I Don't WANT to Get to Know You


What is it about team building that is so off putting?  Companies invest in programs over and over again and yet, the standard refrain from participants is typically "gahhhhh, not this." (Except Roger.  He LOVES summer olympics, scavenger rally, trust fall day).  Why is there such a disconnect between those who believe in the process and those who participate?  Because what connecting human beings achieves (and it achieves a lot) is BECAUSE OF the awkwardness.  Better human interaction can help us design better event outcomes and even more so, better business outcomes.  Which means just one thing: lean into awkward!

When you are put in a situation where you have to "bond" with teammates, everyone is aware that there will be a certain amount of self-disclosure.  Self-disclosure is an incredibly difficult thing.  It makes just about everyone (except Roger) vulnerable to judgement. Which, of course, leads to the one thing no one wants to feel - shame.  Think about it, public speaking is feared more than death because of the potential for judgement and its resulting shame.  Powerful.

Self-disclosure, however,  is the foundation of relationships.  Teams perform amazingly well when there is an understanding of each other beyond a mere networking level. Google did an exhaustive study of its highest performing teams to try and figure out the "why" of that performance (and then turn it into an algorithm and repeat it over and over again).  One of the traits they discovered in the best of their teams was the ability to read each other's moods and to share personal stories and emotions with each other. Those types of things don't happen quickly.  They come with time and listening.

Broken Ice: Not Just for Liquor Anymore

Programs that look to bring teams together are simply trying to increase the speed and effectiveness of that disclosure process.  Is that important to teams?  Yes!  In her book Presence, Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy states that people will always judge you primarily on two factors,  trust then competence.  Self-disclosure, or vulnerability, is a powerful cementer of trust.  The more you can be seen as someone who feels safe enough to disclose personal insight or experience as well as safe enough to receive, the more you will be seen as a strong team member.  The stronger all your team members are, the better performance you get.

OK, so we know what you're asking: Is that nude Jenna Fischer at the top of this page?  Yes.  Yes it is.  Aside from the obvious pandering, it's there because our quest to be more vulnerable started back in 2007 when a story in WIRED came across desks everywhere.  The journey of CEO Glenn Kelman inspired us to think about transparency, about being open about who we are as a company and as people to each other.  One thing it revealed and has been revealed over and over again: those who see themselves as worthy to become vulnerable, judged, critiqued, are often the ones everyone ROOTS for.  People see strength in vulnerability in others (just not in themselves).  And the results Kelman and others got from being so open and transparent is a story of success no one could have guessed.

Knowing how to be vulnerable ourselves - as people, as companies - will allow any of us in the experiential industry to do something pretty powerful: teach others how to be the same.  A world where it's OK to be vulnerable is a transformative world.  A powerful world.  A results-driven world.  

Perhaps it's time we all opened up wide and showed each other the goods. (figuratively please)