ITB 2024 Special Reporting
The Ultimate In Teamwork.
By Gene Ference
Thursday, 8th December 2005
Santa's team is the ultimate in teamwork! How does your team compare? How is their efficiency, problem solving abilities, their speed and stamina over the "long haul?" What level of passion drives them? You need to understand their personalities. . .

Although Santa and his team of reindeer have only to satisfy their "clients" but one day-technically one night-of the year, they need to do it with perfection each and every year! So, for almost 2,000 years now, Santa and his team of eight reindeer, (nine since Rudolph appeared in 1863) have been exhibiting the ultimate in teamwork, through all kinds of weather, overcoming all types of obstacles and even figuring out the most efficient ways around unexpected problems (like no chimney to go down). This group of Rangifer tarandus saintnicolas magicualus has been molded into the most famous of unified teams.

What kind of team have you put together? How is their efficiency, their problem solving abilities, their speed and stamina over the "long haul?" What level of passion drives them? And do you, as manager-their leader, provide a clear and crisp path for them to navigate in their everyday relationships with your customers? And their co-workers?

Let's do a little comparison shopping! After all, 'tis the season to shop, and shop, and . . . Compare how your team stacks up to some of the attributes that the original "Magnificent Eight" exhibit. And then, of course, do a little comparison with Rudolph and his beacon of light, showing the way through the sometimes murky night, and yourself. For Santa to have created such an effective team was not by chance. He knew he must understand their different "personalities," blend their leadership styles, gain commitment to their strategic goals, and teambuild his "executives" into a Magnificent Eight. How did he do it? First, he understood his team's personalities and then he teambuilt them into one formidable unit.


Dasher: Known for energy and short bursts of speed, Dasher takes his job very seriously, training extra hard to stay in shape both physically and mentally for the job at hand. Do you have anyone on your team that compares? Do they show energy, enthusiasm, speed and can they handle the job at its most demanding moments, both physically and mentally? Have they been trained?

Dancer: Displays great elegance and flair. Though not the strongest member of the team, Dancer makes the job look easier than it is. With quickness and speed, avoids obstacles and problems that crop up. How is "the look" of your team? Does the uniform fit the job, and do your team members wear it with elegance. Do they show a certain flair for the job and can they think on their feet?

Prancer: Always a team player, Prancer shows great confidence, but not arrogance, in working with the team to accomplish their task. Confidence is contagious, and having at least one member of your team show their style and work ethic can mean a great deal to the success of your team!

Vixen: A consistent performer, Vixen exhibits great strength and stamina, never seeming to get tired of the job at hand. Always upbeat and playful, the team can "feed" off of this exuberant outlook and have fun while working hard. Combining fun with work can help sustain any team through the most difficult of times. It can energize your team to achieve peak performance and create a bond between team members. Make sure your team looks forward to their work-it will show in their service!

Comet: With a very strong will, Comet can be stubborn at times. This has, however, aided Santa's team when there is tough going! Comet can be a bit headstrong too, but also displays focus and unique leadership abilities when necessary. Have you found someone on your team who you can "lean on" to get the job done? Make sure you have someone who has the knowledge, focus and leadership ability to take the reigns and run with the job 'til completion. Others will follow!

Cupid: Sometimes needing a little extra "hug," Cupid is a loving reindeer, hence the name! A close companion of Comet, Cupid is a worker who more than pulls whatever load necessary to complete the job. While not seeking the "spotlight," you will value greatly those team members who work hard to give great service. They need not be all leaders-as some are followers, but they all have to have heart! You may need to give these valued employees a little extra attention and time, but your efforts will be returned in spades when the job is done. Make sure your team includes some "workers" who get their satisfaction from shear day-to-day activities.

Donder: Very proud but not cocky, Donder is confident in his abilities. Recognized as one of the strongest members of Santa's team, with a little direction, Donder will get the job done. You must have employees that are proud of where they work, what they do and how they do it! With a little leadership and training, employees like this are the "glue" to your team. You should be able to rely on these team members for a very long time.

