Can you build a world-class team in 30 minutes?

I received this text message from a prospect yesterday:

Hey Sunil,

We’re looking for a corporate coach to conduct a team-building session online for 20+ people and for 30 minutes. I have received your information from ; let me known when we can connect over a call.


A text message to yours truly

Now, I get an average of 6-8 messages like the above every month. Usually, my process involves inviting them for a 15-minute discovery call to understand their objectives, the actual requirements, and see if we’re a good fit for each other. And they all play the same song to the tune of, “we need people to change, and fast!”

It is damn frustrating because these folks are looking to check off a task of their list (an employee engagement activity) than work on a company-wide strategy to develop leaders or bolster their talent management program.

And my response to such queries is always the same, “no, thank you. I don’t believe a 30-minute intervention would exact positive, significant, and lasting change.” They quickly retort, saying they’ve had life-coach conduct such short sessions previously with great success! My questions following this stupid statement are always too painful for the person at the other end:

  1. How do they know it was a success? (Everyone clapped?)
  2. How exactly did the team’s performance improve? Do we have metrics for the same?

I end up reiterating that I am an executive and leadership development coach and all development takes time. If you have 30 minutes, order a pizza, the team will be much happier. Alternatively, they can go back to the previous coaches and bring them in. And almost always they say, “but we were looking for some variety this time.” As if the variety was going to bring about significant and long-lasting change. If that was the case, why not consider changing their manager? Their performance might go through the roof, right? (That rarely happens by the way.)

I know that’s an exaggeration, but I hope you’re getting my point — everyone wants to change, but nobody wants to put in the effort or time. Let’s get real, folks. Checking off “employee engagement” from your list is the wrong way to look at the concept. Thirty minutes is suitable for a couple of SouthPark episodes but barely enough to build a world-class team.

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