Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Month: May 2012

Organizational Positive Self-Talk – Ideas for Improvement

Cleaning out some old filing cabinets, I came across my NLP folders, which contained a lot of articles and ideas and notes and different kinds of programs. mostly from the late 80s and early 90s. Good stuff, still. So, I thought to reread a couple of articles that I had saved.

One of them was on the benefits of positive self-talk as it relates to performance improvement. The ideas were well researched and well presented, and it got me thinking about organizational and team-based improvements as it relates to how we frame things.

These days, the statistics and stories all point to a lot of organizational engagement issues. The numbers are not good and many are frustrated with how things are and how things are working from both the perspective of the worker as well as the management team.

One of the key points in the article was how we “language” things — do we self-talk negatively about the current state of things? For many (or most), the answer is Yes. We talk about problems and fears, we focus on what is wrong and not on moving things forward or making improvements. And this does not lead to improvements in morale or intrinsic motivation or anything really positive — the research says that it leads the other way and that our inner attitudes are shaped by our thoughts.

Experts as well as the research suggest that, “more than three quarters of everything we think is negative, counterproductive and works against us.” And, if anything, this is probably more true today in the workplace than in the good old days of the 1980s…

The brain basically does what we tell it to do (my doctoral degree was in behavioral neurophysiology). So, how we think is critically important to the choices we make. So, how do we change things? How do we reprogram our thinking patterns.

Again, the research says that we need to frame things differently, that we make different choices in how to think about things. It is actually pretty easy to frame things differently and each of us has full control of our own thoughts as well as some degree of influence on other people. You cannot stop thinking of things, but you can choose how that thinking represents itself.

Square Wheels One represents how things really work...

Square Wheels represent how things really work…

My suggestion, after doing the reading, some thinking, and some additional research, is to change our model of thinking.

What we need to do is focus on what we can do differently in the future. Yes, we may be rolling on Square Wheels at the moment,  but what Round Wheels might we try to implement and how might things change or improve if we were to do so?

We have lots of choices and alternatives and the ideas already exist for most of us. If we flub a sales call, our thinking should focus on what we did well (what worked smoothly) and what we could do better next time. If we’re kayaking and flub a drop on the river, the review of that run of the rapid should focus on where we should have been in the boat and what we should have done to navigate that rapid successfully. Heck, in the river, you can even go back and do it again within a few minutes. Doing it successfully builds the confidence you need to run the next rapid well.

Intrinsic motivation comes from feeling successful and wanting to continue to improve how things work.

Intrinsic motivation comes from feeling successful and wanting to continue to improve how things work.

This is all about how we think about things and the choices we make. Intrinsic motivation comes from building on past successes to generate future ones.

If you are managing people, you can acquire a simple toolkit of cartoons to involve and engage people in talking about possibilities for the future. You can find this facilitation toolkit at

We also have a more formalized toolkit for coaching individuals and groups that you can find at

For the FUN of It!

The Customer sets the price for our Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit!

Please note: We stopped this promotion a while back. People continued to pay our retail price for the toolkit, understanding it was a great value as is. Thank you for that and have fun out there!

We just sent out a Press Release on customers setting their own price:

Taylors, SC – (5/10/12) Performance Management Company is supporting collaboration with its customers by offering them an opportunity to “name their own price” for the Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit. This complete training package normally sells for $49.95 and contains:

  • A Facilitation Guide with instructions for use
  • A PowerPoint Presentation containing 64 slides, notes, quotes plus illustrations / cartoons
  • A variety of ready-to-use handouts for generating involvement and engagement including:
  • –a Worksheet for mind mapping ideas generated by the main Square Wheels concept
  • –a Round Wheels Worksheet for identifying ideas and opportunities for improvement
  • –a Key Learning Points Summary Handout of Square Wheels themes for implementation
  • The “Teaching the Caterpillar to Fly” article by Scott Simmerman, focusing on managing and leading change for organizations and individuals

Based on the Square Wheels One illustration that is a proven, powerful tool for promoting a participative learning approach, it allows people to “step back from the wagon” and disclose their views about how things are really working, engage each other in a creative discovery process and use the diversity of ideas and perspective to generate thinking, innovation and communications. It’s a great facilitation tool for leadership development skills, employee engagement, team building and motivation.

