Fable Friday-My Worst Day Ever

My client ran a huge corporate banking group, and she wanted me to give them a really intense team-building experience.  She had Correspondent Bankers, Foreign Exchange, Treasury Management Officers, Commercial Lenders, all kinds of groups at this meeting, and she wanted them to work together more smoothly, a great idea.

I told her about a game I was given by a colleague years ago and she loved it.  You make four mixed teams of about 4-6 people and they compete against each other.  One person on each team is the “client” and the others are their “workers.”  The workers’ job is to take several shuffled decks of cards, put them in suit order:  spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs, and sort them ace to deuce in each suit.  When a deck is completed the team gives it to the client who verifies it was done correctly and hands the team a poker chip.  After 20 minutes, the team with the most poker chips wins.  The teams get 15 minutes to plan how they will work together to be fast and accurate.

But here is the wrinkle.  There are saboteurs involved!  Every team member gets a sealed envelope with instructions describing his role.  In most instances the instructions encourage speed, fair play, listening to and respecting teammates.

Team A gets simple, straightforward instructions, no tricks.

Team B gets the same, but one team member is told that he is to be a saboteur and do whatever he can to ruin his team’s chances without getting caught.

Team C gets instructions similar to Team B, but all are told there’s a saboteur among them, and to do all in their power to win by working around the saboteur.  They are not to talk about this.  And one of them really is the saboteur.

Team D players are each told there is a saboteur, but there isn’t one!  And the game begins.

Everything was going smoothly and I was enjoying watching the teams work, or not work.  Team B had a Correspondent Banker who was the most devilish and insidious man I have ever seen operate. He had his team so far behind they couldn’t make it up, and no one knew he had caused the problem.

But on Team A, with no saboteur, there was an older gentleman who just wasn’t very skilled with cards.  He would try to sort them and they would spill on the floor.  He knocked his coffee over on one deck.  His teammates were kind of upset with him.

When time was called I told the teams that some of them had saboteurs in their midst and asked each team if they thought they had one and if they knew who it was.  Well, unfortunately, everyone on Team A pointed to the clumsy fellow, and he was mortified.  “I’m not a saboteur. I was doing the best I could. How can you call me a saboteur?” he complained.  I felt so sorry for him that I never used this game again. It was a very difficult day for me as the facilitator.

You see, the key to outstanding group facilitation is to ensure that every learner is kept whole, supported and encouraged, never to be made to feel bad or embarrassed.

I guess over the years I’ve made lots of mistakes in workshop facilitation, but none ever made me feel as bad as that one. That poor guy.

Remember that the learners in your workshop are like your customers, and you must remember to

Think Like Your Customer!

Please look for my newsletter on Tuesday.  Gregory


About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

One Response to Fable Friday-My Worst Day Ever

  1. sue says:

    Nice job on the blog, Gregory! I enjoy reading it.

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