"I Don't Need to be There..."

I received a call from a company (that found me on the internet) requesting a team building session for their leadership team. As grateful as I was to possibly get a new client, I also knew all too well that a request for “team building” is often a front for much more serious problems. Hence, I no longer take a team building request at face value but instead probe a bit to find out what’s surrounding the actual request.

Here’s how the initial conversation went on that first call. See if you find any red flags:

The Client (company GM): We found you on the internet and would like to have you come out and provide a one-day team building session for our leadership team.

Me: I’d be happy to; but first, tell me a little about why you want a team building session?

The Client:   I need the leadership team to be more empowered and to work with each other better. They rely on me for everything and they don’t communicate effectively with each other.

Me:  I understand. So you would like me to craft a one-day program to build relationships, enhance communication, and the help them to be more self-reliant. Is that right?

The Client: Yes, but I want to be clear that this is for them. I would not be attending.

Me (long pause): Why would you not be a part of this?

The Client: I talked with my boss in Los Angeles and we both agreed we needed something just for them. Plus, they won’t say anything if I’m there, so I want them to be able to talk.

Me: How about this…why don’t I come out and meet individually with your leadership team (for free) and get their perspective and buy-in on the team building. Afterwards, you and I could meet to talk about my findings and the role you’ll need to play in all of this?

Q: What red flags are popping out at this point?

I then conducted the one-on-one interviews are here were some of the main issues raised by the leadership team:

  • We (the leadership team) used to meet on a regular basis but now we hardly meet at all.
  • We are more a collection of individuals than a team.
  • We work with each other on a need-to-know basis.
  • Outside of a few relationships, we don’t know each other on a personal basis.
  • Nobody knows what’s going on or what each other is doing.
  • You don’t want to upset the GM or she may stop speaking with you.
  • No one has any idea what she means when she says she want to empower us.

Q: Based on what you now know, would you do the team building if the GM refused to attend?

Q: Why does the GM need to be at the team building session and what are the possible ramifications if she doesn’t participate?