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comments from a manager

It All Started With 'Talking Smack' ...

Robert Milner

I was fortunate enough to attend a recent conference where the "talk of the evening" was very good. The "talk" I am referring to was the proverbial chatter at the bar (mind you, we were all drinking Cokes and Pepsi's straight up or on the rocks).
The conversation drifted to a touch-football game taking place the next day. The next thing I knew, "sides" were being chosen, strategies exchanged and plays drafted. (For those of you who do not have a 10-year-old to keep you "hip," in today's younger crowd, this kind of communication is called "talking smack.")
It was unanimously agreed that, because of the great conference presentations scheduled for the next day, the great touch-football game would begin at 7 a.m. Much to my utter amazement, at 7 the next morning, 10 brave souls (eight males and two females) showed up on the hotel lawn to display their football talents. I could have sworn I even saw the interim president of IPI on the field.
Conditions were definitely not advantageous: extremely foggy, damp and cold, with visibility somewhere between dawn and dusk. Personally, if we had played with anything other than the Nerf football someone found, I'm convinced that many fingertips would have been broken off due to the cold weather! (The lonely front desk staff probably thought we had lost our good senses -- that is, after he woke up!)
We began by choosing sides. This process, of course, brought back childhood memories of certain people being immediately chosen and the dreaded "last person to be selected." During the ensuing game itself, there were "situational disagreements" that had to be addressed. As we dealt with each issue, the players learned one another's negotiation skills or, in some cases, their plain old ability to tactfully emulate BS.
After the game ended, hands were shaken, and everyone returned to the hotel to shower and eat breakfast before the seminars began.
As the "players" arrived at breakfast, something interesting happened. The group of 10 people (most of whom knew nothing about the other) sat at the same table and talked with one other as if they had known them for years.
While there are many things on which to comment, three observations stand out from the others:
The touch-football game resulted in the forming of new friendships. Later in the day, several "players" sat together and discussed sales strategies, etc.
Another observation has to do with the networking that took place. Several players were interacting with conversations that, in some instances, had nothing to do with either business or organization.
The third observation deals with the team building that took place. Many consultant/management companies charge an astronomical fee to orchestrate team building exercises within a company. However, the "players" at this conference exercised this completely free of charge, with the event not even being on the agenda. Imagine that.
Keep in mind that a good team equals a group of people with synergy, all of them having one aim. Done properly, this will result in people working together toward a common goal. Team building is the process of enabling a group of people to identify its mission and, together, to achieve the goal.
Perhaps our little touch-football game could be the start of something big. Only time will tell. However, if the "talking smack" continues as it did at this particular conference, then challenges are on the table and could conceivably involve a lot more than just learning parking at the 2005 IPI conference in Fort Lauderdale.
Hey, you figure it. ... This concept was so well-received that there is even talk of a trophy being designed and handed down to each championship team (something like the Stanley Cup, excluding players' names). Interestingly enough, two uniform companies have been contacted with regard to team jerseys.
So beware of the return of the now beloved touch-football game. The parking conference's ingenious and best-kept secret for interacting, strategizing, role-playing and goal setting -- and they didn't even know it!
For those of you who must know, I understand the weather conditions for these games are extremely sunny, incredibly warm and enormously sandy, so please bring an abundance of suntan oil because it counts only if you tag with two hands.

Side Bar

Three Stages
of Team Building
* Clarify the goals.
* Identify those issues that inhibit the team from reaching its goals,
* Address those issues and remove the inhibitors, enabling the goals to become reality.
(Just keep in mind that the nature of team
building varies in terms of scale and what you are trying to achieve.)

Article Abstract from December, 2004




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