The You In Team

Posted on 21st Jan 2015

Do you remember the problem with assumption? When you assume you make an ass out of u and me. Someone, somewhere said it and it made a point in an affective if rather trite way. Then it took off and suddenly it was everywhere, one of the great business clichés of all times. It became one of those things that elicited groans from the audience and lost the speaker credibility.

More recently we had the 'there's no i in team' meme. Again, a point was made that was affective but trite. It became not only a cliché but a darling of business motivational posters. Demotivators is the ironic brand of counter motivation - their 'If all it takes to motivate you is this poster then your job will soon be done by machines' is a classic).

'I in team' itself had a second wind as an ironic joke. Not only did someone find the i but they found it in the 'a hole' (see picture). A joke was born that worked on two different levels.

In fact the initial statement is flawed because there is an i in team. It's you. It's the commitment that you bring to the team, to collaborate, to contribute and to give value. This is why so much of the basic team building doctrine is flawed. Not only is it flawed but it makes experienced, authentic people cringe. A team is made up of individuals (a word which not only has an i but begins with it) and these individuals deserve respect for the contribution that they make. Glib clichés and shallow feedback lack the dignity that we deserve.

So why is team building a bit prone to this sort of thing? Lack of experience. Very often the people put in charge of 'facilitating' activities have little training (beyond the activity itself) and not much experience. They can't go beyond basic feedback and motivation poster clichés.

Very often events are just for fun and the benefit is gained from social interaction. That is fine and valid. However, sometimes more is required and this is where expectations are not met. The provider will say 'you didn't tell us what you expected' while the client will say 'I bought team building, that's what I expected'.

So, what is the solution? It is the activity provider's responsibility to make sure that they understand the client's expectation. It is then the activity provider's responsibility to put the right level of experience in the right place. Sometimes the client contact may not understand what the expectation is; the task of booking the day has been delegated by someone else. It is the activity provider's responsibility to ask who the important people are, who needs to be pleased.

It's all the activity provider's responsibility. That's tough on them, but that's how we make our money. If it was easy everyone would be doing it.

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