Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Do you hate your team enough?

Based on long experience, I can only assume that this is a question that many managers ask themselves on a daily basis: "Do I hate my team enough?" Quickly followed by: "How can I demonstrate the extent to which I hate my team?" Well, I feel it's my job in life to help managers, so here's my tip: if you want to demonstrate unequivocally that you hate your team, send them on a team building/training exercise.

Now, be careful here. I mentioned "training" because that what these team building seminars are often called. Having said that, it's vitally important that any training component be of no value whatsoever to the people undertaking said training. The training should be about "team building", "problem solving" (note: not problems they will actually encounter in their work but abstract or conceptual problems) "conflict resolution" (you'll need this for when they come back wanting to kill you) and best of all "corporate values".

For best effect, the training/team building environment needs to be as unrelated to the work environment as possible. A consistent winner is sending IT development teams on wilderness survival treks. These geeks spent their high school years being bullied by the sporty types who run these outdoors activities. They miss it. A few years ago paintball tournaments were very popular. Shrewd managers thought it would be funny to make pasty dweebs run around with weapons. Bad idea. Even facsimile weapons can give geeks inspiration for wreaking revenge on you. High powered rifles and paint ball guns handle in a remarkably similar manner.

Tailor the team building exercises to be humiliating as possible. If your staff are desk bound and have seen neither the light of day nor the inside of a gym for years, send them rock climbing. If they are introverted and socially awkward, force them into uncomfortably intimate situations or maybe make them perform some "hilarious" skits. Hilarious for people who enjoy watching torture anyway.

When your staff say "I'm too busy for this," you say "You need to make the time for your personal development." When they say "Giving up this time for this stupid team building exercise will make the project late," you say "You need to prioritise more effectively - work smarter, not harder." When they say "This is a waste of fucking time!" you say "You're not a team player." (This is an excellent all-purpose phrase that carries the veiled threat of a bad performance review and no pay raise/bonus) When they say "I have evidence that you're taking kickbacks from the training company," you say "You're fired."

Most of all, make sure the team building event is no fun whatsoever. I've had team days in the past before that were lots of fun and they did the managers involved no good whatsoever. When people have fun once, they expect more fun later. A team that's had fun returns to work invigorated and lively; and an invigorated team is scary as hell for a manger who's out of their depth. Plus, a team that enjoys each other's company ends up being united and what sort of manager wants to deal with a strong, united team?

When you get right down to it, a team building seminar can be the ultimate Zen moment for a manager. It's a perfect moment when you make someone's life miserable while giving the outward appearance of doing something positive. So this is my call to managers everywhere: go for it! Take a good, hard look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself:

"How much do I hate my team?"

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