I don’t know about you, but I’m somewhat perverse in nature. If someone tells me to do something, often even if it’s something I’d want to do left to my own devices, I bristle a little. “what? Have fun? Who’s gonna make me?”
Who, indeed? Well, this morning as the First Reader and I did our usual morning thing (I pack kid’s lunches, he eats breakfast, we both have coffee and chat. It’s nice) he told me he didn’t have to pack a lunch, not just because there’d be the usual food at work (testing kitchen appliances means you cook a lot. He may never look fried chicken in the face again), but because they had been told that today they were going to have mandatory fun. Hoo, boy. Look, if I’m a little perverse, my mate is a lot perverse. The idea of forced fun was making him downright cranky.
I have nothing against team-building exercises. Done well, they can be fantastic for fusing a group of disparate personalities into a unit that complements one another. Done badly, they can send people running screaming for the hills – bonding with one another over mutual dislike of the manager who is insisting on the formulaic team rah-rah is not the ultimate goal, here! But in order to be successful, the team itself has to be accounted for before the exercises are planned. The exercises cannot be taken out of the box and applied in a one-size fits-all fashion. In my distant past (I really haven’t done everything. Honest. I still can’t knit!) I had classes in team building and how to facilitate such exercises, and I have done stuff like that even before those classes. Things like trust-falls work well with a physically active group but you’d never want to, for instance, grab a admin office team and run them through those, and ropes courses. Instead of inspiration you’d wind up with injuries and insulted dignities.
Even if the mandatory fun at the First Reader’s work is done well, the fact that it was scheduled over lunch break, with no food on tap for the team, just makes me think that, well, this is not going end up with the results the green-as-grass manager thinks it will. Just the term makes me cringe, so someone using it earnestly? Hoo, boy. At least feed them!
Good team building ought to be genuine and authentic, and in ways that are not self-conscious and awkward. For one team, that might be games (as in: board, RPG, or such). For another team it might be skydiving. For another team, it might be coordinating a Christmas Angel tree for needy kids. Altruism is not only good for our brains, it’s great for getting people to come together and bond in a mutual desire to help others. But not if it’s forced. It needs to be spontaneous. Mandatory? Eeekkk…
There is much, much more to leadership than simply giving orders and having power. The foundations of it are beyond the scope of what I’m writing on today, but the point is that a leader will size up the team, look for common threads, and use those threads to wind them all together into a rope – stronger than the individual strands. It takes some wisdom and experience to assess people like that. More than simply grabbing an idea from a book or website. I can just see it now: listicle, ten things you must do to build a team. Argghh!
Now I’m going to wander off to figure out my own fun. Maybe it’ll involve building a fort from the paper archives that need organized…
(header photo was taken at a steampunk festival in Massachusetts a few years back. Now, that’s a group that knows how to have fun!)