quick quiz to help you figure out your tendencies & more importantly, how to move forward in a conflict.


Let’s say you just discovered that aforementioned gum on your favourite top, you’re late for an important meeting, you’re exhausted from working late the night before, you’re so hungry you’d eat the stale gum if you could get it off your damn top… you get the picture. You’re super stressed. So which is more likely for you, most of the time, A or B?

A). When my stress meter goes up I hunker down on the details. For example someone leaving open a bunch of cupboards in the kitchen, someone messing up my office filing system, stuff getting misplaced or being disorganized – all of those things drive me bonkers, & even more so when I’m stressed because I get hyper focused on details.



B) When my stress meter goes up I can loose myself in the clouds. I’m more likely to get a deadline mixed up, miss a meeting, be the person who mixes up said filing system above or looses my keys, my wallet or my phone. I get more forgetful & disorganized when stressed.


Boxed in thinking = Biased thinking


Either way, we’ve got boxes around our thinking that affect our choices & our behaviour. Without examination, these boxes can become our biases.


If you chose A from above your strength is likely in your systems & your attention to detail. In the language of the Life Lenses™ you’re likely a Carrot. And your downside when stressed, may be being hypervigilant to details that are neither strategic nor important.


If you chose B your strength is likely in your vision & your ability to strategize. In the language of the Life Lenses™ you’re likely a Mountain. And your downside, when stressed, may be having your head in the clouds, like an absent-minded professor who temporarily can’t see up from down.


The differences can dance beautifully together IF they’re acknowledged & appreciated. How do we do that? I’ll give you some quick, easy tips next post.


Let’s put those marshmallows to good use. Draw around the fire & tell me a story of a time you recognize being or seeing a carrot (detailed, organized, systems) &/or mountain (big picture, vision) in action. Me & my marshmallows will be waiting.


Tags: , ,

How I found options with a fan when faced with cheetah, leopard and lions

The muddy, churning river matched the churning of my stomach. I couldn’t tell if it was because of excitement or fear. I love to take the wheel, be in charge, explore, and seek out adventure. Which is why I found myself needing to cross this river while on safari in Kenya, which is where I live.


I knew I could get through the river if it wasn’t deeper than the top of my wheel wells. But just how deep it was was a mystery. And I couldn’t get out to look because of leopard, cheetah & lions in the area.


What to do? What would you have done?


Have you ever been stuck in a situation where options for moving forward seemed severely limited?


When we’re feeling stuck, upset, stressed, or otherwise unhappy our options can close off leaving us feeling trapped. Relate?


Photo credit: davedehetre

Photo credit: davedehetre

Holly Weeks, author of ‘Failure to Communicate’ likens it to a closed fan. While we may feel like a closed fan, with very few options, there’s almost always more choices than we think. All we have to do is figure out how to get the fan open.

Open the fan (or press the accelerator) and more options appear. Imagine the top of the newly opened fan as a continuum of options & choices.

Sounds good you say, but how do you do that?

It starts with realizing where you naturally tend to look & simply shifting your gaze.


Let me explain.


Look outward


Perhaps you’re inclined to look outward – aka jump in & fiord that river & damn the consequences. I encourage you to look inward when you hit a bump – take a few minutes & pause. Think. Reflect. Slow down. Ask for help. See what resources are around to assist you that you don’t generally think to look for.


Look inward


Maybe your strength is reflection – you’re great at looking inward & planning. In that case, I encourage you to look outward when you get stuck. Take a risk, take a chance from time to time. Experiment. (Take a deep breath- most times there are no leopards, cheetahs or lions in sight.)


Open the fan


In my case I’d looked inward (planned & reflected) by taking a 4X4 course before the safari  (video clip above) & by having my very experienced safari guide friend at my side. It made looking outward (fording the river) waaaaaaaay easier. He did an excellent job coaching me through the water- where to enter, where to exit & how much to accelerate. All of my planning gave me the confidence to get me, my friend, my family & our vehicle through the river.


And boy did I feel terrific when I got to the other side. Confident. Laughing. Having a blast. Yelling words of encouragement to my friend who crossed next. Mission accomplished.


Look in, look out, it’s your choice. Simply open the fan.

It will give you better perspective & more choices which leads to more freedom.


Need some help opening your fan & shifting your perspective? Share your situation below in the comments.



Tags: , , , ,

“I tell it like it is as seen through my narrow view lens.” ~Tom Peters

Photo Credit: Lars Plougmann Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Lars Plougmann Flickr via Compfight cc

We all have lenses that influence what we see as important, what we pay attention to, what we take action on & what we ignore because we sense it’s unfamiliar, awkward, uncomfortable or simply not a priority.


In my last post I talked about how a question my then boyfriend asked me led to my curiousity being shaken & stirred, & ultimately the creation of Life Lenses™ – a tool that helps illuminate the very lenses that shape our perceptions.


Are you a carrot or a mountain?


Two of the lenses are mountain & carrot. Last week I asked you to guess which one you were.  Here’s a follow-up & a quick way to see if you’re a Mountain or Carrot Life Lens™.


Does the thought of organizing your clothes, your desk, your files, or your _______ (insert preference here) leave you blissed out, happy & relaxed? Do you tend to know where a certain report is from 5 years ago because you have a system for organizing stuff like that? Do people tend to ask you where stuff is, ‘cause that’s the way you roll? If so, chances are you’re a Carrot Life Lens™.


Do you find it easy to talk about strategy & vision? Do you find yourself putting together disparate things to come up with new ideas & trends? Did you groan at the thought of organizing your clothes, desk, files etc.? And if I told you that my mother (true story) alphabetizes her spices, do you just wrinkle your nose, raise your eyebrows in disbelief &/or shake your head in confusion? If so, chances are you’re a Mountain Life Lens™.


How does knowing you’re a carrot or a mountain help you?


One of the helpful things about increasing your perspective is being able to relate to others more easily. Let me give you a few examples.


Calling all Carrot Life Lenses™


Carrots here’s a tip if you’re dealing with a Mountain Life Lens™. Imagine yourself standing on top of a mountain. Would you be able to see that lovely red-breasted woodpecker in the cedar tree on the valley floor? Nope, no way.


While you naturally are focused on details (the lovely red breasted woodpecker sitting in the cedar tree), here’s the thing when you’re dealing with Mountains – don’t overwhelm them with detail. Keep it simple & big picture.


Calling all Mountain Life Lenses™


And here’s a tip to make life easy for you Mountains when dealing with Carrots. Imagine yourself standing on the valley floor – would you be able to see over the mountain & what’s coming up on the horizon? Nada.


While you naturally have your head up & focus on the big picture, when you’re dealing with Carrots they may think you’re being vague or confusing because they’re waiting for you to give the details. So do sketch in a limited amount of detail for Carrots (or better yet, ask them what kind of details they need).


Calling all Carrot and Mountain Life Lenses™


So dig in. Give me an example of your or someone you know, Carrot or Mountain Life Lens™ perspective. I’d love to hear.


Me n’ my lists will be waiting.



Tags: , , ,