Friday, January 17, 2014

Team Spirit Challenge

Happy New Year! I don’t want to seem like a downer, but the February doldrums are just around the corner. That means it is time to start planning my office Team Spirit Challenge!

Eleven years ago, in the middle of February, our practice was running smoothly and we were taking care of our patients and each other well. But we just did not have the energy and enthusiasm we were accustomed to having. I told my office manager, Cheryl, that we needed a boost. She told me to leave it to her.

We decided to schedule a day off for some teambuilding fun. Our schedule was busy, so the first day available to book off was April 1. We filled the day with phantom patients. When my team and I arrived, Cheryl greeted us with the surprise that we were not seeing any patients that day. Instead, we were having a scavenger hunt.

Each of us was given a puzzle and clue that required us to go out into our neighborhood, find a prize, and bring it back to the office. The clues took us to local shops and offices. Cheryl had gone around to the neighborhood and arranged it with local merchants, restaurants, etc. After three trips each, out and back, we were laughing and breathing hard from running so much. We put all our prizes together to create a new clue that divided us into two groups for a foot race to a pub a few blocks away. At the pub were two taxis waiting to take us to an undisclosed location where the cabbies (who were paid in advance and having fun with our good natured spirits, too) would give us our final clue. This resulted in another footrace that culminated at the top of the Calgary Tower, where we had a wonderful lunch set up for us.

It was the perfect tonic to the winter doldrums. We were so energized by it. We even placed the prizes in various places around the office so that patients would ask us what they were and why there were there. We could not stop talking about the day for weeks. Our patients loved our enthusiasm (nothing like a happy staff to get patients in good spirits). Many local merchants and business people became patients (we had seven local people become new patients within the first month after the event), and our energy lasted several weeks.

The next year, February rolled around and again, we just seemed lethargic. Short days, a winter that was now months old, and still many weeks left. I told Cheryl that we needed some team spirit challenge magic again. She told me to leave it to her again. In late March or early April, we got on a bus that took us to an unknown location. We ended up doing indoor go-kart racing, followed by lunch and a motivational speaker. We got trophies, pictures, a ton of laughs and a newly energized bunch back in our office.

The following year, the same thing happened in February. This time we were prepared and booked time off in late February, instead. And it has happened every year since then. We have done African drumming at a local sheep farm, CSI-type games on a road trip to Banff, Alberta, an Amazing Race kind of game that ended up with lunch and manicures and pedicures at a local spa, sign spinning lessons, curling lessons and Thai cooking lessons. We’ve also taken a tour of a local brewery and completed a challenge from them to create a 60-second video for an annual contest they call the “Eddies” (you can see it on my Youtube Channel).

My team is no longer surprised by the team spirit challenges, but it has been an amazing annual event. It challenges my office manager’s (and my own) creativity in coming up with the events. My team has responds with enthusiasm that spills over to our patients. We also regularly garner new patients amongst the groups of people we come across during our adventures. People constantly say they would love to be a patient in a practice of people like us.

So, happy New Year. With the February doldrums just around the corner, it is time to plan our next team spirit challenge.

Warm regards,

Larry Stanleigh, DDS

P.S. If you have ideas about what you would do for a team spirit challenge, please share them in the comments section. We can create a body of ideas that we all share.

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