Tips For Winning Teeter Totter

You’re standing nervously. Sweat is pouring down your face. You don’t know whether your right foot or your left foot is carrying the brunt of your body weight, but you’re worried your next breath shifts your balance. Forget your balance. What about the other six people who could slip up at any moment? 

That’s teeter totter.

Simple to understand really.  There’s a plank that’s placed on a cinder block so that it can tip to one side or another.  Eggs are placed under each end.  The goal is to get eight people both on and off the plank.

This game is about being a good leader when you’re a leader and a great follower when you’re a follower.


  1. Everything – information, movements, orders – should go through the leader directing the people on the plank.  The leader should be the only one who directs.  This avoids confusion.
  2. Weight match persons on the same team, and have them step up at or close to the same time. Start at the middle, where the plank’s center of mass is over the cinder block.
  3. All movements are small steps, this allows you to see the plank if it’s tilting,
  4. You go as slow as you need to to make sure the job gets done right.
  5. Make sure that people remember that GETTING OFF is part of the challenge.  DONT let players fool themselves and others into thinking it’s done when you’re on.

When I was standing on top of that plank, I noticed something amazing.  Because I was the first to get on, I had to move closest to the end of the plank to let my fellow teammates. I was standing four feet from the center!

Of course, I was being counterbalanced by the person at the other ended, and we had done so together – as a team.  Together, we had achieved what was otherwise impossible.

And it was quite interesting, especially given what had happened a few moments earlier.

I had been devastated. After watching the story of Michael Skolnik – a must watch for ANY human being – the story of a young man whose life was cut short by poor communication, poor consent, and poor cutting related to an unnecessary procedure, I had to gather myself by walking through town.

First, my thoughts flashed to anger. How dare Michael’s Doctor…?

But then, I realized it could have happened to me.  I could have consented Michael on behalf of the surgeon in his case.

And then I thought, it could have to any of my patients that I had ALREADY consented in the last year.

And Michael’s surgeon cannot be the only one.

And I asked myself, what can I do to make sure this NEVER happens again. It seemed to be too large an issue. You needed to change surgeon CULTURE, something that had been hardwired over centuries.

And then I felt immediately depressed again by Michael’s story in what was a vicious cycle.

Then, I saw something.  An ant. Way over on the ground.  And she was carrying a large insect, one that appear to be FIVE times his size.

And she had help. Her compatriots were next to her, helping inch their dinner along.

And believe it or not, it made me feel better. To realize that I wasn’t alone with this problem. I had a team of friends, peers waiting back at the conference center who cared just as much as I did about Michael’s story, if not more.

So I scurried back to the conference for our reflections….and I was empowered by our group reflection.  Rather than anger and fear and sadness, we channeled our emotions into action and insight.

Thank you, team.