Property Week – The Voice of the People, John Williams

’Team building’ burst on to the scene during the early 1990s downturn. It is also an activity pursued by lots of firms at Christmas – with mixed results. How should those of us running smaller-sized operations deal with this aspect of staff development in what some see as a rocky market righ now? So, there I find myself on Friday afternoon, sitting in the front of a van with a fellow director, driving from the ski resort of Les Carroz to Geneva airport to collect members of the property management department for a team-building weekend – which a corporate activity website says will be ’a bit of fun, a pleasant location, and the detachment from the stresses of work will do wonders for team morale and relationships.’ What are they going to expect? Do they really want to be out there? Will they get on? Will there be any awkward silences? Should we have got the local Ray Mears equivalent to take them up an Alp for survival training? Too late. The plane had landed and I was popping the cork on the champagne to welcome them to Geneva. We were going to have to wing it . . . SNOW TIME We arrived at the chalet. Everyone made themselves at home and we had a nice meal, some fine wine and good banter around the dining table. There was impromptu dancing and play-fighting. The most hilarious sight was the smallest member of the team, weighing in at about six stone and 5ft nothing, not only taking on but beating the two largest members – at the same time. Then, as if by magic, the snow fell – cue snowball fights and human sledging in the early hours of Saturday morning. By mid-morning there were stirrings of life. Each member of the team arrived downstairs saying, ”I didn’t do anything”. That night we enjoyed what can only be described as an old-fashioned family Saturday night: big dinner, Bruce Forsyth on the TV, followed by a movie infront of a roaring fire. Anyone peering in through the window would have thought it was just a group of friends chilling out – surely a testament to bonding? A small band of the merrier ’men’ headed to the local club to display what could only be described as not strictly dancing. As we headed back to the airport on Sunday, I couldn’t help but wonder if the weekend had been a success. Certainly everyone was relaxed and got on extremely well, there were plenty of laughs and lots of good natured banter. But was that just my impression? What did the team think? Did they see it as an opportunity to bond and get to know their colleagues better, or was it just a pain in the backside to have to spend a weekend away with a bunch of people they spend the whole week with anyway? Would they have preferred a cash equivalent? I hope it really was about being part of a team, happy to be in each others company out of choice, rather than the necessity of the nine-to-five environment. Would we do it again? Plato observed: ”You learn more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Pack the play into a weekend and I think we’ve learnt a lot about the individuals who work with us and, more importantly, reaffirmed what a great team we have here at Aston Rose. For smaller businesses it can be all too easy to just focus on the work and the need to earn fees – day in, day out. What we must remember is that our most important asset is our people, and the focus needs to be on them a little more often than just the annual Christmas party. But, after the last 48 hours, I’m really looking forward to ours. This article appeared in PropertyWeek: 14.12.07