This is my favourite picture of me at work.  I love seeing every single one of those people, smiling, engaged, fully present.

What’s more, it’s taken in the middle of a challenging and competitive activity where everyone present has experienced unexpected loss and disappointment.

What you are looking at is resilience

Here’s what the CIPD has to say on the importance of resilience:

“A consistent theme among the range of definitions of resilience is a sense of adaptation, recovery and bounce back despite adversity or change”  

And what does this mean for organisations?

“The greater the diversity of resilience strategies available to an organisation, the greater its ability to respond to challenges. Having a number of strategies provides a bigger buffer to survive larger crises, or the cumulative effect of frequent crises.”

The picture you see was the result of a request from a global COO who could see that his teams were finding it hard to give up projects they were working on, were always searching for the perfect solution, causing cost overruns and a backlog of work.

“He asked me if I could come up with “an interesting presentation” so that his senior team, and their teams would “know that this is harming the business, our balance sheet and our reputation.”

But here’s the thing.

People don’t do things because they don’t know what the “right” thing is

They do the thing that carries the least personal risk. Which is actually the right thing in personal survival terms.

To change requires experience of future pleasure that will off-set the imminent pain of doing things differently

And that’s where I come in

I need to design an experience that will allow people to fully experience the full range of emotions in a safe environment so that they will know what change could look and, even more importantly, feel like.

The challenge for me is to come up with an activity that allows the group to:

This is based on Patrick Lencioni’s model of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team:

Dysfunction #1: Absence of Trust
Fear of being vulnerable with team members prevents the building of trust on a team.

Dysfunction #2: Fear of Conflict
The desire to preserve artificial harmony stifles the occurrence of productive ideological conflict.

Dysfunction #3: Lack of Commitment
The lack of clarity or buy-in prevents team members from making decisions they will stick to.

Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of Accountability
The need to avoid interpersonal discomfort prevents team members from holding one another accountable.

Dysfunction #5: Inattention to Results
The pursuit of individual goals and personal status erodes the focus on collective results.

I was born in a country where there was a civil war and it doesn’t rain much, so the idea of “teambuilding” in a semi-military fashion, involving physical hardship and lots of mud has never appealed. Those extreme sport away days can be a journey into the self.  But honestly?

You could discover more about yourself and your limitations in the coaching room, where more could happen in less time

And with less mud.

I want to build awareness

Awareness of how you really feel when put under pressure, not how you think you feel.  Awareness of how the group works – or fails to work – when under pressure. And I want to make visible the elements of group behaviour that are not noticed, or not valued, in the hub bub of everyday work.

I specialize with working with knowledge professionals

Accountants, auditors, lawyers, programmers. Clever people who understand the arcane workings of contract law or IT networks.

So it’s important to create an exercise that makes them THINK and:

  • Plan ahead
  • Budget
  • Disagree
  • Prioritize and decide
  • Deal with unexpected events
  • Compete
  • Recognise failure and deal with it
  • Celebrate success

It’s also important that it makes them FEEL

Teams willing to address the Five Dysfunctions can experience the following benefits. According to Lencioni “high performing, cohesive teams:

  • Avoid wasting time talking about the wrong issues and revisiting the same topics over and over again because of lack of buy-in
  • Make higher quality decisions and accomplish more in less time and fewer resources
  • Are comfortable asking for help, admitting mistakes and limitations and take risks offering feedback
  • Tap into one another’s skills and experiences
  • Put critical topics on the table and have lively meetings
  • Align the team around common objectives
  • Retain star employees”

Every person in that picture has just experienced what it feels like to be in a high-performing team

And they’re now undergoing a de-brief where we’re looking at what they could have done better.

Does team building solve everything?

No.  But then what would? Team building design should ideally incorporate follow up – buddy systems, feedback loops and coaching. And lots and lots of conscious effort to build on the experience of the “event” to build lasting habits.

If your team looks like the one above when they’re de-briefing their errors and omissions, you’ve done a great job.

If not, it really doesn’t have to be that way.  Take a look at how I work with teams and book a no obligation call to find out how I could help your team to stop firefighting and busyness and build trust, collaboration and resilience.

To find out how to build resilience, listen to my Podcast episode on this topic!


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I would highly recommend journal writing. I joined one of Moyra’s journal safari sessions a couple of weeks ago and have been keeping a daily journal ever since. The main benefits for me is it’s helped me to keep perspective in these times, not to be too hard on myself and be thankful for the things I have achieved.

Justin Ellis

Innovation & Strategy, British retail bank