Podcast

How to Build a More Connected Team—With Zev Freundlich

By , July 20, 2020

Zev Freundlich, the Founder of TEAMCORP, joins Meny Hoffman on the show to talk about building a more connected team and a more collaborative company culture through corporate team building.

It takes great leadership to build great teams, and if you want to have a productive, collaborative workforce, then be sure to not miss my interview with Zev Freundlich, founder of TeamCorp. For over 20 years, Zev has facilitated team-building events, workshops, and seminars to help business owners foster camaraderie among their team members, improve their company’s culture, and create a more productive, positive work environment. At Ptex Group, we were fortunate to have him facilitate some events for our team members, and the outcome was phenomenal. I realized how important it is to bring Zev to the show so other leaders could learn more about how to help their teams thrive.

Without further ado, here is my interview with Zev.

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How to Build a More Connected Team—With Zev Freundlich

Our guest is my friend, Zev Freundlich. He is the Founder of TEAMCORP. He has created and facilitated team-building events, workshops, and seminars for organizations and businesses for over twenty years. We were fortunate enough to have Zev facilitate some events for our team at Ptex Group. We loved it. The outcome was phenomenal and I figured, “Why not bring him to the show so other leaders could learn more about what he does?” In our interview, we discuss why company culture is so important and why team-building experience is the way to go. Pay attention to how Zev explains the feedback that he constantly hears from team members after they have gone through a team-building experience. Also, pay attention to the way he breaks down, if you are a parent, if you want to be a stronger person, figuring out how to tap into the inner you and understanding what is the best version of yourself. Without further ado, here is my interview with Zev.

Zev, thank you so much for joining me on the show.

It’s my pleasure. It’s great to be here.

You and I have known each other for a long time. What you’re doing for TEAMCORP and we’ll get into some of the stuff you’ve done with Ptex as well. For our readers, I want to get back early where you started off as being a dean of a school and doing some programs there and then it evolved into building this massive company, TEAMCORP where you’re here to support leaders, their team, collaboration, and so on and so forth. Bring us a little back to what is your professional journey, how did it start, and what could we learn from that.

By trade, I’m an educator. For years, I’ve been involved in school and education. I’m the dean of a high school. The truth is that the education of children and adults is very similar. To quote Frederick Douglass, a great thinker, he said that, “It’s easier to build healthy children than to fix broken men.” The difference between education of children and adults is that children don’t have any preconceived notions about their failures yet, whereas adults, unfortunately, have years of experience of failures. That’s the difference in the education but the philosophy is the same. It’s giving people the tools that they need to succeed in life and you’re never too old to learn. My background is with adolescents and we realized that we have to continue our education and building people working together as a team. That’s how this concept of building a corporate team building company has started.

People that read this blog and people that follow me for a while, you’ve known me speak so many times about company culture and how you could build out a phenomenal culture. What you pointed out and you started off from an educational perspective, which leads me to something that I also share here and there a lot which is, we sometimes give up on a person or sometimes the person gives up on themselves not knowing how much they could accomplish in life, how much their capabilities are. We sometimes get a fall into a job, that’s what we do, and we never push ourselves to the limits.

What I like about what you have done still in school with the kids, and then obviously now transformed into TEAMCORP on what you’re doing for companies is, we’re taking people out of the comfort zone and showing them that there’s so much more to themselves. There’s so much growth that they could live into if the mindset and willingness are there if they want to be able to be challenged and getting out of the comfort zone. For that reason, I’m very excited about our conversation because I feel that everybody reading this, if you pay close attention, there’s so much room for growth in every single person to push themselves out of comfort and limits that they think that the limitations are and there’s so much more they could accomplish in their life.

