Lessons from a team-building session

I attended a full day team building programme today conducted by FOCUS Adventure. If you have been reading my blogs, you would already know how I feel about my colleagues and bosses, so I was not feeling particularly excited about spending a whole day learning how to ‘bond’ with them through a series of activities.

At the end of the day, however, I have to congratulate Joey our facilitator for driving home some crucial learning points that I just have to share here.

1. If you want a different result, you have to do things differently. Joey used a very simple game to teach us a very important lesson. Find the best method to pass a ball from one pre-defined person to another in the shortest time possible. There were 14 of us in the group.

For our first attempt, we threw the ball to each other while standing in a circle. This took us 54 seconds. After another ten attempts using various methods, combinations and positions, we accomplished the same feat in 1.34 seconds!

My mind was blown apart! How did the same group of people following the same instructions managed to perform the same activity in so much less time? Simply by using a different method.

So if you are tired of seeing the same results over and over again, it is time to put on your thinking caps and start finding new ways of getting the same things done. Mistakes are part and parcel of this process, no one gets it right the first time.

2. Just because you are in teams does not mean you have to compete with one another. We were split into teams of three and were given separate tasks to complete. Without any further goading from Joey, we naturally switched into our competitive mode and focused on trying to complete our tasks faster or better than the next team, and finding ways to sabotage them as well.

However it was only during the debriefing that we realised that if we had pooled our resources and worked together, the individual tasks would have been completed much more easily and in a shorter time. In fact we didn’t even notice that Joey had not told us that the fastest team would win!

Which is again another amazing facet of life. Why are we constantly trying to outwit, outplay and outlast the other person even if there are no evident incentives for doing so? Is it because it is part of our natural survival instinct? I think it is an important lesson to recognise that as a collective body, we have much more power than as individuals trying to make a mark of our own sordid existence.

3. When trying to implement change, get commitment not compliance from teammates. This is a a personal lesson for me. I have been trying so hard to change the ways things should be done in my department and more often than not, feeling extremely frustrated because of the resistance from my teammates.

I now recognise that inherently we all have our own idea of how things should be done. Myself, my peers, my boss and his boss – who’s to say which way or method is the best and should be used? Of course the ‘easiest’ way is to demand it – ‘because I’m the boss and I say so’. But what this results in is a group of people who are forced into compliance and nothing good comes out of it.

Instead, present your ideas of change on how it is going to benefit the person. Of course, change must be for the better or why change at all? Once people subscribe to the benefits and become committed to the cause, it will be much easier to implement change since the battle is already won in the person’s mind. And I think this is a skill I need to hone if my in the public sector is going to amount to anything.

So in conclusion, the team building turned out better than I expected. Lessons were learnt and soured relations were slightly mended. I guess team building programmes do have their use after all.

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