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What I Learned About Teambuilding Today

The past two days have been fabulous. Although I’m completely exhausted and in serious need of some relaxation, I simply LOVE delivering workshops. I get to meet some really interesting people, and without fail at each workshop I learn something new about human beings.


Feedback is essential to my success, and fortunately I learned many (many) years ago to not take any negative comments personally. I had a tough teacher in the form of a female director at the United Nations.

After a few months of feeling as though I was the most useless person on the planet, I realised that I had to detach myself from any ‘emotional’ reactions to her constant niggling and needling, and demands for, what seemed to me to be, completely unnecessary tasks.

I turned things around and looked at things from her perspective, and realised that my daily torment had nothing to do with me, rather it was her aspiration to prove to the critics that she had been the right choice for that job. At that time she was one of the most senior female staff in the entire UN system, and slowly I began to understand what she wanted from me.

By the time I left the UN our working relationship was transformed. I won’t go as far as saying that we were friends, but scorn had been replaced by respect.

What Does This Have to do with Teambuilding?

One of my workshops, the one I’ve just completed, focuses on helping groups of people to find common ground by going through an exercise I call ‘The Golden Rules’. It takes a few hours to complete, but the end result is usually a list of values (namely The Golden Rules) critical to the successful functioning of their team.

But Not Today.

I Don’t Have a Magic Wand

Now even though I know I’m good at what I do – and that isn’t my ego talking, that’s based upon the majority of feedback I receive as well as referrals – I would never claim to be able to solve the issues that a team face, over the course of 48 hours.

My role in these workshops is clear. I’m a facilitator. I do my best to create an environment in which everyone can freely express their criticisms and concerns, without fear of backlash after the event is finished. I push participants out of their comfort zone and ask them to consider what they could be doing differently.

Self Awareness

One of the comments I received on feedback touched a nerve though, namely that someone hadn’t liked the tone of my voice, and that I had screamed at them. Hmmmmm.

I usually have to project my voice because there is no microphone, and the workshop rooms are fairly large. But screaming? I don’t think I’ve ever screamed at anyone in my life (of course this depends upon the perception of the person on the receiving end).

Yes, I find it bad manners for workshop participants to chatter whilst someone else is talking – not just when I’m talking, the same applies if anyone else in the room is presenting an idea or giving an opinion.

And yes I will raise my voice to ask participants to listen to what their colleague is saying. Because a lot of what teams complain about is that no-one listens to them; they talk about bad communications.

There are a few rules for my workshops that I repeat prior to the morning and afternoon sessions, and one of them is to listen to other people, regardless of who is talking. So when I read the comment on the feedback form, and as is always the case when something unexpected happens, I asked myself “what could I have done differently?”

Usually an answer to this question presents itself fairly quickly and I am able to build the relevant changes into the next workshop. Were the rules not clear? Had I not allowed enough time for discussion within the groups? I discussed it too with my Lead Coach (and Games Expert) because I was at a loss.

Maybe this person who wrote that I had screamed at them thought I was attacking them on some level, or maybe they just didn’t want to listen to the others. Or maybe they were one of those who believed that no-one ever listened to them.

And then I thought back to my boss at the UN all those years ago, and how I thought she had been shouting at me, until I understood that actually she was shouting at herself because she wanted to do everything perfectly.

From my perspective I do my best to make every event a success, and to give the team the results that they expect. And I want them to understand the importance of listening to each other, not only what is being said, but also what is not being said.

And I would do anything to make that happen.

So next time, instead of raising my voice, I'm going to use a whistle!


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