‘Let’s do something fun together’, shouted the usually quiet and contemplative Amelia from client support. ‘Go for drinks you mean?’ replied Giles. ‘No, something different, something we don’t usually do!’… ‘What about Go Ape… that’d be a laugh’ said Luke, to which Rob from Operations replied ‘you’ve got to be joking! Me, in a tree… I don’t think so’.
After a small amount of persuasion and obligatory peer pressure, The Colour Works team agreed on the date and the time and found a company willing to take them up into the trees for some team building fun.
We met early afternoon and received a speedy briefing from Olli, a confident, fiery red, quick talking climbing instructor. He didn’t particularly reassure us very much about the potential perils of being suspended fifty foot in the air but instead gave a factual, fast explanation of what we needed to do to stay safe.
Olli then asked for a volunteer to demonstrate that his well-rehearsed and dynamically delivered instructions had been understood. As usual, James, who leans towards not much else than sunshine yellow piped up and agreed to take the challenge. James bounced up, clipped in and looked confident that he knew what he was doing. After a few minutes of fumbling around with the carabiners and with a confused look on his face he was interrupted, ‘Na na na, you haven’t listened to a word, have you?’ said Ollie. A quiet agreement radiated from the group… So they went through the process again and safely attached James to the first obstacle.
If you have not yet launched yourself into the ‘Go Ape’ experience, you must understand that the key element here is that you are completely left to you own devices. You must trust in your own monkey-like ability and safely clip yourself in and out as you traverse through the trees like a modern day Tarzan…
As we moved through the various hanging obstacles, zip wires, suspended ladders and trapeze lines our behaviours really came out to play:
– The earth green energy (who instigated the whole event in the first place) was delighted to be a part of it all, enjoying being in nature and checking in with others whilst they travelled through the trees.
– The fiery red energy was cheering and shouting ‘come on, just swing for it – you can do it!’.
– The cool blue energy, being slightly more reserved, had quickly added up the collective weight of all attending and deducted it from the maximum advised load on each tree, whilst the sunshine yellow energy, well need we say anymore!
All in turn, we conquered some personal fears, heard language we didn’t think was known by some and coached each other through a challenging experience.
As the day went on our grips loosened and the adrenaline started to subside as we relaxed into it. A few humorous, terror induced stories were created and we were once again reminded of the value of taking time out as a team doing something new.
As team development specialists, we often get asked “what is the perfect mix of behaviours for a high-performing team”, to which there is only one answer. ‘It doesn’t matter what the behavioural preference is of a team. High performance is created by each individual personifying self-awareness and building trust, practicing empathy and a sharing a strong desire to achieve their collective results’. This isn’t created by people just turning up to work, it takes effort, investment and at the very start, a tiny little bit of vulnerability and just ‘hanging out together.’