Any employer who doesn't understand the need to create an environment where people feel growth and opportunity is living back in the 1940s. Click To Tweet

It’s interesting that you say that. The original corporate team building back in the ‘70s was done by a company called Outward Bound. It was an adventure-based team-building activity that was done in the wilderness going for days on end in Montana and doing crazy things specifically in the outdoors to show them that there’s nothing that you can’t overcome specifically in a team environment. The corporate world decided that this is something that’s very valuable. Since corporate culture was that the key in those days back in the ‘70s than it is now but at the end of the day, they realized the value in putting people in situations where they think that they can’t do it. They would show them as a team how much together they could accomplish when they work as a team.

That was the beginnings in the ‘70s. The outward bound type of project adventure that was the original Corporate Team Building company. It’s exactly what you’re saying, the goal was to push people to the point that they realize there’s so much they can do. I think it was Henry Ford that says, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” It’s so much in your mind and unless you put someone in a situation where he sees that he could overcome so many challenges, he won’t realize that. That’s where the Corporate Team Building works together as a team and pushing them to go beyond what they think they were ever possible to do.

I want to ask you a question that people reading this have in their mind or you came across 1,000 times when you spoke to people at what you do and exactly what you offer is, why team-building experiences? I have my employees, they come in, they do their work. They do their job and they are great employees. The day ends, they walk home. That is rinse and repeat day-after-day. What is the answer that you give people, why is it important to invest in company culture and to give your people team-building experiences?

As you know, from all the great companies, Google and Zoom and all the companies that everybody wants to work in, even if they don’t pay well, corporate culture is the number one thing that Millennials are looking for. They want to feel that they’re being treated in a way that’s not just respect, but they feel that, “The company cares for me and my relationships.” The sweatshop days are over. Any employer who doesn’t understand that it’s all about creating an environment that people feel the growth and opportunity is living back in the 1940s. What we need to do is create a situation where companies will be able to give their employees that feeling of, “We are a team.”

We’re not just making widgets, we’re creating an opportunity for the world to appreciate and enjoy life in a way that’s going to change your standard of living and giving them a wholesomeness. That’s done when the company feels and the team that we’re doing this together. It’s not what you’re selling or manufacturing, it’s how you can help people. That is transferred to the feeling that the employees feel like, “We’re a team, we’re a family, we’re doing this together.” It’s laid out. You have to create a bigger than life atmosphere in your office. It’s not about the thing we’re manufacturing or selling. It’s about us as a family working together to create this wholesomeness that we’re giving over to our clients.

You mentioned Google and we speak about culture. I usually say that Google did a disservice for the universe by being the model for culture. People see Google, think about great culture and people will love working there. They confuse themselves with the ping pong tables and the babysitting service. Those are perks and Google as a company has those perks as well. When we speak about company culture, it’s about an environment of trust and autonomy. An environment of freedom of speaking your mind, coming up with your ideas, even though it’s not 100% in your job description if you have an idea. You look at Google and read books about Google. I forgot the title of the book but it was a phenomenal book about the Google culture. Most of the products that we are enjoying now on a daily basis and the most profitable products for Google were made by people because they undertook the challenges. They went on their own and being able to produce those in a certain time that Google allowed them to work on their initiative, so to speak.

LTB 50 | Corporate Team Building
Corporate Team Building: The goal of team building is to push people to realize that there’s so much that they can do when they work as a team.

 

When we speak about TEAMCORP, we speak about events and company culture, it’s important to tell our readers that there is a fun element while doing it, but it doesn’t take away from the seriousness and the reasoning behind doing those activities where it is to bring out the best of each person and bring people closer. There’s a ton of different activities and Ptex has done a phenomenal experience. For those people reading this, you might be able to find me on LinkedIn sharing some of our activities and even our newsletter at PtexGroup.com/join, where I shared those activities. From your experience, you have done hundreds of those events. Let’s speak about team members first. What is the number 1, 2, or 3 top pieces of feedback you get, what it meant for them and what it did for them long-term?

