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In a past life I used to be a trainer for one of the big financial companies. I really enjoyed my job and still think, to this day, that i made subhects such as Capital Gains Tax at least mildly entertaining. Since becoming self employed I now consider myself pretty clued up on training and have delivered my own courses to a range of individuals and big business. The reason for telling you this is merely to qualify the next statement;

I truly believe some training professionals are seriously feckin’ stupid!

Read this link and then come back to me…

Done? Good, let’s continue…

It’s not what the poor guy had to go through that irks me, although it is truly bloody ridiculous, it’s the fact that this ridiculous task they got them involved in was a ‘team building exercise’. What??!! Who in the name of holy feck comes up with this sh!t?! Honestly?

I fail to see, and I’ve tried some crazy stuff in my time as a trainer and a delegate, how asking people, in a working context, to do something so inane as to go away and come up with a dance to a song creates any kind of ‘team’ (apart from a kind of trauma bonding where people share similar horrific experiences). This type of exercise is straight out of ‘Team Building 101’, a mistaken belief that by breaking down social boundaries or creating scenarios through which people have to work together in abstract situations we can then create a strong bonded team. But it doesn’t work like that. In my experience, to carry an exercise like that off requires exceptional facilitation skills and, normally, time.

One of my all time training heroes, Tony Robbins, carries this type of energiser off with aplomb (that’s a feckin amazing word!) and I’ve experienced other trainers do the same. His energy and style create total buy-in but even then, when I saw him live, it took me almost a day to throw off my social shackles and even begin to get into it. I think the fact that that the other 8000 people in the room were going mental definitely helped right enough.

I want to make a small distinction here. There are differences in approach between a Personal Development seminar and a corporate team building event (e.g. people tend to have voluntarily chosen to go the Personal Development seminar whereas at least 40% of your delegates will have been told to go on the team building event) and this post is very much about the latter.

As a trainer your job should always be to nurture and develop your delegates. When people get ‘upset’ or embarrassed by your exercise how does that build a team?

In any training I have a few really important intentions and one of the main ones is ‘Give people an experience of something special’. It’s these moments that make people change. I know some of you reading this will have experienced some of those moments and I love hearing about their ongoing affects.

For example, I remember attending a training where the whole group were tasked with raising as much money for charity in 4 hours as we possibly could. We were told the charity we were doing it for and that was it, the rest was up to us. How amazing is that?!

Groups were formed, networks were called, people played to their skill set and all of us focused on one really worthwhile and amazing intention and outcome. It really tested us, not because we were uncomfortable, because we wanted to do an amazing job for this charity.

In the end, if I remember rightly, in about 4 hours, 16 people raised a potential £18,000 for a charity. A small team even managed to organise a charity ball in that time getting the hotel to provide a room for free, found a band that would play for expenses and began selling tickets to their network of business associates and friends! Amazing. What an idea and an incredible (albeit exhausting) experience to be part of. The bond and the sense of doing something truly worthwhile at the end made us a true team.

You see, as a trainer, your job is to make sure people learn and people learn best when they understand that question from earlier, ‘Why?’. I bet if you asked ‘Why does coming up with a dance to Daft Punk help us as a team if I feel massively uncomfortable doing it?’ any of the Curry’s people would have been able to tell you.

So, I put it out there, if anyone from Currys, or any other company for that matter, would like to give me a call about a radical overhaul of their team building activities to ensure their teams go back feeling as if they understand each other better, then please give me a call. Until then, I hope the trainers out there think about Why and the delegates are given something amazing to do rather than the same, tired old bullish!t!

Phew. That feels so much better now…

I really like Daft Punk as well.


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