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About At the Workplace

Team Results USA’s CEO John Kolm is an innovator of 21st century team productivity programs, a best-selling author, and a former intelligence officer. Originally from Australia, John formed Team Results in 1996 with retired business partner and decorated veteran Peter Ring as the end result of an experiment that began... Read more

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Charlie’s Teambuilding Fail


Teambuilding sucks. Leadership development doesn’t work at all. Stupid “games” work teams have to play in teamwork training sessions, and all the platitudes they’re forced to listen to, are nothing more than a way of making consultants rich.

Why are we so afraid of honesty?

And if everybody thinks it, why can’t we say it?

Why do organizations continue to inflict such team-related rubbish on their people? It doesn’t work, it’s expensive, it wastes staff time and it gets you nothing but ridicule and resentment. There’s nobody anywhere in modern corporate or government America who doesn’t know that.

So why do we keep doing it? Why all the pretension and big words? Why don’t we just stop?

Well, it’s not quite that easy. Knowing something doesn’t work well has never been enough, on its own, to make human beings stop. Habit is an incredibly powerful driver, and we’ll generally choose a mediocre but familiar option over a new and risky one. The same goes for our relationships, business relationships included. We’re programmed by evolution to make fast decisions based on familiar faces and environments that we already know well. In biological teams, it makes sense.

That’s why we’re still sitting in classrooms, listening to talkers talk, trying to learn team skills that can only ever be learned by practical rehearsal. It’s why we still have consultants, most of who have never done anything significant in their lives, giving critical advice and making life-changing decisions on who is a “team player” and who is not. It’s why we still teach people to juggle bean bags, and then think we can talk about “juggling” priorities back at work. And it’s why we persist with the myth that drinking alcohol or holding compulsory sports days are “where the real team-building happens”. Really, it’s a mystery that more successful CEOs aren’t bean-bag juggling alcoholics who love sitting in classrooms.

The lack of any science is important, too. The flocks of people who enthusiastically follow one leadership guru, book or trend over another are disconcertingly similar to the masses who join the One True Faith, whatever that might be. The need for certainty is perhaps the single deepest need in the human psyche, and where the certainly cannot come from fact and knowledge, it comes from shamanism, cult and belief. Since there is almost no good science yet on the dynamics of work teams, belief, self-promotion, cultism, books and PhDs from doubtful cow colleges take its place.

It seems like a heck of a long journey from such basic principles to you and I sitting in yet another “teambuilding” seminar and longing for death, but in fact it’s a very short journey. This is how the decision gets made that chooses the old safe path that hires the consultant that delivers the program that bores the victims that causes no change that produces the leadership that keeps you on the old safe path that hired the consultant. I could blow sunshine into parts of your anatomy where sunshine was never intended to go, but the truth is, that’s much of corporate and government America.

Finely-observed cartoons, movies and TV shows like Dilbert, Office Space and The Office lampoon this hilariously. The best, like the aforementioned, have a sweet thread of human wisdom and ethics underlying all the lampoonery. In our own small company, we had our own fun as a team, trying to capture the silliness of current approaches to teamwork and leadership, and to ask – nay, to insist – that there must be a better way. I invite you to visit our own two-minute animated cartoon at and to see and say what you think.

In about 350 B.C., a Greek philosopher – and practical joker – named Diogenes roamed the streets of Athens by day carrying a lighted lantern. When asked what he was doing, Diogenes replied “I am looking for an honest man.” is our lighted lantern, and we hope to meet some visionary leaders on the way.

Feel free to join us.

John Kolm

About John Kolm

Team Results USA's CEO John Kolm is an innovator of 21st century team productivity programs, a best-selling author, and a former intelligence officer. Originally from Australia, John formed Team Results in 1996 with retired business partner and decorated veteran Peter Ring as the end result of an experiment that began in 1993. Driven by frustration with the team development options then available to business and government, and with encouragement from early clients, they applied their academic training and practical leadership experience to build the unique approach to team productivity improvement that eventually became Team Results. The company grew rapidly, expanded to a wholly US-owned branch in the United States in 2005, and now operates as a very successful business in both hemispheres. In 2004 John and Peter wrote the global bestseller “Crocodile Charlie and the Holy Grail” (Penguin, available on, consolidating ten years of work with peak clients into a compelling story about team productivity, leadership in business and government, and happiness at work. The book has been re-published in seven languages and fourteen countries, and a sequel is in the works. John is also the author of numerous articles and papers on team dynamics in the modern workplace, some of which can be found in the News Room at . John is qualified in Psychology from the University of Melbourne, and in mathematics and statistics from the U.S. National Cryptologic School, where he also taught on the faculty. Email him at .


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