We did a corporate team building event for a company. It was a manufacturing company of some safety equipment of about 40 employees. It’s a very diverse employee population. It was amazing. At the end of the event, we always start off with an icebreaker at the beginning and we had some TEAMCORP classic team-building activities. In the end, we always have the company debrief. That’s the way I will pass the mic around. It takes about fifteen minutes and every person will say for twenty seconds about how they appreciate the activity and what we did, but it usually comes out people saying how they appreciate the company. This one, it was beyond amazing people from all walks of life. The culture was beyond amazing in diversity. Everyone kept saying the same thing like, “We feel that this company is a family.”

By doing these team-building activities, it brought it out because the goal is to have your employees laugh and have a good time with each other. Specifically, the non-business setting where you can see the real person. You can see that there are people working in the cubicle next to you which you never saw because all you saw was a robot working next to you. After the team-building activity, when it’s done outside, outdoors, or in a different venue, you see the real person, the personality, the people that you’re working with. The family comes out because people don’t appreciate family for what they produce. They appreciate your family for who they are as people. That’s the number one that the employees will say, “I didn’t realize what a wonderful family I come to work every day and how much I appreciate that.”

If we flip the coin and we speak about leaders of companies that have been seeing the impact of those events, the days and weeks following events that have produced.

We’re doing a quarterly event. We do for a home care company. They hire us quarterly to do big events like the food truck event I did with you. We’ll be doing another TEAMCORP original. The leaders of the company hire me on a quarterly basis because they say they see how much camaraderie and people feel the connection with each other and there’s a real ROI there. They say it’s palatable. They see clearly. Specifically, I say in home care companies because they have difficulty with employee retention.

Many of them have a real revolving door problem and they all know, they all do the same thing and they all know that they can get the job somewhere else for the same price. If they don’t feel comfortable in their environment, they walk out. There’s nothing stopping them because they know they get the same price and everything somewhere else. They understand, especially this company owner, he says, “It’s a no-brainer because my company feels that I care for them. These team-building events are what helps them stay and I don’t have to retrain and rehire people.” It’s clear.

Throughout my years, I’ve been dealing with so many business owners and employees of a team of companies as well. Sometimes I hear from employees that, “My leaders, my boss, my manager,” whatever they want to call it, “has thrown a party for us before a holiday and gave us some gifts. Honestly, we didn’t need his party. He should be nicer to us or should be working on the culture, be there to support the culture throughout the year, and not just throw money for a party.” What would you say for somebody that feels that their culture is not up to par? When I speak about leaders and we have Leaders Forum that we train leaders on a regular basis, one of the things I always say to them at the end, “How is your culture doing for you?” Most of the people will say, “I have a phenomenal culture. Sally came in and said she loves working here,” or “Jacob came in and he says I am so happy to have this job.”

Good companies listen to their employees when making cultural decisions. Click To Tweet

I said, “That’s what they’re telling you, but what are you not hearing?” I always say, “Do an anonymous survey or have somebody speak to your employees to get the real feeling of how they feel about it.” Sometimes they do it and they are shocked on how people really feel. Therefore, if you’re a leader and you want to build a culture, what would you say to that business owner that wants to take a couple of steps to improve in their culture? We know that there are events, but there’s so much more to the events. Where do you feel the leadership focus most in order to have that culture of excellence and have that great environment for people to call family?

The truth is, you’re 100% right. The company always throws that party or even hiring me for an event once in a while is a Band-Aid. Traditionally, good companies bring their employees in to major decisions. I don’t mean necessarily business decisions, but cultural decisions. “What is our culture like?” They listen to their employees. When a company hires us, we do come in and do Team Effectiveness Audit, exactly what you said, an anonymous survey and we find out exactly which eight areas of the team process they’re doing well. In fifteen minutes, I can have the answer and show the CEO’s of the company, “This is the way companies do well and this is where your company is not too well. We can fix it for you but it’s nothing that was us fixing it. It’s from the leadership down.”

If there’s a respect, understanding, and appreciation of each one’s individual talents and skills as a person, people will feel it. A team-building activity will enhance that already amazing corporate culture. Doing an event like this even quarterly, if you’re not caring, showing appreciation, and listening to your people, it’s just a Band-Aid and makes you still feel good that you throw nice parties and have nice events. This is not a one-time deal. It has to come from the leadership down, about the understanding, respecting, and listening to your employees. That’s what makes an amazing corporate culture.

