Team Building – DPEM Style

Team Building.  Does the phrase make you cringe or get excited? At DPEM we get excited! For those who’ve been in the workforce for a good amount of time, you know this can be rare.  Most companies don’t take time for team bonding and tend to see it more as a frivolous activity than one that actually makes an impact – and in some cases they’re right.  However, we’ve experienced first-hand how impactful a team building program can be if done thoughtfully and with clear direction.

So how do you do it right?  It’s going to vary for every company and team, but we’ve put together a few tips that have been successful for us.

One of the most obvious, but often forgotten aspects of putting together a team building activity is stating what you’re trying to achieve.  By stating the goal upfront, you’re more likely to stay on the right path when brainstorming different activities instead of getting sidetracked by something that seems more exciting.  Below are a few areas we reference when planning our team building activities.  We try to rotate between the different categories – because it’s almost impossible to find one activity that incorporates all of these goals.

- Teamwork & Cooperation
- Creativity & Innovation
- Problem Solving Skills
- Cultural Awareness
- Fostering Fun & Team Bonding
- Professional Development
- Volunteering & Community Outreach

This is one of those critical skills needed for any type of relationship, and it’s just as crucial in the workplace.  There are many facets to incorporating good communication in regards to team building, but we focus on two – the first being asking our team what they’re interested in.  We’ve incorporated this into surveys and have discussed it in our team meetings.  It doesn’t matter how you obtain the feedback, just as long as you’re providing an outlet where people can share their ideas and interests.  Some of our favorite activities have been staff suggestions – like when we ventured out to Flora Grubb for the afternoon and fed our creative souls by designing our own succulent arrangements.

Flora Grubb - Team Photo Flora Grubb Succulents

The second area of communication leads back to Tip #1 – tell your team what the goal of this activity is.  If people understand the purpose, they’re more likely to engage and invest their time and energy.

We try to keep in mind that each of our team members is unique (which we love) and may not enjoy or feel comfortable participating in certain activities.  It’s never fun being forced to participate in something that is completely outside your comfort zone, such as an obstacle course or singing karaoke. You want the activity to be challenging AND fun, and something all personalities types will be comfortable doing.

Another often-neglected step is following up after the activity.  How did the team feel about the activity – Did they like it? What did they like about it? What didn’t they like about it? Would they want to do it again? All valid questions that help us improve our team-building program.  We also refer back to our original goal, making sure we stayed on track with the original purpose of the activity.

Although these tips are great, the most important aspect is having a leadership team that truly values the importance of team building and the impact it can have on productivity.  We’re so lucky to have that at DPEM, and since we’ve placed more emphasis on team building we’ve seen great results.  If you’re still not convinced, below is a brief list of positive improvements we’ve experienced.

- Feeling more connected to the team and the company.
- Improved company culture and work environment.
- Getting to know each other’s strengths and skill sets – identifying each other as potential internal resources for particular projects.
- Overall group cohesion.
- Reduced “burn-out” and work fatigue.
- Discovering unknown talents of different team members.
- Greater understanding of each team member’s stresses, resulting in reduced misunderstandings and conflicts.
- Improved performance and happiness.

We’re curious, what team-building activities have you found successful?

Posted by: Lindsay Sutherland, Tips of the Trade

BTS: Good Food Awards Blind Tasting

DPEM’s sister company Seedling Projects recently held the Blind Tasting for the 2016 Good Food Awards. The event included 220 experts judging 1,937 artisanal products from around the country. Dominic Phillips, executive producer at DPEM, moonlighted as a Good Food Awards Judge for the Preserves category and made his way through a staggering 172 entries. Here’s what he had to say about his experience:

Where does your love of preserves stem from?
I spent a lot of time with my grandparents growing up and  having been through the hardships of war, they lived in a very humble way. This involved making jams when fruit was plentiful, so whether it be on home made bread at breakfast or between layesr of cake at tea time, we were always enjoying the pleasures of preserves.

