3 Vital Lessons Learned from Leadership Team Development Gone Wrong

A California alarm company decided to conduct a leadership team development program, and developed an exercise that pitted its sales teams against each other in a competition with an unexpected – and very expensive – outcome.

The winning team won some bizarre prizes: the opportunity to pelt the losing team with pies, put diapers on them, feed them baby food, and swat their backsides with competitors’ yard signs.

A middle-aged woman on the losing team, humiliated, left the exercise, quit her job, and sued. The jury awarded her $1.7 million dollars. Pretty expensive leadership team development program, wouldn’t you say?

Here’s another example.

A small company decided to conduct a leadership event at a local high-tech bowling alley and arcade. A talented young engineer who had never bowled before was assigned to a team of experienced league bowlers. He scored so low the inveterate bowlers on his team lost the competition. The young engineer got a booby prize, and everyone from the company teased him, ridiculed him, and reminded him of his poor performance for months after the event.

You might say that this particular leadership team development exercise actually worked to unite the rest of the employees as a team – by providing it a scapegoat for them to blame and ridicule. The cost? The young engineer left the company, taking his considerable engineering talent and experience to the competition.

Is it any wonder that so many employees roll their eyes at the very suggestion of participating in teambuilding exercise?

The first question you’re probably asking is, “What were the organizers of these disasters thinking?” You’d be right to ask that question. But don’t stop there.

These real-world horror stories contain vital insight into how to plan your next event so it’s fun, meaningful, successful, and supportive to everyone who participates. Here are three key lessons

  1. Include everyone. The whole point of teambuilding is to unite everyone around a goal, not pit people against each other. As much fun as you might think it will be, assuming that competition will lead to better team cohesion is deadly. After all, when there is competition, there are winners and losers, and that can lead to scapegoating and contribute to lingering resentment among team members.

Keep in mind, not everyone is physically talented or sports-minded. Organizing a soccer game, a bowling tournament, or a softball challenge might seem like fun to some – but given the differences among your team members, you can’t count everyone to contribute equally. You need buy-in from everyone to make the event a success.

Instead, look for opportunities to have your team solve problems or accomplish tasks as a team in your events. Puzzle rooms, scavenger hunts, or other activities that call on everybody’s latent skills are far better for morale and participation.

  1. Make it relevant. Your leadership team development event is most successful when it is directly relevant to the daily work of the people on your team. Think about it. What does bowling have to do with engineering? What does pelting your fellow employees with pies or swatting them with signs have to do with selling alarms?

Now ask yourself: what skills on your team really need a tune-up? Do they need to communicate or collaborate better? To present ideas more powerfully? To interact with people at different levels of the organization (or community) more effectively? Or to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of their teammates more openly?

Design your group events based on the skills you want your team to transform, and have them work together to reinforce the team’s performance.

  1. Reinforce the lessons learned. It doesn’t matter how exotic, expensive, or exciting a leadership team development event is if you and the team don’t reinforce the lessons you learn from it over time. River rafting, rock climbing, or ropes courses, while exciting at the time, might not give your organization the ROI it’s looking for from the experience.

Instead, before you gather everyone together for an event, look at your performance metrics. How are your team’s sales numbers? How successfully do they present their ideas to their peers or others in the organization? How fast and how well do they solve problems? Identify the metrics you’re going to use to measure performance, so you can identify and reinforce improvement after the event.

After the event, check in with your team periodically to ensure the results have “stuck.”

When you design your next event or retreat, keep these three lessons in mind. Remember, you’re going to want an event that’s inclusive and relevant to everyone on the team, and to the work they do every day. You’re going to need to build in a way to continue to reinforce what they’ve learned, and to recognize and reward the positive results your event produces.

Ideally, your event won’t just help team members improve their skills and performance – if you design it right, it can produce transformation in team function, in organizational effectiveness, and in individual lives.

Not only that, the resulting transformation can directly impact your organization’s bottom line.

When you’re ready to engage your team in a powerful, truly transformational leadership team development event, feel free to call Cream of the Crop Leaders for a complimentary consultation.

We are devoted to helping you and your organization create powerful, purposeful, and confident teams. We’ll help you design the perfect retreat to guarantee lasting, real world impact, and we’ll customize any of our exciting events to meet your specific, unique team and organizational needs.

View all of your leadership team development options here.

Our flagship EP Experience retreats are high-octane and unique, loud and fun. They support the kinds of skills that will deliver a transformational experience to your team members as well as a real, measurable return on investment to your organization. This particular option is based on The Executive Presence Training, which earned Cream of the Crop Leaders the award for Top Leadership Partner – Globally – from HR.com/

We promise our customized approach to leadership team development will delight you and exceed your expectations — or your investment will be returned in full.

Create powerful, purposeful, and confident teams. Contact Cream of the Crop Leaders today.

 

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