Pumping the Colors Logo

If you are an external consultant or interested in re-selling this program please email or call us at 858 450-3400 for more details.

Pumping The Colors™ is an active, hands-on, team building/development simulation for a group (or groups) of five to ten participants. It challenges them to execute a complicated task under conditions that require them to perform as a team.

In Pumping the Colors, the participants practice holding self-coaching team meetings using the Seven Practices of High Performing Teams* several times. During the first team meeting we ask them to complete a general self-coaching exercise which has them simultaneously display the practice they felt the team performed best, and then the practice the team needs to improve the most. It is important to point out that each team meeting becomes easier and better as the team members begin to understand how the Seven Practices apply to them and the team.

The primary purpose of the self-coaching team meetings is to create teaching and learning opportunities. In the beginning the meetings are nice-nice. Everyone puts forth his or her ideal self. This is important because, most of the time, we are able to put forth our ideal self. But, when teams get under stress, or team members feel unsafe or threatened, the team member resorts to his or her back-up style of working and is the cause of most of the problems of teams. Pumping The Colors is designed to create just enough pressure to get an idea of each person's style of working under stress and to examine how that affects the other team members.

Seven Practices of High Performing Teams:

Commit to a common purpose:

All members of the team understand and agree on the team’s purpose.

Comment: If confusion or lack of agreement on the team’s purpose develops, there’s no ultimate criteria for resolving conflicts and no reason for team members to put aside personal differences. Without a common purpose, turf wars develop; gossip and backbiting dominate private discussions; and esprit de corps dissipates. One of the most common causes of poor team performance is the lack of common purpose.

Establish clear rules of operation:

Team members understand and agree on:

  • (a) each team member’s role.
  • (b) the team’s short and long term objectives.
  • (c) the schedule for completing the various tasks.
  • (d) the resources committed to each part of the task.
  • (e) the level of quality required for the task.
  • (f) methods for making changes once a plan has been accepted.
  • (g) the amount of money to be spent on each task.
  • (h) the team’s decision making process.

Comment: Having a common purpose helps very little without an agreement on how the team will reach its common goal.

Make effective team decisions:

All team members understand how decisions are made and by whom. In addition, the team does not settle for easy and obvious answers to tough problems. It struggles through the “groan zone”  to reach better solutions.

Comment: Most teams assume the decision making process is a linear three step process: define the problem, develop alternatives and select the best alternative. This approach leads to obvious, often inferior solutions. Effective decision makers don’t settle for obvious solutions. They endure the ambiguity and frustration of searching for better solutions.

Communicate openly:

Team members give accurate, timely feedback to one another and routinely discuss problems, issues, policies, fears, concerns, disappointments and frustrations. The team does not tolerate hidden agendas, third party communication or any other form of subversive communication.

Comment: When communication is not open, hidden agendas develop; the team becomes highly politicized; turf wars break out; and esprit de corps evaporates.

Commit to the team:

Each team member commits to helping the team meet high levels of performance by working together as a team, not as an individual. Furthermore, every team member accepts responsibility for making the team successful.  When problems develop, team members determine what caused the problem and how to fix it.  The purpose of identifying problems and mistakes is to improve the process not fix the blame.


  • (a) All successful teams are performance driven, but each team member understands that the performance is achieved through team effort, not by individuals working alone. One lone wolf can destroy the team. When team members are more concerned about establishing a record of achievement for themselves rather than helping the team meet its goals, the commitment to high performance dissipates, allowing resentment and unproductive conflict to set in.
  • (b) Most team members feel accountable for doing their job. But too often, their job does not include making the team successful. When a problem occurs, they point fingers or declare, “that’s not my job” assigning blame instead of solving the problem at its roots.

Value differences:

All team members know their work preferences and understand the impact their behavior has on other members of the team.

Comment: This is not to say every combination of work preferences or skill sets is effective for every task. Selecting the right number of team members, with the right combination of work preferences and skill sets for the task is half the battle.

Follow through:

The team follows through on its plans for improvement.

Comment: This requires discipline. Good teams put discipline-enhancing procedures into effect. They hold team meetings. They measure their progress. And, they make their values and plans visible. Some of the most skilled and knowledgeable teams fail because they fail to follow through.

We can't emphasize enough the value of the self-coaching procedures and we encourage them to use them back at work. If they seem reluctant, discuss the reasons for their concerns. This falls into the "do it, you'll like it” category. We encourage them to do it three times and they will see the value of it.

*The Seven Practices of High Performing Teams was developed by R. Garry Shirts specifically for Pumping The Colors.

Pumping The Colors creates innumerable teaching moments for high level concepts, ideas and values that are difficult to teach by more traditional means. It's real, it's powerful, it's taken seriously by all the participants and it gets results. We invite you to contact us to learn more and get started.