We spend the last half of the week on the famous “offsite exercise.” This event is a mystery to those of us in the Foreign Service training program. I was a little uncomfortable about the event. My personality preference profile explains why.
But before we left for the offsite (it was held on an army training site in West Virginia), we got the results of the Myers-Briggs personality test that we took earlier in the week. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Myers-Briggs test, it positions your preference on four different spectra. The resulting profile gives you a picture of how you like to interact with people, and get, process and use information. Besides gaining insight into yourself, this profile gives you some awareness of different profiles that your coworkers may have. The idea is that this awareness helps make the workplace more efficient and comfortable.
According to my profile, I like to have a planned and organized approach to life. This is probably why I was anxious about the offsite. We were not told a lot about it, so I didn’t know what to expect, and that condition took me outside my comfort zone.
Our class had been speculating about the offsite among ourselves. Some of us were imagining a boot camp-like experience, with obstacle courses, rope lines, survival training, and the like. Others thought that it would be a retreat, almost like a religious retreat.
It was neither. I don’t want to write too many details about it. Even though we weren’t explicitly told to keep details of the event secret, it seems to be part of the Foreign Service culture not to talk about it. Sort of like the rules about Fight Club, maybe?
The offsite was good and useful, but intense. We started early in the morning, and went until late at night. We did a lot of exercises. Some were more abstract team-building work, and some were simulations of situations that we will encounter when working in embassies. The final exercise was a simulation in which various departments in the embassy had to coordinate communication on a number of levels in order to accomplish a specific task. In the debriefing session afterwards, we were assured that it rarely gets that intense, which was a relief. The biggest takeaway for me was that I definitely selected the correct area of specialization. The Public Diplomacy aspect of the Foreign Service is responsible for communication and public relations.
We arrived back in DC late on Friday afternoon. I spent most of Saturday by myself, recharging my energies. I guess that means that my personality profile was accurate in that I have strong introvert qualities.