Are You Growing or Entertaining Yourself?

One of the biggest problems in the market for training and coaching services in management skills is that we easily confuse entertainment with growth. Not only the clients, but even the trainers themselves confuse the art of growing as a person and as a leader with the enormous fun of playing with personality tests. And you? Do you grow or entertain yourself?

We see some examples of entertainment. The first and most common is the lecturer. A directive committee wants to have teambuilding without getting too many blisters. We talk about men and women that live and work on the defensive for years trying to escape the bland and basic. They cannot maximize the results of their work. They are sceptics to everything that cannot be impressed with numbers, let’s say.

Human Resources hires a great speaker who tells the exact same story everywhere he goes. It is a pretty intellectually stimulating talk, seasoned with the right dose of neuroscience, experiments, and Harvard studies, recounted with the grace and voice of a radio host. Very good. The managers listen to a lot of truths that are still common sense, and if they get bored they check emails on their phone or send whatsapps during the conference.

It does not really matter if they attend his talk or not. The speaker loves to hear his own voice. Nobody is in a hurry to answer a personal question, and at most they are asked to discuss a third person or a “business case”, so that they risk nothing and can offer opinions happily without consequences. Then they put on an opulent dinner, hug each other and say some nice things after a few wines, and then they all go home. Actually, nothing has changed for this team. They continue to speak with strategic terms to avoid entering the history of problems and bad situations that move like a ghost on the ceiling of the boardroom. But they have fulfilled the task of skills training and can remove this duty from their to-do list.

Another example of entertainment is the dozens of surveys with an American-style use license, in which managers answer 200 questions to be sent a very cool report full of colors and graphics in which he is told that he is a certain type of person, or a player profile, or other intellectualized and sophisticated versions of what comes to be a personality test like those of women’s magazines.

What a sacrilege I just said. With all of the decades of academic studies that justify the large prices of the licenses to be paid each time an executive fills in this survey! It is very entertaining because it is full of data, colors and graphs. But it does not change behavior. Like many, it points out a habit that we should think about changing. But how to change it, it does not tell us.

And well, in the last ten years everyone has become an expert in neuroscience and can get us to assemble a circuit of questions, exercises and intellectual diversions of the most sophisticated variety supported by conclusions of studies that are still unable to explain the mysteries of the human mind. More entertainment

I am not saying that it is not of much quality, and I do not doubt that it is fun and employees have a good time doing these training activities. What I am saying is that entertainment is not growth. And without growth, there will not be a real change to behavior nor will it be lasting.

A client recently told me that the first time he had taken him and his team to the mountains and asked them to talk about what was happening at their meetings. They had felt virtually violated. He is a very joking customer and totally exaggerates with the expression, but he brings up a very uncomfortable feeling that one does not have when playing with entertainment.

Growth is an irreversible change in perception. A change to be more, to see things that you did not see before. And once you start seeing them, you cannot stop seeing them. And by only seeing them, you begin to change things in the way you behave. In the case of one of my clients, I showed him that his dynamic of interacting with his team was a strikingly aggressive. With jokes, irony and double meanings, daggers flew between them. But they didn’t realize it because they always did it.

When I returned to the same team to do another program with them two years after, this sense of aggression had disappeared completely. The jokes, ironies and double meanings continued to animate their conversations, but they had learned to voice their frustrations and conflicts in safe spaces so that they did not affect the climate of the team, nor the climates of the teams that each of them directed.

“I noticed that before I…”

The moment when an expert like me arrives and tells a full-grown man that he observes a vice, or an excess, or lack in his behavior has absolutely no entertainment value. It is the kind of feedback that disrupts our mental schemes and makes us feel very vulnerable. And the more reason the expert has, the more it hurts to hear it, because as the words fall in our minds, all the past situations in which we have made things worse than we thought appear before us.

“I noticed that before I…” is the type of reflection that comes from training that has created real growth. This is the change in perception that opens the door to better behavioral progress in the following months. And this method of training demonstrates that taking responsibility of how we did things before and how we are beginning to do them now.

If you are realizing that you have been doing many fun training sessions that did not generate discomfort or changes in your perception, you probably just understood the huge difference between making personal growth and enjoying executive entertainment.

And when you learn how to grow personally all of the entertainment begins to seem boring because you bite into the mystery that is your own mind and the challenge of reinterpreting your own history to challenge your destiny.

Personal growth is a road full of adventures that reveals the hidden anonymous hero inside of us, and no leader should settle for less, however entertaining it may be.

Pino Bethencourt 
Coach and founder of Club Comprometidos