Why use Square Wheels? Round Wheels aready exist!

Dr. Scott Simmerman, creator of the Square Wheels illustration series, believes that “Nobody ever washes a rental car” and that people become more engaged and motivated if they feel a sense of ownership in the journey forward. Therefore, Scott hopes that by your setting the price for this Toolkit, you’ll enjoy a keener sense of ownership/motivation for its use.

You’ll find the Square Wheels Facilitation Toolkit (an Asian version is also available with some of the illustrations more “Oriental” in appearance) on our website at or go there directly with this link.

Scott J. Simmerman, Ph.D., is Managing Partner of Performance Management Company and has presented his Square Wheels Illustrations series for Organizational Improvement and Team Building Games such as “The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine” in 38 countries. The products are available at

People basically liked this idea, thinking that we have really great and simple tools for engagement and performance improvement. The amazing thing is that so few people paid only a little — most people paid the full price and a couple paid even more for it! THAT was most surprising. Guess they had seen the tool and felt it was a really good value.

If YOU need a great tool for involving and engaging people, give our Square Wheels tools a try. Click here for more information.

Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

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Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company. Materials copyright © PMC since 1993. All rights reserved.

The Problems with Outdoor Training – Some thoughts on team building

In a conversation a while back, I was asked if one of our team building games could be used in an outdoor setting. Wow, did that bring up some memories about what might have happened and the reality of losing control.

Firstly, I am not a fan of most outdoor types of activities. Generally, the links to the business improvement issues — why companies are actually spending money and time with managers and employees — are sometimes quite vague when relating the game to organizational behavior and leadership, problem solving or change. Sure, the exercises are fun and people do like to solve problems. But it takes a good facilitator to bring out the discussions and not all the facilitators are all that good. Plus, the links from the activity back to business are sometimes stretched.

And it is not that I have not personally participated in those kinds of things over the years. I attended one such event as a participant and was there at a college with a bunch of my Leadership Greenville colleagues (a program supported by our Chamber of Commerce). Being collaborative and facilitative in my general style, I applied these skills in discussions about solving the task at hand. The “session leader” decided I was helping too much and told me that I HAD to be silent and could not talk — this is also known as punishment in most circles.

(Yeah, and imagine when I was finally allowed to talk in the debriefing! One of the questions I asked of her was about her business experience. Turns out that she had never actually had an actual job and is a college student at Clemson. This was her first job, running corporate team building programs!! And she is the leader of this group of experienced business people from the Chamber of Commerce. Really?)

Another such program on collaboration turned into a mass group competition, where the VP of the group was timing the different problem solving activities and comparing different groups to the others. We actually had a really competitive volleyball competition, too, and during the awards ceremony, many the Losers actually booed the Winners in front of the company’s executive VP. And this was at a team building event where the company spent many 10s of thousands of dollars! — Note: I was on the winning team and I still have my trophy on my bookshelf as a reminder of how badly this went…

Competition produces chaos, not collaboration and improvement

That same event also had one of the participants being stung by a scorpion when he leaned on a tree — he went into shock but the facilitation team actually carried an anaphylactic shock kit with them, since it has apparently happened before. Needless to say, that hour spent on it was costly as well as pretty distracting for all of his friends and co-workers.

My outdoor delivery experiences also include a session where the sun came out and totally washed out the projected images on the screen so no one could see. At a different event, the temperature in the huge circus tent went to 110 degrees and the big electric fans blew all the papers off the tabletops (so we taped them down). But these same fans were so noisy that the debriefing was impossible, as also occurring the game activities that followed after my session. And this narrative represents the short-version of all the things that went wrong…

Another event had it rain for an hour right after we put the maps and things on the tables. We quickly recollected all the soluble stuff and then, when the rain stopped, we had each table select what it required from our “Organized Pile of Materials” and take these things outside to their tables (which the hotel staff helped us dry off with a massive number of room towels).

YES, my various team building exercises CAN be delivered as outside activities. But I actually cannot remember a single time when something did not go wrong and force us to make a major adjustment in our delivery. And I cannot imagine doing a large group, outside, with any kind of controllable learning outcomes. Here is one we did for 500 people:

Large group team building delivery - INSIDE - with everything under control!

