Allianz Life Makes a Habit of Giving Back

Life insurance giant Allianz Life, based right here in Minneapolis, specializes in retirement solutions including annuities and life insurance policies.

allianz life logoThey’re at the top of their game in that business, and we like to think their incredibly strong employee giving program plays a role in that success! Read more

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The Leverage Group Helps Out First Responders Here In Minneapolis

For a group of Leverage Group software end users, a day in Minneapolis turned out to be much more than they’d bargained for!

Rescue-Buddies-Stuffed-Animal-Team-Building-Workshop-LogoThe primary goal for this group of 100 strangers was to get to know one another.  Since the only thing they had in common was they all used software developed by the Leverage Group, a lighter approach to team building was in the cards.

The Rescue Buddies™ workshop is perfect for networking and getting to know one another.

We chose Rescue Buddies ™ because it’s a fun way to bring groups together.  United under the cause of helping out first responders, they find common ground for getting to know one another.  There’s also a pretty strong “fun factor”!

That’s what made Rescue Buddies™ the perfect team building workshop for the Leverage Group.  Here’s how their day went:

“One-Minute Commercials” lets everyone be creative.

Leverage Group Rescue Buddies Buddies On Table.jpgOne of our favorite activities is “One Minute Commercials”, where the group splits off into teams who create TV commercials for an imaginary product or service.  We had 100 participants for this workshop, so there were 10 teams.

You know what goes into creating a good TV commercial: you need writers, producers, directors and of course…stars!   One reason this activity is so effective at building teams is that everyone gets to play a role.  Half the team building work is done during the role-assignment phase.  Members negotiate and need to put forth some good communication skills to get it right!

The task: create a 1-minute commercial with props made from items supplied by us.  The result?  Well, we don’t know what makes Leverage software end users such great producers of TV commercials, but the end products were absolutely incredible!

Every commercial was wonderfully creative in its own way.  The actors were carefully chosen and everything went off without a hitch.  It was great to see what well-planned teamwork can accomplish.

On to the Rescue Buddies™ phase…

Leverage-Group-Rescue-Buddies-Group-At-Table.jpgWe weren’t sure what could top those amazing commercials, but the next phase of the workshop was pretty compelling too.  This is where teams got down to business and started creating their Rescue Buddies™.

Rescue Buddies™ go to Minneapolis first responders.  In this case, the Leverage Group chose to donate their assembled Rescue Buddies™ to the Saint Paul Fire Department.  They use the stuffed animals to comfort children at the scene of a fire or other emergency they respond to.

The teams put together over 100 stuffed bunnies, so each of the participants was able to feel a personal connection to the giving process: one from each member.  Everyone loved the sense of giving back to the community.  The Saint Paul Fire Department got a helpful batch of bunnies!  Goals accomplished: another stuffed animal team building event success story.

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Boston Scientific Celebrates a Good Year With a Wheelcharity™ Workshop

Building wheelchairs for charity right here in Minneapolis is a great way to give back.

Boston-Scientific-LogoSometimes the simplest goals are the best.  In the case of Boston Scientific, a developer of medical technology sold around the world, the goals were to celebrate the year and give back to the Minneapolis community.

The Wheelcharity ™ workshop was Boston Scientific ‘s highlight event.

After multiple hours of meetings, the Boston Scientific employees were treated to the Wheelcharity ™ team building workshop as a closing event.  Their leader wanted something which would cap off the day in a special way.

Turns out Wheelcharity ™ fit the bill in several ways: as a charity event that sends wheelchairs to people who need them, it merges nicely with Boston Scientific’s company culture.  They do make medical devices, after all!

And giving back to the Minneapolis community fits their mission of corporate social responsibility, too.  They all had a great time, too…mission accomplished!

 Communication is the key to everything.

WheelCharity-Wheelchair-Team-Building-Workshop-LogoOur workshops stress a number of important teamwork skills, but none is more important than good communication.  Teams were called upon to communicate in new ways with one another during the workshop activities, stretching their capacity for teamwork in ways they never imagined!

First, while assembling the wheelchairs which were to be donated, teams were presented with some challenging obstacles.  They used their creativity to solve problems and collaborate on solutions to win wheelchair parts for their donations. Then, a safety check was performed on each chair.  Next, more challenging obstacles were in store for the teams.

In some cases, the challenging obstacles were quite literal!  After parts were earned and wheelchairs were assembled, an obstacle course was set up by the facilitator.  Each team chose one member to be blindfolded – that was the “driver- pusher”.  Another team member was in the chair, guiding his or her blindfolded partner through the course.

