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When last week’s episode teaser for The Apprentice promised a corporate away day task, I was intrigued. (For those who didn’t see it, the candidates were split into two teams and their brief was to provide an away day for a corporate client that focused on communication, team-building and listening skills. Oh, the irony.) A particular high for me was was the look on the clients’ faces when two of the candidates appeared dressed in ‘sumo suits’. Suffice to say, both teams failed to deliver and both clients demanded a partial refund.
But are these types of experiential learning events still a good way to improve team effectiveness and if so, how can you go about avoiding the mistakes made by the candidates on The Apprentice?
1. Be clear on why you’re doing it.
Experiential learning events are used for a number of reasons;
• celebrating team success,
• bringing together a new team in a more informal environment,
• as part of a wider programme or, more commonly,
• as a catalyst for team performance improvement.
Before you begin planning your event, be clear in your own mind why you’re doing this, experiential learning may not be the most effective solution. For example; using this type of event to help ease conflicts within a team is unlikely to be successful. Such issues must be dealt with head-on. Understanding why you’re planning the event will help your organiser tailor a day/days that delivers the results you’re looking for.
2. Be clear on your brief.
Having established your reasons for an experiential learning event, make sure you communicate these clearly to your organiser. If you are unsure how the proposed activities will deliver the outcome you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to question this. Many experiential learning companies have standard packages/events which will not necessarily fulfill your brief. Consider too numbers, time scale, location and budget.
3. Communicate the importance of this event to your team.
So, it’s time to get real; your vision for the event is that the team will leave;
• with stronger working relationships,
• better listening skills,
• a more creative and innovative approach to problem-solving, and
• more energised and highly engaged in the team’s goals and success.
Your team, however, are far more likely to be thinking any number of the following;
• “At least we’ll get a free lunch”,
• “At least we’ll get a day out of the office”,
• “I haven’t got the time for this, I’ve got too much work to do”,
• “Not another ‘jolly’ – they’re such a waste of time”,
• “I’ll have to work with somebody I don’t really know/don’t like all day”,
• “I always feel so uncomfortable at these events”,
• etc, etc
The role of the leader is always to clearly communicate where the team are going and what they want to achieve. Without this clarity teams become disengaged, they lack any sense of accountability and trust and they’re unable to be highly effective. With a corporate away day (or experiential learning event) it is just as important for the leader to communicate the vision and goals of the day. If you want your team to get the most out of such an event, let them know what it is you’d like them to achieve – they’ll have a far greater chance of achieving it!
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