Blitzen: One of the most aggressive reindeer, never backing down from a challenge, Blitzen isn't necessarily one of the strongest or fastest. With determination and savvy, Blitzen wins several events at the Reindeer Games annually. How many determined and savvy employees are on your team? Some team members need a good challenge, and you must know who on your team can "pick up the slack."

Rudolph: "The most famous reindeer of all," as sung by Gene Autry. Now the leader of the team, Rudolph took charge rather recently, in 1863! Each year he lights the way to completing the job at hand, making sure the team steers clear of obstacles and problems in the sky. Do your own leadership abilities allow you to "light the way" and complete the mission at hand-each and every day? In order to be a successful leader, you need to be compassionate and tough, reassuring and strict, knowledgeable yet open to suggestion. Your task path may lead you to many twists and turns, and you need to be able to negotiate each one, unfailingly, so your team will realize the ultimate in teamwork!

Santa: The mastermind behind the Christmas Season. How, you might ask, did Santa have the knowledge, expertise and insight to bring these eight-or nine-personalities to be a unified team? (not to mention coordinate and manage all those elves at the North Pole throughout the year as they built the world's toys.) He of course did his "homework." He "tested" his fleet of reindeer, how well they could take off, fly and land, but beyond the physical requirements of the reindeer, Santa had to find out how their personalities would fit with one another. So he instituted "employee" surveys to make sure he knew all he could about his team. He studied the results and studied them twice, making sure he knew what his team thought was naughty and nice. (I wish we could say that HVS/The Ference Group helped Santa with his survey start-up, but in fact, we weren't around quite that long ago. But for over 20 years now, we have been doing surveys for major companies so they could build their teams-there was even one CEO that dressed mostly in red and . . .)

Santa then made sure he communicated with his team-you remember–

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

(You see, Santa is always looking for his team to reach "Peak Performance," whether its at the top of the porch or the top of the wall!)


When developing organizational strategies, consider retreats, outings, and events. Whatever the venue, make sure it focuses on strategic goals and at the same time is highly interactive. At HVS/The Ference Group, we have found these formats provide a great way to bond and build camaraderie among team players. A well designed executive retreat builds and progresses over the scheduled time like a well orchestrated musical score. Along with developing strategic goals, we design programs to also include the profiling of leadership styles along with significant "team-building" activities such as:

Competition Wine Tasting where teams are formed to evaluate wines in blind tastings. Observations are discussed, ratings agreed to and scorings noted on the flip charts. Using noted wine authorities to benchmark wines, the team with the best score wins the prize. Of course everyone feels terrific after tasting a flight of cabernets anyway.

"Checkmate" Chess offers opportunities for teams to challenge each other on a giant 12-foot playing board featuring three-foot high chess pieces. The variations in team strategies are extraordinary and lend themselves to in-depth discussions about team effectiveness. Ultimately, you see the creativity issue come into play.

Gourmet Heritage Dinners offer another highly interactive format where team members get to showcase their culinary talents. So when executives are formed into teams and provided the opportunity to cook for themselves and their colleagues, the team dynamics begin to roast and boast, and the real birds come out of the oven.

Like Santa's Team, to be successful year after year, you need a plan with team commitment. Very little success is automatic and Santa knows this. So, teamwork is what Santa's got going on! He understands the personalities on his team and he understands the processes to effective teambuilding. How about you?

Now, with the Holiday Season upon us, see how your team stacks up to Santa's. While you may not be able to complete your mission in just one night, by evaluating your team now, you might just see needed improvement as the New Year begins! Make sure your guests and clients see their "stockings" full and their "presents wrapped" perfectly in Service Excellence.

And remember–

He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake

And whether we're talking about Santa or your CEO, don't be sleeping when it comes to teamwork!

Have a great holiday!-from HVS/The Ference Group

For more information regarding teambuilding programs, contact, Gene Ference, President, HVS/The Ference Group. gference@hvsinternational.com

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