Wednesday, January 21, 2009 by Dave Blum
Whatever you may feel about the man and his politics, you have to admit that Barack Obama is provocative.  His speeches tend to make you think.

One particular moment from the President’s inaugural address yesterday really grabbed my attention.  Obama declared that although we are a young country, it was “time to put away childish things.”   This line, of course, comes from Corinthians, as follows:

1 Corinthians 13:11
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

What a striking statement from an American President!   For years our politicians have been telling the public that we can and should “have it all,” and this attitude has crept into the corners of corporate America as well. But yesterday here was a U.S. leader declaring that it was time to stop behaving like self-centered children and to start acting like responsible, self-sacrificing adults.

As a leader of corporate team building activities, I think a lot about the behavior of successful and unsuccessful teams.  What seems to characterize the former is a commitment to nurturing “adult” behavior patterns:  patience; self-control; respect; disregard of personal status; sacrifice for the good of the team.  By contrast, the teams that fail seem to be characterized more by childish behaviors:  impatience; acting out on anger; taking things personally; self-aggrandizement and status seeking.

Although Dr. Clue’s programs are child-like in their playfulness, they are certainly not childish.  Team building activities, at their best, use games and puzzles as a springboard for substantive discussion.  Our own scavenger hunts and treasure hunt clues serve, I think, President Obama’s purpose:  they get teams thinking about how to behave in a more self-disciplined, adult manner, leading to greater group efficiency, productivity and long-term success.  Although it behooves us to keep things relaxed and light-hearted on our teams, it’s clearly time for team members to put away their childish and egocentric attitudes and “grow up”.

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