What would you say if somebody wants to start improving culture and they would love to start paying attention to it? What would be the necessary steps? I heard from you now like creating some audit and getting that feedback. At least you know where you are. What would be the next step?

Companies have hired me, I came in, and I did Team Effectiveness Audit. I showed it to them, and they were shocked. They were like, “I didn’t realize that. What can we do now?” First, I tell them, “The most important thing is to create something that’s going to lift the employees.” There are many different things that we do on companies that are fun and enjoyable which is the team-building stuff but then there is the stuff that’s the real core value of the company. Do the people appreciate the core value? Are your mission statement and your core value clear? Do people understand that this is a company that cares for other people? If they think that leadership is selfish, self-absorbed, self-centered people who just want to make money, your whole culture is going to reflect that. They have to see that the leadership cares.

LTB 50 | Corporate Team Building
Corporate Team Building: Team building events jumpstart change in company culture, but that change needs to continue from within.

 

I tell people, “You have to do charity events. I have each one of your employees put in a charity of their choice and once a month, do some kind of charity. Show the company that you care about other people. When they see you care about other people, by definition, it means you’re going to care about us too. You have to do things that are going to show your employees that you’re a person, they are people, and you care about feelings for your clients especially for your employees.” As you said, there’s no end to what you can do about this but that’s when people from these huge companies like Google and Zoom, they feel that you’re working for not just a charitable organization, but people that care about other people. The environment has to change. We can do team-building events that jumpstart that but that has to be a jumpstart that will come in and say, “We’re going to do something that’s going to help like a charity event, build a bike event or a help the soldiers event.” Something to show people that you’re changing your culture by caring about other people and then they get the message that you care about us as well.

When I’m analyzing those events in our company, events that I’ve attended as a speaker, and I’ve seen some of those activities, one of the things I realized is one of the needles, so to speak, that’s being moved is the trust factor between team members. If you’re doing any of those activities where you need to rely on the person next to you in order not to fall down or to do something and come up with the idea and trust that that idea will make it on time or whatever it is. Is that something you also see as the trust being that’s something that stands out?

Whenever we start any of this. Patrick Lencioni has The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Clearly, trust is the basis of every single meaningful relationship. Specifically, now that so many companies are working remotely, we work with companies to figure out how to break that feeling of distrust because employers are looking over their shoulders or what they’re doing. Employees feel like they’re being looked over because you’re far from the office and trust is crucial. The fundamental team building starts with trust. Everyone knows like, “It’s a team-building, the trust game is trustful.” Emotional trust is much more difficult to create than a physical trust that someone is catching you. We work very much so when we start at companies to create some clear guidelines of emotional trust and safety in a corporation, that creates the foundation for real team buildings when they feel they can be in an emotionally safe environment.

I want to go back where we started off. I’m going to put you on the spot and ask you a question. Hopefully, you’ll have the right answer for our readers which is I want to go back to the kids. Many people reading this are parents as well and have kids. What is it that a parent could do in order to build up stronger kids?

Leadership that is done with understanding, respecting, and listening to employees makes an amazing corporate culture. Click To Tweet

We’re doing a TEAMCORP original. We’re going to this home care company with 33 employees. We’re breaking them up into teams of four. Each team is broken up into different categories. The goal is that, over the five-hour event, they will first get a 15 to 20-minute lecture on the concept called Multiple Intelligence. This was done back in the ‘80s by Howard Gardner. He was a Harvard professor. He maintained that the IQ tests were only specifically pointing out to the mathematical logical part of the human being and the linguistic, the language part. There are seven, and even a little more now, different multiple intelligent ways that people are geniuses in their field. The spatial genius, musical genius, kinesthetic, and hands-on genius. Would you say a plumber who’s a master with the hands is not brilliant? Of course, it’s a different type of smart.

