Managing a heterogeneous group in a training program is usually a challenge. But the complexity of the challenge proliferates manifold in corporate outbound training programs if frontline executives have to share space with their super-boss for team activities. Though I have come across few super-bosses who take this opportunity to empower subordinates with great long-term benefits during outbound training workshops programs, most of the super-bosses have left adverse effects on the team morale.
Unfortunately for the executives, the presence of the super-boss constraints their creativity, restricts communication and sets the tone for a low energy session. The Super-boss on the other hand, with the pressures of having to compete with subordinates become vociferous with his/her ideas and thrusts them on to the team.
I had to come down very hard on a Super –boss recently while doing an out bound training program for an automobile giant. This was a one-day out bound program for a heterogeneous group of 72 employees. Right at the start of the program the group was divided into 6 teams to compete against each other over 8 different activities. The team that garnered the highest points stood to win a gift hamper. Barring few members the rest of the group were super-excited. After completing 4 activities the scores were pretty even except for the team that had the super-boss. In the points standing they were way behind the fifth placed team.
My co-facilitators noticed that in each of the activity that preceded, the super-boss found his way to get the team to implement his ideas. The team members, disappointed with the super-bosses’ lack of confidence in their ideas, went about the activities with very little fervour and conviction. The super–boss was getting frustrated with his team. He was so riled that he ended up making nasty statements about the team.
So, on the fifth activity I pulled out the super-boss from his team telling him that it was unfair for just one team to get the benefit of his brilliance and gave him the responsibility of overseeing all six teams to keep a check on adherence to rules of the activities that followed. As expected, relieved of tyranny the de-moralized team made a remarkably improved showing. In fact they won 3 of the 4 activities that followed and managed to second place in the overall point standing at the end of the last activity.
During the final de-brief, realizing the folly of not listening to other’s ideas, the super-boss made a memorable 2-minute speech, talking about the importance of team communication and trust. His speech did not get a standing ovation but left the participants pondering. And I must admit I can never be hundred percent sure if all of the 72 employees took away relevant outbound learning from the outbound training but the super-boss sure did!