The Smiling Assassin

I love it when you get a smiling assassin on a course…

No, wait a minute. I hate it, is what I meant to say.

You know the sort: all friendly and jovial and then, the second your back is turned in goes the knife and you feel stabbing pain between the shoulder blades.

To be honest that may be a bit dramatic but you get the point. And if it’s not me they’re stalking, then it’s someone on the course they don’t like or it’s ‘the management’ or something else.

I had just such an experience today… I didn’t actually get a knife between the shoulder blades but I might as well have done. I’ve been running a facilitated session for this particular company for some time. It’s all about extracting from some well qualified technical people things they can do to extract more business from their clients by being nice to them.

In any session like this we try to create a gap which we can then close. So the first session proper is about understanding why certain things might not happen. In this case it was pro-activity. Why might some people who work for this company not be quite as pro-active as they should/could be?

Of course, this engenders a bit of company bashing but I can usually steer a course through this to get the team to see that actually, individuals bear some of the responsibility too. Heaven forbid that they should pick up the ‘phone every so often just to see if everything going swimmingly.

Today, however, was a different story. I split the team into smaller groups and sent them off to different rooms before taking time to do the rounds.

So, I burst in on the assassin’s group and listened to their conversation, dominated by the assassin, about ‘management’ and what ‘they’ need to do to make things better. I try not to butt in too often on these discussions but I had to bring things round so I made the point that it was a good conversation but, keep things balanced and talk about individual responsibility too.

There was a general nodding of heads (most vigorously, it has to be said, by the assassin) and I went on my rounds to the other teams.

After 20 minutes or so I came back to the assassin’s team and guess what they were talking about. Yep, on this occasion you are quite right… how bad it was in this company compared to the old days and bring back old Fred, the manager who just let us get on with things.

Things really hotted up though, when it came to thinking about solutions. My assassin was in full flow again so I asked the very direct question: what would you do about it then?


Then: ‘Well, I don’t know. I’m not a manager am I!’

I wasn’t letting her off with this. Clearly you’ve got a bee in your bonnet, it’s important that you’re part of the solution. What would you do?

‘I really don’t know. It’s hard, isn’t it, to think about these things.’

I’m pleased the knives went away and we had a very productive course.

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