There are seven categories, 7 to 9, whatever and each category highlights a person’s innate skills and talents that he was God-given. That creates the ability for him to be successful in life and the way you and I create our day-to-day lives are not using our mathematical logical mind. Einstein was a genius but if his sense of direction, which we all knew he would get lost from the laboratory to his house because he had no sense of direction, he had no spatial intelligence, he couldn’t see and understand. From a space perspective, he only had a logical mind. If he would be brought up, let’s say, in the Philippines where the genius and the master, the President for the Philippines is someone who can navigate between island-to-island, he would be considered disabled.

They would put him in a home for people that are unfortunate, not able to make in this world because in that environment, the Philippines, they didn’t care about mathematical or logical mind. The genius was the one who can navigate. Navigation skills was king. When we look at our children and we think our children could only be smart in the way, unfortunately, many schools perceive it as a mathematical mind, logical mind, or language mind but they ignore the other interpersonal. What is a politician? A politician doesn’t have a logical mind. He’s an interpersonal genius. He cannot relate to people. He understands people. Anyone knows that that will get you much further in life than your mathematical logical mind. There are seven areas of genius that every child and human being has.

If you could tap into that and show them who they are, the child will be happy forever because he’s using his God-given talents as his keys to life. To get back, I took the company, I sent the survey out to them, and every single employee at that company put down and I asked them a question. Each one of these categories and they don’t know what I’m asking them. They don’t know why I’m asking them and say, “Are you good at music? Are you good at graphics?” I went to every single one of the seven categories. I found that exactly what they perceive themselves as, what’s their innate God-given talent and skills then I’m going to create each team that has one of each. There is someone that has a logical and language skill.

LTB 50 | Corporate Team Building
Corporate Team Building: Team building becomes much more powerful when everyone comes with their own specific talents to contribute to the goal.

 

Many people have different areas or more than one area but what’s your primary talent. What’s your primary skill? Each team has one of the 7 or 8 categories in their team and that way, it creates a real team that everyone has something to add, which is different than the other. That will be able to make their goal or their team-building goal much more powerful because everyone is coming with their own specific talents together and are going to work on their goal. That’s the answer to your question. The way parents can deal with children and make them feel successful in life is to tap into those areas that their real skill and talent is.

Thank you so much for that. I will add that regardless of what it is, make sure that you utilize it to the fullest. You only have one life and make the best life possible. Let’s close with four rapid-fire questions. Number one, a book to change your life?

The book that changed my life would be Multiple Intelligences by Thomas Armstrong.

Number two, what piece of advice you’ve got that you’ll never forget?

If you do what you like, you have freedom. If you like what you do, you have happiness.

Number three, is there anything you wish that you could go back and do differently?

Fundamental team building starts with trust. Click To Tweet

No.

I would say at least 50% of the time, that’s the answer I get. Last and final question, what’s still on your bucket list to achieve?

My goal is to integrate team building in companies that can bring together the cultural diversity that we’re facing now.

Zev, thank you so much for joining us. I know your time is valuable and that is why in the name of our readers, we will forever be grateful for sharing some of your time with us.

Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

It’s my pleasure.

Links Mentioned:

About Zev Freundlich

LTB 50 | Corporate Team BuildingZev Freundlich is the founder of TEAMCORP. He has created and facilitated team-building events, workshops, and seminars for organizations and businesses for over 20 years. As a master educator and dean of school, his experience in education and human growth enables his acute ability to accurately diagnose a team obstacle while delivering sound and innovative solutions to allow teams to thrive.

Zev also has founded and co-founded two wilderness survival camps which allow his experiential teaching and “wild” side to develop into enjoyable, off the beaten path and practical events for all team functions. He is a motivational speaker who uses his performance skills to engage, inspire, and motivate audiences with professionalism, heart, and humor.

Meny Hoffman

Meny Hoffman

Meny Hoffman is the Chief Executive Officer of Ptex Group, an Inc. 500/5000-ranked marketing and business services firm headquartered in Brooklyn, NY.

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