Leading up to the blind tasting, what were you the most excited for?
Marmalade. I am devout when it comes to this bitter-sweet experience. For me it is the perfect harmony of flavors, and a really good Marmalade also speaks to the strength of character of it’s maker – getting the thickness of rind and its softness balanced with bright flavor and spreadable consistency is not for the faint of heart.

How did you keep your palette fresh between tasting each preserve entry?
Milky coffee. Just enough of a contrast with just enough acid to keep my palate awake.

Anything specific you were looking for in your evaluation of each preserve?
There is a science to it, as I was educated before tasting. Taste is not all one looks for – representation of fruit, consistency, set, texture, color. Personally I look for the immediate happiness that comes from great preserves that take no training or experience. It just surprises and delights as soon as it arrives on the tongue.

What are you when it comes to preserves: a traditionalist or a renegade?
I believe good is good. Perfect an old recipe or explore a new one, just ensure it is good. Often times I feel that the desire for adventure gets ahead of the dedication to flavor. It leaves the maker explaining why a product is good. When things are good they need no explanation.

Based on what you tasted, are there any trends we can look forward to seeing surface in the near future?
I would say that in tasting all the versions of preserves there is still a strong place for simplicity. It was definitely easier to enjoy the simpler recipes than the more complicated.

Photos by Kassie Borreson.

Posted by: Lindsay Sutherland, Event Photos, Past DPEM Events, Tips of the Trade

Meet the Team: Katie Small

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When did you start at DPEM? April 2015

How did you get started in the event industry originally? I’ve been a planner my entire life, always planning things for my friends and family. I got my first taste of planning events while in college interning for the Seattle Sounders professional soccer team. Combining my love of soccer with PR and planning events for the team really sparked my interest in producing events as a career.

What has been the biggest challenge that you have overcome as a producer, and what was your solution? While producing a brand launch event for a large clothing brand, I was tasked with recreating their Fall advertising campaign as live vignettes in the middle of Union Square park. The campaign utilized vintage Jeep Wagoneers and it turned out they were not that easy to come by. After days of scouring the internet, posting on Jeep Wagoneer car club message boards and doing everything I could think of to find them I finally came across a company in Marin whose sole service is sourcing cars for movies and film. Luckily they were able to track down three cars for me – such a lifesaver! The final challenge with this event was convincing Union Square park to let us drive the cars into the square, which is not normally allowed. I worked to form a strong partnership with the square and convinced them to make an exception. In the end the event was a huge branding success and no one in attendance had any clue of all the hurdles involved in producing the final product.

 What is the most unusual request you have ever had? Spray starch and an ironing board for 50 Cent’s green room, which he of course didn’t even touch.

 What would be the one piece of advice you would give a new event planner to prepare them for the adventure? Don’t sweat the small stuff. No matter how many different scenarios you plan for something will always come up on event day. Just remember in that moment that you will look back and laugh at each crazy challenge later!

What has been your proudest moment as an event producer? Producing a charity auction as a volunteer with a young professionals group and raising over $60,000 for a local San Francisco charity. I was amazed at how generous people were and it was so rewarding to know that all of the hard work we did helped support a local charity.

How would you describe your event producing style? A mix of detail oriented but at the same time go with the flow. Nothing ever goes exactly as planned so I have learned to stay calm and think on my feet to find solutions as problems arise.

 What do you see as an upcoming trend for this year? With the economy and tech industry on the upswing, I think we will see more companies adding events back into their budgets and understanding the value of creating unique experiences for their employees and customers through events.

 Where can you be found on your time off from work? Playing soccer, checking out the newest restaurant or working on my latest DIY project.

 What would be your dream event to produce? Because of my love of soccer it would have to be The World Cup. I can only imagine the years of planning that go into that event, but it would be such an amazing thing to be a part of!

 What is your best-kept secret to success? Find something you love and make a career out of it. And remember to laugh and not to take things too seriously!

Posted by: Lindsay Sutherland, DPEM Team, Tips of the Trade