Performance Management Blog

Collaboration. Team Building. Competition. Empowerment. Servant Leadership.

HOW can leaders address issues of collaboration and communications in their organizations? What tools are available.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine
is a team building board game exercise where tabletops of people are asked to align to the shared goal of optimizing results — “Mining as much gold as we can.” It is also a game designed so that the Expedition Leader has a role of “Helping teams be successful” — with the power and flexibility to do whatever is needed to support teams in their journey to accomplish their goals.

And we are now focusing on how to more tightly link the play of the game with the teaching and implementation of a Servant Leadership type of collaborative supportive leadership model. We have colleagues such as Scott Knutson who specialize in this kind of training initiative.

Teambuilding and Servant Leadership training haiku

The idea is to be able to disrupt the normal behavioral patterns and choices of individuals and teams to allow them some coachable moments in which to be more involved and engaged and allowing of the support of the leadership team. The norm seems to be that people resist active support, which we also hear in anecdotal comments about the implementation of a Servant Leadership Model within organizations. Building up trust and openness is a difficult endeavor and the exercise helps address that issue.

The basic Dutchman game design allows teams to make choices, define strategies, and collaborate with other teams to share information and resources. Each tabletop makes its own decisions and tends to focus on its own situation, rather than take the bigger picture of how the group can benefit. The sharing tends to be quite restrained.

Generally, we see some collaboration between tabletops but good teamwork within each team. And some tabletops do collaborate while others are focused on that competition and winning, even though that is never a defined outcome for play and those choices sub-optimize results.

Minimized competition directly relates to improved overall outcomes. It is that way in this exercise and in corporate reality. Few corporations excel when internal competition is the reality.

And, occasionally, we see a group actually surprise “The Expedition Leader” and collaborate way more than normal. In that situation and the debriefing, the role of the EL is to capture the positive aspects and quickly spin that into what the group could choose to do differently when back in the workplace.

We have been focusing on the theme of Servant Leadership as we construct some new spins on the delivery of Lost Dutchman. The tabletop team focus normally and often tends to create an US / THEM (situation, culture, expectancy) whereby the team isolates itself from leadership and consciously chooses to go it alone. There seems to be a desire to operate independently, and that sometimes feels like an adversarial situation where the team will actually ask the leadership to leave them alone!

Servant Leadership is not a natural framework for support in many organizations.

This framework is for teaching leaders more about the skills, but we will be testing it with actual leaders working with their teams in a real-world mining scenario. The idea is simple:

Get everyone to make better choices and access support
to help optimize results and impact performance.

If you have some ideas for how you would like to see us consider or if you would like more information about how we are approaching this issue through the design of the delivery, please email me,


For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools.
Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant who is trying to retire!! He now lives in Cuenca, Ecuador.

You can reach Scott at

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

Here is a 2-minute overview of the new virtual version of the Lost Dutchman team building game:

The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game

Dr. Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant, earning CPT and CPF credentials. -- You can reach Scott at and a detailed profile is here: -- Scott is the original designer of The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game and the Square Wheels® images for organizational development.

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