It was the end of the team-building training, and as everyone politely applauded, Maria began gathering her things. The binder. The picture of her with Diane holding the eight-foot paper elephant. Her certificate. And of course her notes, which included long lists of to-dos that came to her during the times she was zoned out. Feeling both energized and depressed, she turned to her left to look at Diane.
Diane looked back, saying nothing. They were both tired. Finally Diane said, very quietly, "Two days. What a waste." Maria nodded and they both stood and walked silently out of the room, among the first to leave.
Back in Diane's office, door closed, Maria kicked it off with, "And how long will it be till we forget this?"
Maria's impish side triumphed: "Forget what?" They both laughed. A needed laugh.
"You know what I mean," Diane said. "Will we ever use this stuff?"
Maria and Diane are experiencing some of the letdown that frequently follows team-building training. It's a common reaction, but it needn't be. Here are some simple ways to make team learning last longer.
- Think of it as "learning" rather than training
- It's amazing how powerful the words are. Learning is the real goal, so let's call it learning. Training is for puppies.
- Inflicting education rarely works
- Give the team a choice. Allow budget and schedule for team learning, if they want it. Mandating it instead of supporting it produces different and inferior results.
- Structure learning in short bursts
- Is it "team training"
or "team learning"?
Words do matter
- Unless air travel is involved, even two days of education is usually too long. Leaving space between "modules" gives people time to practice and integrate new ideas into their work.
- Limit turnover on the team
- Changing the composition of a team is disruptive. The new people often didn't attend the recent team learning experience, and more important, change entails Chaos (see "Now We're in Chaos," Point Lookout for September 19, 2001). You might get more out of a team by keeping its members in place than you would by cycling in an expert for a short-term specialized task.
- Leave some slack for experimentation
- After a team goes through a team learning experience, we hope they'll apply what they've learned. They'll be a bit clumsy at first — it's like learning to walk. Give them the slack they need to experiment with the new methods they've learned.
Most important, follow up. Setting an actual date for a "post-graduate" follow-up to any educational experience makes actual application of the learning much more likely. Setting a date creates an expectation that we'll be reviewing the results of applying the methods we've learned.
A year later, what will people remember from the team learning experience? Will it be the important lessons that were so difficult and valuable to learn? Or will it be the eight-foot paper elephant? Top Next Issue
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- When You Think They've Made Up Their Minds
- In tough negotiations, when attempts to resolve differences have failed, we sometimes conclude that
"they've made up their minds," but other explanations abound. Keeping an open mind about why
other people seem to have closed theirs can help us find a resolution.
- How to Make Good Guesses: Tactics
- Making good guesses probably does take talent to be among the first rank of those who make guesses.
But being in the second rank is pretty good, too, and we can learn how to do that. Here are some
tactics for guessing.
- No Tangles
- When we must say "no" to people who have superior organizational power, the message sometimes
fails to get across. The trouble can be in the form of the message, the style of delivery, or elsewhere.
How does this happen?
- Team Risks
- Working in teams is necessary in most modern collaborations, but teamwork does carry risks. Here are
some risks worth mitigating.
- The Limits of Status Reports: II
- We aren't completely free to specify the content or frequency of status reports from the people who
write them. There are limits on both. Here's Part II of an exploration of those limits.
See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming May 23: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: IX
- An arrogant demeanor is widely viewed as a hallmark of the narcissist. But truly narcissistic arrogance is off the charts. It's something beyond the merely annoying arrogance of a sometimes-obnoxious individual. What is narcissistic arrogance and how can we cope with it? Available here and by RSS on May 23.
- And on May 30: Chronic Peer Interrupters: I
- When making contributions to meeting discussions, we're sometimes interrupted. Often, the interruption is beneficial and saves time. But some people constantly interrupt their peers or near peers, disrespectfully, in a pattern that compromises meeting outcomes. How can we deal with chronic peer interrupters? Available here and by RSS on May 30.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenptWPnaguLbWthoWiner@ChacaVHMsdqDiHRLOzsDoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
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