Team Building in the Midst of Turbulence

Team Building in the Midst of Economic Turbulence

What a week! First there was the debt ceiling crisis kept business and political leaders around the world at the edge of their seats. Then came financial woes in Europe and concerns about the Euro and the Yen. Now stock markets around the globe are spiraling downward in their worst performance since October, 2008.

In the midst of this, I uncovered more incidents of wasteful spending on playtime for executives and employees by companies with declining performance. Have some executives learned nothing from the events of the past 3 years?

Scenario: A North American company that has enjoyed quite a bit of global success has been spending its “team building” budget organizing employees into rock and roll bands.

Nothing wrong so far. If a company is doing well, by all means celebrate. Your team has worked hard for it. In this case, the story continues.

Unfortunately, it turns out that the company really wasn’t doing so well after all. It has now come to light that performance had been declining. It’s laying off thousands of employees. THOUSANDS.

Give me a break! Talk about Nero fiddling while Rome was burning. I know some CEOs have the reputation of having egos like rockstars but this is carrying things a bit too far.


It’s Time to Gather the Troops

Roll up your sleeves and engage facilitators to guide teams throughout your organization in generating solutions for organizational challenges. The executive and sales teams would likely benefit from this exercise.

If you have the expertise available within your organization, use it. Instead of laying off internal trainers and facilitators, re-deploy them. If your organization does not have the expertise within its walls, invest in the services of an external consultant to guide you through the process. In case you think I’m tooting my own horn or just trying to drum up business for my own consulting firm, I would like to propose another alternative. Bringing in a retired executive who has successfully executed a turnaround strategy can add tremendous value as an on-call consultant for your team. I can think of 3 retired executives with stellar track records right off the top of my head. I would be happy to pass their names on to companies that request the information.

If there is no budget available for consultants, here is another option. Consider tapping into the services provided through universities. Business schools around the world will be re-opening in a matter of weeks. MBA students need consulting and marketing research with real companies in order to fulfill the requirements for their degrees. Teams of final year students will work with your organization guided by faculty. Some part-time faculty members are successful business people with a lot of hands-on business experience. Many business schools provide this service at no charge.

I pray that this crisis is of short duration. If it isn’t, we may be on the verge of a repeat of the stock market meltdown of 2008. Yes, it’s scary

If ever there was a time for companies to gather key players from across the organization , take stock, and generate a game plan with proactive strategies, it’s now.

No amount of playtime, golf, jamming in a rock band, or other placebos can substitute for good old fashioned brainstorming to tap into the collective wisdom of your team.


3 thoughts on “Team Building in the Midst of Turbulence

  1. Anne Thornley-Brown, M.B.A. @executiveoasis says:

    First of all, I am a fan of using music for team building and learning and development programmes. Some of the articles I’ve written about using music to enhance the effectiveness of facilitation have been widely circulated on the Internet. In fact, I invited a facilitator and musician to guest blog an entry about music for team building.

    In the scenario I described in the current blog, the rock band activity was getting employees together to jam on a regular basis. No context setting, no debreifn, no brainstorming, no business application exercises.

    Borrowing from my heritage Jamaican heritage I want to go on record and say that “we’re jamming” is fine for socials and recreational activities but just playing in a rock and roll or reggae band is not team building.

    I agree with your distinction between “team building” and “team bonding”. I have often discussed the fact that recreational activities are important for team and organizational health. However, when performance is decilning, priority should be given to getting teams together to get to the root of the problem and generate solutions.

    I have one client who has a very interesting corporate culture. There are a number of musicians in the organization. Whenever I’ve facilitated team building retreats for them, I’ve noticed that, people bring their instruments and have an impromptu jam session after dinner and the evening activities. It’s one of the aspects of the corporate culture that makes this company a special place to work. The key is that this company invsests heavily in “real” team building and never attempts to substitute their jam sessions for team building.

    The company I described in the current blog entry has been “playing rock star” and engaging in other recreational activities without investing in team building to address their real business issues. I am not surprised that the company is in trouble.

  2. AMT Group (@AMTGroupTeam) says:

    Hey there, overall I agree with your edge. A couple of counterpoints.

    Depends on what the rock band activity was, what it was intended for, and who led it and most importantly, who participated. It could be a massive waste of time and money or it could re-energize a team, improve their focus and inspire creativity. Music is underappreciated and way underused in corporate life.

    Again, though, overall, I like your take on teambuilding. I like to distinguish between team “building” and team “bonding” exercises. Golf, bowling, karaoke, and the like can be good for the latter, and as you say, brainstorming and action planning (I would add “with follow up”) builds teams.

    –Andrew Silberman, AMT Group

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