Smoke & Mirrors: Trouble on the team-building trip

Our spirited master of spin experiences a moment of clarity during the wigwams-in-the-woods day out.

by Guy Browning
Last Updated: 29 Jan 2016


Board meeting where I passed the time surreptitiously examining our HR director Brenda Wayzgoose. For some time now I've had a nagging suspicion that I know her from a past life. I haven't dared ask her in case we met in the rash of speed dating I did after my divorce. She doesn't seem to recognise me, but then I make it one of my KPIs to steer clear of HR. The big news of the meeting was that our share price has risen sharply. None of us could see any possible reason for this despite our bewigged CEO Lynton Spivey claiming that his strategy was now falling into place. I suggested that the share-price chart he was showing was actually upside down and the entire board tilted their head as one.


Catastrophe. Spivey has announced a bonding C-Suite offsite to celebrate our share price blip. He does this occasionally and we're subjected to some intrusive hippy rubbish like yoga. Normally I book my holidays to coincide with these events but he's ambushed us. From tomorrow we're going somewhere for a 'surprise event'. Deeply worried because Smokehouse trips never surprise us with a five-star spa hotel with golf course attached. Brenda toured the building giving everyone homework. We have to think about our current titles and how we could change them to more accurately reflect the spirit of our role. I suggested my title should be changed from communications director to Dark Lord. But apparently this isn't in the spirit of the thing.


Have discovered what the thing is. We are in a damp wood somewhere near Guildford in a ring of dripping wigwams and our reward for the share price rise is to channel the spirit of the condor. Quite frankly, I'd rather the share price had collapsed. Brenda is in charge, dressed like Pocahontas's mother-in-law. The nightmare commenced with the board in a circle sharing the 'pipe of friendship'. Brenda bought out this colossal bong and I thought things were looking up. Instead of sucking on it, she then blew on it and it turned out to be a giant peace flute, which was seriously disappointing. Gerald Whiting, our uber-dull general counsel, trilled on it like a pixie. He seems to be taking it all very seriously and has already smeared war paint over his pasty cheeks.


Renaming day. Wearing traditional feather headdresses (Made in China), we rebirthed with our new chief names. Farnsworth, our finance director, has chosen to become Chief Money Man, which I liked. In a leap of imagination, our operations director wanted to be known as Chief Operations Officer. Clearly channelling the spirit of the chicken. Adrian Kemp, our sales director, suggested Chief Talking Bull, which hit the nail on the head. Gerald, the general counsel, has gone for a Toltec god, Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli. That will look good on his business card. He also seems to be wearing some kind of loin cloth, which puts team building into reverse as far as I'm concerned. Spivey, our CEO, decided he just wanted to be called Chief. Brenda insisted he added a spirit name and suggested Pajero. She said it meant 'spirit of the puma'.


Back in my tent I channelled the spirit of tobacco quite deeply and the mental clarity this bought me illuminated two thoughts. Firstly, I remembered where I'd met Brenda. She 'officiated' at a 'spirit wedding' of a weirdo cousin of mine. Secondly, I remembered that Pajero was the name of an old Mitsubishi 4x4, which was discontinued when they discovered it meant 'he who pleasures himself' in Spanish. I called Brenda immediately and said I wanted one-to-one spirit time with her in the sweat lodge. We had to turf out Gerald who was hanging from the ceiling with pins through his flesh. I then pointed out to her that our team was imploding, she was moonlighting as a voodoo priestess, and she had renamed our boss Chief Self Abuser. Her spirit dimmed somewhat and she promised golf weekends in future. They don't call me Chief Whip for nothing.

Guy Browning is the author of How to be Normal: A Guide for the Perplexed, published by Atlantic at £12.99. He can be contacted at

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