As you can imagine, lots of laughter ensued!  Teams needed lots of encouragement to get through that one.

An inspiring speaker takes center stage.

Finally, to end the day, a representative from Wheels for the World arrived to give a guest speech.  Don Bania Jr. works with the organization to disseminate wheelchairs throughout Minneapolis, the entire state of Minnesota, and across the country too.  In fact, as the name implies, they send wheelchairs all over the world!

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Mr. Bania’s speech reminded everyone about the mobility challenges that face so many around the world.  He is a quadriplegic, and gave some very practical advice on how to communicate with someone who has a disability.  The Boston Scientific teams were captivated by his words, and left the room encouraged as well as enlightened.  It was a capstone moment for another great Minneapolis team building event.

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Medtronic Millennials Max Out on Mad Teamwork Skills Here in Minneapolis

For a set of Millennials from Medtronic, teamwork came naturally.

This can happen for a number of reasons, but in this case it definitely had a lot to do with “connectedness”!

Medtronic-LogoWith just a few minutes for setup but a big room perfect for a teambuilding workshop, our facilitator found this group had what it took (and more) to do teamwork right.

Trust is huge in teamwork.

That “connectedness” isn’t something you find in every workplace.  It’s more of a quality you find in a close circle of friends, a school cohort, or a family.  However, it’s always something to shoot for on teams because it does such great things for communication and productivity.

Here’s an example from this Medtronic workshop, which was held at operational headquarters in Minneapolis for a group of interns.

“Mirror Mirror” is one of our most popular icebreaker activities because it gets participants to focus on reading signals from others.  Partners take turns writing numbers in the air, mirroring each other and trying to guess which numbers they’re writing.

One pair did so well with this challenge it was noticeable right away.  Turns out their secret was a super high level of connectedness between them because they were not only co-workers at Medtronic, but also roommates!

Teamwork is about connection but it’s also about trust and understanding.  When you know someone, you build trust and you learn his or her communication style as well.  This leads to being able to cut to the heart of the matter on projects or any collaborative effort.  Nice job, girls!

When communication isn’t a barrier, collaboration is easy.

Bicycle-Team-Building-Workshop-LogoWe saw the same leverage being used throughout the workshop: since each participant was of the same 20-something age group, certain assumptions about communication and behavior were leveraged for a more successful outcome.

Wouldn’t it be great if every workplace was like this?

The second icebreaker activity was called “Thirteen Colonies” and with a custom version of the activity aimed at their age group, the participants nailed this one too.

The collaborative energy in the room rose even higher during the main activity oft he day: building bicycles for a Minneapolis charity.  Teams who finished their bikes early showed incredible solidarity with the group and merged into other teams to help them finish up!

Communication, then collaboration, then amazing creativity and super productivity.

Boys-And-Girls-Club-Twin-Cities-MinneapolisAs you can see, when communication is not an obstacle, collaboration becomes incredibly simple.  That leads to a whole world of increased productivity, individual initiative, and other wonderful surprises.

Case in point: one of the Medtronic interns, out of nowhere, created unique hand-made bags for the kids from the receiving charity.  The bags contained lots of fun and thoughtful items and really put a crown jewel on the whole event.

Boys & Girls Club arrives and we wrap it up.

For the final event of the workshop, a rep (Carlos) from the Boys & Girls Club of Minneapolis visited, bringing with him some kids from the club.  They were there to officially “receive” the bikes and provide everyone a chance to connect with the charity they were working for.  One of the kids from the club had a birthday that day so the event took on a truly celebratory tone.  It was a true testament to the power of teamwork and positive energy.

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Verizon Struggles with Corporate Change and Calls in the Pros

If you’re a manager, then you know that with any sign of corporate change in the air, you have to be on your toes.

Verizon-logo-2015Things can quickly go south if your team doesn’t stay on track in spite of changes occurring all around them.

One key tip for navigating change is keeping morale healthy in your team.  Verizon Wireless sent their team to us exactly for this reason.  A charity team building workshop turned out to be just the ticket for sagging morale amidst company-wide changes!

Verizon wanted above all to benefit someone else.

When the Verizon manager came to us and asked for help in choosing a team building workshop, she stated there was one major stipulation.  The event had to do something that benefited others!

That narrowed it down pretty quickly to our selection of charity team building workshops.  We suggested Wagon Builders™, which benefits kids or families in the Minneapolis area.  Teams build little red wagons and them fill them with toys, household supplies, or whatever items fit the receiving charity.

