This link (Click Here) takes you to the second post I’ve seen recently that seems to be based on faulty assumptions about team-building.

The first was about a Law Firm that had brought in ‘specialists‘ to measure the psychometrics of personality in their team. The good old Dr. Seuss green hat, red hat, blue hat, spent-all-our money hat. Basically, you fill in some questionnaire and then get ascribed to personality types. It’s a favourite in the #oilandgasindustry to the point that everyone (except management) wears coloured stickers on their hard hats proclaiming the wearer is a ‘mauve with touch of neon hot pink‘. (They have a lot of money that they can waste on nonsense).

So, here’s my thoughts on this

1. Everyone likes to fill in a ticky box exercise. I personally never skip past a magazine questionnaire asking, ‘what type of gnu are you?‘ and man, am I a sucker for ‘what would Dr. Anne look like if she were a cat?‘. However, I know better than to plan my life around this information.

2. Now, I’m not saying that psychometrics have not got some statistical weight behind them but my question is, ‘Do you really think that one set of psychometrics is really going to tell you everything?‘ There is a reason why psychologists do a ‘battery‘ of tests (i.e., many tests) because they understand that context is complex and personality tests can be manipulated. Your common or garden con man knows what you want to hear, and even us mere mortals have got a pretty good sense of what the Boss is looking for. And hey, something else, these tests were designed for investigations in lab conditions, not the real world.

3. Memory is short. So what if you are an orange with lilac? Are you really expecting me to remember what that means when I meet you? Am I expected to get my colour codex out and check how you are likely to respond in the midst of a crisis? ‘Hey, I know the house is on fire but let me check my manual. Ok, let’s see you are ultraviolet and fushcia so I know that you are a bad communicator but carry out orders. Shit! The house has gone! Why didn’t you tell me?

4. This ‘science‘ costs a fortune. Managers love reports. They love pie charts. They love flow charts. Knowing that your team is made up of 25% custard yellow and 30% banana yellow looks great on an end of project analysis and even better in the front-end ‘sales pitch‘ hand-out: ‘You too, can know the rainbow of your workplace’. Oooooh. And?

5. Now what about fire walking? It’s quite a popular ‘be all you can be, no limits, go team, go‘ type of activity favoured by highly-influential motivational speakers. But tell me what has it got to do with team-building? Not a lot. It’s a gimmick. You can walk across coals without shoes, helpful info for end of quarter delivery? Not so much.

And let me let you into a secret, motivational speakers use group hypnosis (I’m a Clinical Hypnotherapist I know about this stuff). Yep, from the minute folk are in this ‘arena‘ they have already been primed to ‘follow‘. They have already been put into a state of suggestibility. They have already been programmed to shut down pain receptors. And Milgram would be impressed at the design, the social pressure exerted to conform is enormous.

So clearly, whoever was leading this team jolly hadn’t achieved that level of credibility – hence burnt feet.

But yes, of course, we still want to build teams that function. We still want teams that get the job done. Really though when you are using these types of methods you may as well just take your cash out back and burn it. Well, unless of course your objective is truthfully just to be able to say you followed up on the organisational objectives for the year and you can feedback to shareholders in your annual report that you’ve done ‘team building training with a recognised methodology‘. Not to worry if it’s not fit-for-purpose. Box ticked. Moving on.

Seriously, though, Managers if you are looking to get some real traction on team-building you are much better investing your money on moral reasoning evaluation and critical incident practice because what you really want to find out is: who stands with the fire hose during the fire and who is likely to claim afterwards they were at the front of the hose directing the rescue operations, yet somewhat curiously, on closer inspection, they appear to be sporting perfectly plucked, unsinged eyebrows.

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