[6 minute English] – Kỳ 2: Corporate team building

What are companies doing to make staff get along better and work more efficiently as a team? What does a work awayday look like these days? Neil and Sophie discuss the growing industry of corporate team building – from zombie bootcamps to horse training for executives.

This week’s question

What did Chairman Mao introduce in China in 1951 as a compulsory activity for workers and was reintroduced by the government a few years ago? Was it…

a) calisthenics

b) calligraphy

c) English language lessons

You can hear the right answer at the end of the programme.

Vocabulary

awayday
a day that employees spend together away from their usual workplace

guru
an expert in something

team buildingteambuiding pic
encouraging employees to work well together as a team by getting them to engage in different types of activities

cerebral
intellectual or ‘brainy’

bootcamp
a short course of hard physical training

callisthenics
a type of gentle physical exercise

calligraphy
the art of writing by hand with a special brush

synchronise
(in this context) beat at the same time

intimidating
something that makes you feel nervous

gel
to connect or get on well with someone

shake a leg
get moving

Transcript

Note: This is not a word-for-word transcript

Sophie
Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I’m Sophie…

Neil
And I’m Neil… Sophie – did you go on the corporate awayday last week?

Sophie
Yes… you didn’t miss anything. A team building guru lectured us on how to work more effectively with each other. We gave some presentations, had a few drinks after…

Neil
Right. OK. An awayday is a day that employees spend together away from their usual workplace. And a guru is an expert in something. So did this guru teach you anything new, Sophie?

Sophie
No… not really.

Neil
Shame. I was hoping for some tips on how to work more effectively with my co-presenter.

Sophie
I think we work very effectively already, Neil. Now, today’s show is about team building – or encouraging employees to work well together as a team by getting them to engage in different types of activities.

Neil
And apparently, some companies in the UK are offering their employees activities such as…  Hunger Games-style combat days where teams must work together to ‘kill’ as many of the opposing team as possible. Have you seen the Hunger Games movies, Sophie?

Sophie
Yes.

Neil
There’re also Zombie boot camps where military instructors train you on how to fight zombies – that’s dead people who have come back to life. For the more cerebral – or brainy – amongst us – there are crime investigations modelled on popular TV dramas like Sherlock Holmes.

Sophie
Well, I’m not sure about the Zombie boot camp – a boot camp is a short course of hard physical training – but the Sherlock Holmes awayday sounds like fun.

Neil
I’d definitely go for the Zombie experience. Though I’m not sure how it connects with most people’s working lives. Violence, death, the living dead…

Sophie
Good point.

Neil
So let’s move on and have today’s quiz question. What did Chairman Mao introduce in China in1951 as a compulsory activity for workers and was reintroduced by the government a few years ago? Was it…
a) calisthenics?
b) calligraphy?
Or c) English language lessons?

Sophie
Calisthenics, by the way, is a type of gentle physical exercise…

Neil
… and calligraphy, by the way, is the art of writing by hand with a special brush.

Sophie
Well, I’m going for a) calisthenics.

Neil
Not English language lessons, Sophie?

Sophie
No. I’ll stick with callisthenics, thanks.

Neil
OK. Well, we’ll find out later if you’re right or not. Now, whilst English lessons might sound like hard work, ukulele lessons are apparently catching on. A ukulele is a musical instrument. Top businessmen Bill Gates and Warren Buffett both do it, and stressed-out city workers are following their lead. Here in the UK, a number of companies have been holding ukulele team building sessions.

Sophie
That sounds amazing. And is there anything about the ukulele in particular that leaves people feeling better after they’ve played it?

Neil
Let’s hear more about this from Lorraine Bow, who teaches people to play the instrument. But listen with attention because she spoke on the phone and the line wasn’t great.

INSERT
Lorraine Bow, ukulele teacher
Well, I guess it’s just the fact that you know people don’t often sing in their everyday lives and it’s the fact that you can play and sing – play a musical instrument – within an hour – it’s quite a… you know… it’s quite a fulfilling thing really. It’s not competitive – it’s quite easy to do and a bit less intimidating than a guitar…

Sophie
Lorraine, the ukulele teacher, also says her classes aren’t competitive or intimidating

Neil
… which means something that makes you feel nervous.

Sophie
Now, before we hear the answer to today’s quiz question, let’s hear about a company in Abu Dhabi where leadership is taught through horse training. Basically, you have to go in the yard with a horse and persuade it that you’re the boss by using body language. Here’s Kelly Eide, co-founder of the company, explaining why she thinks this approach works.

INSERT
Kelly Eide, Co-founder of True Leadership, Abu Dhabi
The horses don’t care if your hair is purple, if you’re a man or a woman, if you’re old or young, if you are… what religion. So it transcends all of those cultural boundaries – it transcends age, gender, religion, tradition etc. – so that’s a perfect fit. And in an organization where you really need groups of people to gel, who come from backgrounds which have no common norms, you can teach that most efficiently with a horse.

Neil
To gel with someone means to connect or get on well with someone. So you try and get the horse to do what you want using body language. And the horse feels instinctively whether or not you are a natural leader because it doesn’t recognize cultural differences, hair colour and age.

Sophie
Probably easier said than done.

Neil
Indeed. Now remember I asked: What did Chairman Mao introduce in China in1951 as a compulsory activity for workers and was reintroduced by the government a few years ago?  Was it… a) calisthenics? b) calligraphy? Or c) English language lessons?

Sophie
I said a) calisthenics.

Neil
Well, you’re right on the button! Well done there, Sophie! Calisthenics are used at schools as a warm up for physical education classes, during sports day activities, and by some companies as a way of building morale and a sense of group unity, as well as to raise energy levels and encourage good health. Now shake a leg – or in other words – get moving – and tell us the words we learned today, Sophie.

Sophie
They are:
awayday
guru
team building
cerebral
bootcamp
callisthenics
calligraphy
synchronise
intimidating
gel
shake a leg

Neil
Well, that’s the end of this 6 Minute English. We hope you enjoyed it. And don’t forget to join us again soon!

Both
Bye.

(source: bbc.co.uk)

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