If my client is paying big bucks to get people to the venue, feed them, house them and all that, and they are renting a room for lunch or dinner, why the heck not simply deliver the exercise inside under controlled temperature and lighting and audio/video and avoid all the disasters? Why even allow the potential problems? What is the big benefit of people standing around outside? (Heck, maybe I could design a program around them all coming over to my house and working on my yard and gardens, ya think? Do it like one of those cooking classes — I could sell it as a Landscaping Teambuilding Initiative and maybe even get them to work on my neighbors’ yards…)

Lastly, I do not consider golf, bowling or firewalking to be very good team building activities. Baseball is okay, maybe, since everyone can play and bat and all that. But volleyball requires too much skill and the skill differences between people can be way too large. And how many times do I have to pass balls around or deal with a bucket on a string or hold hands with other people to solve a problem, anyway…
There are LOTS and lots of good team building games and exercises that can be delivered with high impact and good learning. Why add uncontrollable factors just to make it some “outside” program whereby the potential for non-participation or even injury might occur?

I will always remember the White Mile movie (2-min trailer is here) starring Alan Alda: A corporate team-building trip ends in tragedy in this drama. Hoping to build bonds between his employees and clients, advertising executive Dan Cutler (Alan Alda) takes the group on a whitewater rafting excursion. But the raft capsizes, several of the men die, and one widow files a lawsuit. Cutler tries to hide his negligence, and one survivor (Peter Gallagher) faces a difficult moral dilemma.


For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman 2016Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

One of the best teambuilding exercises in the world, as rated by his users, is The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, which focuses on leadership, collaboration, alignment and focuses on implementing the collective performance optimization ideas.

Connect with Scott on Google+

You can reach Scott at
Twitter @scottsimmerman



Team Building and Collaboration for Performance Improvement – Large Event Management

The past week has been really interesting, since I have had the chance to talk to a lot of people who are now going to start doing some team building within their organizations. Normally, my conversations are generally with consultants and trainers who have been doing these kinds of things and are looking for some new tools and approaches. Many of those conversations were with the, “been there and done that” crowd who were simply looking for some new and better tools.

But this seems to be a new group, rookies in the organizational collaboration and team building arena who have the chance to get things started right. And THAT is really neat!

(Has it really been that long since the average organization has conducted any team building events? Really?)

So, we have been discussing doing team building events with managers and staff and working with slightly larger groups than a training class.Scott Simmerman, wearing his Coaching Hat and preparing for Lost Dutchman

And I have been able to put my Coaching Hat on, and my Event Planner Hat, and offer up some ideas for optimizing impacts. Three of these contacts were going to run large groups (250, 100-200-500 and 1,100 (really!) and I shared some of my learned Best Practices for maximizing impact.

Basically, that approach involves getting all the Most Senior Managers into one room for 3/4 of a day. The session starts with a normal delivery of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, debriefed along the normal lines of collaboration and teamwork and planning. But then, the debriefing shifts to asking about the kinds of behaviors they would like to see from the people at the large event. That is always interesting, and the focus is on the shared mission and vision and generating alignment to goals, objectives and expectations.

Then, we TRAIN this group of Most Senior Managers to be able to support the delivery of the exercise. This group serves as the Provisioners and the Co-Expedition Leaders, operating in the environment where, “The Goal is to mine as much gold as we can.”  Oops — that should read “WE.”

The exercise is about getting help along with information and on collaborating and sharing information and resources to optimize results. But what these leaders see are people choosing NOT to get available planning information, to compete rather than collaborate among tabletops and to choose to not get help from the leaders who are there to help!

By having these real Senior Managers in this game delivery role, it is a great learning lesson on how to implement change and support high performance. One cannot simply TALK about it, they have to behave consistently and congruently. While a few of the teams will have precisely what they need to perform at a high level, those same teams will often choose NOT to collaborate, to thus “win” the game at the cost of negatively impacting overall organizational results.

Anyway, it is really neat to see these kinds of large events start happening again, since they can be powerful events to engage people in change and improvement and to lead them out of the current “engagement doldrums” that we seem to find ourselves.

Have some FUN out there yourself!


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