You’ll never send me to the Kimberley for teambuilding
Make no mistake, I really admire my colleagues but there’s no way I’d trust them with my life in the wilds of the Kimberley. But it sure is fun watching other people try.
Cue Do or Die, the newish ABC2 series that documents the adventures of office workers thrown into an outdoor survival adventure. Forget drab hotel rooms, endless trays of muffins and a couple of nights getting riotously drunk with your colleagues. This is Bear Grylls for pen pushers; people who’d normally consider replacing the photocopier toner a challenge.
It’s enthralling viewing. Mostly because you’re not the one being put through your paces, and it’s unlikely you’ll ever have to work with these people.
But it’s impossible to believe that orienteering adventures like this do anything to improve your ability to work together as a team in the office environment.
Occupational psychologist Simon Brown Greaves agrees. He told The Punch that the problem with these kinds of workplace challenges is that there is no agreed framework for effective leadership; it’s all about context.
“We choose to follow people for whom we respect their achievements, their track record and their knowledge,” Brown Greaves said.
In an office environment the leader is the person who makes the decisions and delegates the work, but in an outdoor race for survival those skills and that person are very different.
This week’s episode of Do or Die proved this point exactly. We met the amiable, calm and very polite, all-male collective of Soap Creative. They’re an advertising/marketing/PR company thrust from the air-conditioned comfort of their office into narrow, claustrophobia-inducing caves and hot, dry nights sleeping rough – no room for iPads or witty repartee in these conditions.
It looked pretty tough from where I was sitting.
The good news was they survived - but not before making some alarming discoveries. Boss Ash didn’t possess any kind of leadership qualities outside the perimeters of the office, while office junior John had all the answers.
While that made for terrific television, you got the distinct impression that things were going to get pretty uncomfortable back at the office. And that’s exactly why these terrifying teambuilding exercises are a complete waste of time.
The best bosses or leaders understand their working environments in terms of both its strengths and weaknesses. So effective teambuilding exercises must play to either spectrum and have a specific end goal in mind, or definite problem to solve.
Without those insights or direction there’s very little point in transferring your working relationships outside their everyday context because it won’t get you anywhere.
And unless you’re a park ranger, there’s very little chance that gallivanting around the outback is going to help.
What’s the worst teambuilding weekend you’ve ever had? Tell me on Twitter: @lucyjk
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