Confessions of A Teambuilder

Imagine your worst holiday, and your worst day at work, combine them and you have it – teambuilding!

Have you ever been on a teambuilding...You know, get together with people from work and pretend you are enjoying it... Over the years, I have been on my share of teambuildings.

The first time, I was a naïve young chap. Offered free food, drink and travel, being out of the office... I was enthusiastic. While the concept seemed to make sense, the actual details were of a world I did not yet comprehend…

- Dress codes (casual chic, what is that sweat pants and pearls?) 

- Seating arrangements, (why must I sit next to this unbuttoned, hairy chested, gold clad man?)

- Small talk exercises (“identify something you have in common” hmm, both think this is dumb)

Other than being caught in some compromising positions on video in the bar, the only things I recall were the three keys to getting on at work: Bribes, Rumors, & Blackmail!

That was my first disaster, so you can imaging how I felt when a few years later when I found an envelope on my desk asking me to join my dear colleagues for “a weekend of adventure in the Black Forest”.

 Ever conscious of team productivity, these events are now held on weekends, so much for escaping the office life. And so much for my personal recuperation plans… Time to get on a bus full of smiling colleagues singing kum-by-ya, headed for the bosses’ cousins’ lodge, that needs a paint job. Arriving, the place indeed looked borderline...

- but the caveman says: “don’t worry, you’re not staying here”.
- Me: “So, where is the 5 star spa?”
- Caveman: “you see stars alright, it's the open air” (handing me a compass)

- Me: “OK, but I’ve got a conf call, go ahead I’ll find my way”

- Caveman: “Follow this SW until the brook, go downstream 2 K, There in the refuge you will find everything you need”

Skeptical, I set out. Naïve, I enter the forest, it is about 5 PM, on an early spring day. The ground is wet, the sky cloudy, drizzle turns to rain, then pouring buckets. Brook? This is a swamp, darkness. Hopeless, I head back, but can’t find from where I came, sliding up the hill, I turn again, this must be the brook… All water goes down, well must be here, no, darker, colder, can’t see the compass, phone is dead, curse conf call. Giving up, a large tree trunk offers relative shelter, crouching, cold, shiver through night, till dawn. See the refuge, stagger in un-missed. So, this is team solidarity?

That was my second disaster, and typical of many murder weekend gone wrong. Recently, luck has cut teambuilding budgets, but when I got the email with “Fun” in the title, those cold shivers came back fast.

This time it’s cooking our own meal in a warehouse on the outskirts of town. A gentle enough concept, clearly on the cheap, but in the name of the team, what wouldn’t we do? Cava is flowing, lounge music, buffet of smoked fish and delicacies. We do some chopping – what I could do to my boss with this knife? Some sautéing – burn me will you, try this! And we move to the table, or try to, something else is moving... Bending over, I discreetly make my way to the loo. But I am not the only one, I see a green hue rising in the faces of my fellow toilet pilgrims. The stalls are full, these are not the aromas of a great team cooking… Intoxicating gases, exploding bomb, screams of agony and relief. We pound on doors, worried for the worst. I make it in, just, and as it all lets loose. Outside, the unlucky twist and tense their buttocks. Sitting there, the irony is not lost, another team moment down the toilet!

While many of these events were less teambuilding, and more teambusting, we always do end up connecting with a few people in a real way. So when I met a certain gold chained, hairy chested man in the airport, I was happy to reminisce about that bar room video and the bozo who led the teambuilding.
 But when he asked what I do now, I had to go a bit silent before saying... “Do you remember, that bozo...”

Stimulating Ideas & Building Futures