Secondary goal: managing change.

Our initial consultation with the Verizon contact revealed a lot of things.  She mentioned that the group was stumbling along a rocky path of corporate change lately, and she’d love to address that during the workshop as well.

In addition, she ticked off a few other items on her list: peer relationships, merging teams, and thinking outside the box.  We had our work cut out for us!

Wagon Builders™ provided all of that and more.

Wagon-Builders-Charity-Team-Building-Workshop-LogoBy filling wagons with donations for a local charity, the Verizon group fulfilled their primary goal.

As for relationships and thinking outside the box, the hands-on activities of this workshop addressed those topics as well.  All our workshops do this, actually!  And the goal of focusing on merging teams?  That required fundamental communication skills, which of course are always a part of our workshops.  Done, done, and done!

Wagons go to the Ronald McDonald House of Minneapolis

Ronald-McDonald-House-LogoWagons assembled by the teams were filled with useful items for kids, then donated to the Ronald McDonald House right here in Minneapolis.  That’s goal #1.

How the workshop went.

After icebreakers (Air Counting), the 55 participants were divided into teams.  This broke up little bunches of co-workers who stuck together out of habit, since they worked side-by-side every day of the week.

This did wonders for getting everyone to leave old communication patterns behind and adopt a fresh perspective.  Once that was accomplished and the ice was broken, we did an exercise to determine team leaders.  These leaders were to play important roles throughout the rest of the Wagon Builders™ event.

Workshop activity actually mimics the perils of corporate change.

The next activity was called “Minefield” and involved team leaders choosing someone from their group to leave the room.  In the meantime, teams placed school supplies around a square, creating a “minefield”.

Upon return, the chosen participant is blindfolded and led through the minefield by teammates’ verbal instructions.  Everyone gets involved, and success depends on collaboration and great communication skills.

It just goes to show that everyone needs a coach or friend at work.  Sometimes you’re that blindfolded guy and sometimes you’re the mentor, guiding someone through a difficult patch.

It all tied in nicely with the goals Verizon Wireless set out to achieve.  Score another one for teamwork!

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Medtronic Targets Leadership Communication

Good communication from top leaders is massively important no matter what business you’re in.

Medtronic, based right here in Minneapolis knows this better than any company, which is why they sent a group of 11 of their leaders to us.

Team Synergy™ is one of our corporate team building workshops often chosen for groups comprised of leaders.  We also will suggest this one for groups of high-performing employees whose default mode is competition…even when it’s not called for!

Team Synergy™ is for collaboration.

Medtronic-LogoWhen A-listers get together, it’s only natural for a competitive atmosphere to suddenly erupt.  But that’s not always a productive way to be when it comes to getting things done in a group.  So, when leadership communication is the goal of the day, we focus on removing barriers to collaboration.

Team Synergy™ activities lend themselves to an environment where shared outcomes are the norm, so competition can take a back seat.  Participants combine efforts to reach the tiny goals we give them during the course of the workshop.

The Medtronic group moves quickly from icebreakers to fun, collaborative exercises.

In Team Synergy™, icebreakers are crucial to setting the right atmosphere.  More than any other workshop, barriers need to be removed so competitive impulses don’t flare up!  Once a stress-free zone was established, the Medtronic group began working in teams on their commercials.

Team-Synergy-Corporate-Team-Building-Workshop-Logo“Commercials” is designed to help groups find fun, non-threatening patterns of communication that lead to project success.  Teams write TV commercials for a product, then they perform them for the whole room.  Putting their work out there in front of everyone enforces the collaborative spirit, for sure!

Good leadership begins with communication.

Leadership is built on a trio of communication, comprehension, and interaction.  Team Synergy™ works for leaders like those from Medtronic because it covers all 3:

  1. Communication skills are de rigeur for getting past the first activity of the day.
  2. Comprehension is essential when sharing information, which happens throughout the workshop.
  3. Finally interaction is built into everything we do: it’s hands-on activities through and through!

Medtronic’s small group meant a few bonus challenges.

Interactive learning takes on a whole new dynamic when there are only 11 people in a workshop.  When fewer people share the spotlight, it’s a more intense experience!

But that’s what icebreakers are for.  The group from Medtronic did a great job, had a lot of fun, and learned about about Team Synergy™.  Next, they want to continue the journey and sign up for our DiSC™ Personality Styles workshop or our Campfire Leadership™ program or even our Public Speaking Training.  We’re ready when you are!

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