Sunday, October 19, 2008

Redeeming Corporate Team-Building

If academic lessons (and sermons) are all content and no cheer, corporate team-building is the opposite.

This is a common sequence at many Rah-Rah sessions:
1. Team Building Activity = Fun and games! = Great stuff! = Yes! (followed by...)

2. De-briefing = What did you learn? = Cheap corny clich├ęd one-liners = Yuck.
How do you communicate a coherent set of complex ideas without suggesting that the participants are a bunch of unread, turtle-under-shell, naive simpletons? How much sense does it make when, after half an hour of running up and down, the speaker says: "This game is to teach us that we must all communicate clearly as a team".


I can swear I hear the participants' inside voices going, "Wow, man! You got me all the way into this conference room, made me miss my Saturday morning trip in DreamLand, jump through hoops (literally) and perform all manner unnatural endeavours, in order to say that to me?! Couldn't you just have gotten my boss to email me a frickin' memo?! %#$!@*"

The fun and games are, well, loads of fun. That's a must.

But corporate trainers need to find a way to avoid the corny 'party-line' quips which all but deflates the energy. For sure, I've never read a feedback comment which went like, "I already knew that and you didn't have to waste my time". People don't always tell you what they think (duh). All the more why we shouldn't wait until a client finally drops the bomb.

There's lots of thinking to be done, and I'm very new at this, but off the top of me scalp, some ways to ensure the content is high-class include:

1. D
o away with general, common-sensical 'teaching' for good i.e. decide to never EVER to conclude with things like, "Listening carefully", "Working together", "Doing your best", "There is no I in T-E-A-M" and all this Junior School stuff.

I'll be blunt: It's insulting.

2. Include at least one piece of cutting-edge theory, something you've read recently from a hot new best-seller, or a blog, or forum, etc. This obviously presumes you need to update yourself constantly.

There's nothing like a trainer who has been keeping up with his reading and self-learning.

3. Include many skill-based learning outcomes and ensure that the session is about practising a new skill, NOT doing activities which 'illustrate' some abstract pithy phrase. E.g. negotiation, public speaking, writing coherently, etc.

In a world starve of action-oriented relevance, providing folks with a safe 'space' to perform something new can be an invaluable thing.

4. Obtain a commitment from the participants and their bosses that there'll be follow-up, at-work assessments, etc. True, this may take SOME pleasure out of the session but if conducted well, there's no reason why anyone should dread being evaluated on what they've been trained.


florenceloo said...

Dude, i agree with you to a certain extent. My company decided to just do a co trip this year with staff planning the itinerary with a teamwork theme.

But you must also understand that corporate team-building events are usually for all levels of an organisation - not sure about yours.

The message must be able to reach all levels - most of the time the junior level ones.

My company tried to cultivate and build what we thought was more substantial like inner motivation i.e. commitment, duty, accountability, honour, integrity, play to win instead of playing not to lose...and in different formats.

They caught no ball we are still cracking our heads. Maybe our company is being too idealistic la. haha!

Alwyn said...

matter of fact, most of the rah-rah sessions I've attended I did so as part of 'junior staff'. And the ones I've been leading this past few weeks were also 'junior'-based. No big shots (or at most just one).

personally, i think if you're in your mid-20s' and have gone through college, you would *know* - at least intellectually - what teamwork and communication is.

what's required is *practice* in new/fresh situations which are RELEVANT to the job or life (i still wonder what blind-folding people has to do with anything!)

what's *not* required (IMO) is:
a) unusual games or activities (unless it's for pure fun, which I'm all for!) with..

b) a very simplistic message

To me, if we absolutely must teach simple stuff (as part of the deal/package) then it's best to 'turn up the heat' sikit, make them teach *each other*, let them apply the 'simple msg' in difficult situations, award prizes for best team presentation on principles, etc, etc.

by no means is it easy la...which is why perhaps most take a simple way out i.e. think hard for the games and water-down the de-briefing.

btw, i like that concept: 'play to win instead of not to lose' :)