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Team building issues:
"Undiscussable" interactions/mistrust kills learning opportunities




"Should we fire Serge?"
My boss, the director of the Brussels office of Arthur D. Little - a global management consulting company -, his boss - the European Managing Partner -, and two other office directors were discussing this question on a January 1993 evening in the bar of the Grand Hotel in Montreux.

And I was there, 15 meters away, a recently promoted successful Associate Director, discussing with my colleagues and wondering perhaps what the bosses were discussing at their table.

How was it possible that I was so totally unaware of my professional reality?

Earlier that day, I participated to a team session on the company European strategy. In the presence of 3 European office managers, I critiqued strongly the senior management of the company for having no vision and poor HR policies. And I was not aware that my interactions were very ineffective: hammering high level judgments without supporting facts, closing my statements to inquiry from the others...

The normal consequences were serious, and justified, mistrust from the senior managers present. But we could not create the opportunity to discuss the root causes and the consequences of my judgments. So we learned nothing: their mistrust led to their discussion about firing me.

And I remained unaware of the consequences of my words and unaware of the urgent need for me to learn to pass difficult messages more effectively.

They did not fire me. And when my boss told me the whole story 3 years later, I understood I had something important and urgent to learn.

Serge Pegoff

Key lessons



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