Saturday, April 19, 2008

Buffalo Bill's Ralph Wilson Stadium & Challenge by Choice

Recently Christine and I moved into our new house. While moving one of her uncles, Danny, and I spoke about rock climbing, team building, and about what it is that I do professionally. During our conversation he told me that the company he works for (Frey Electric) changes the light bulbs in the Buffalo Bills Stadium. Danny asked if I would like to see how they change these bulbs using a large crane (These light bulbs are up approximately 180 feet up attached to large metal poles that rise straight into the air). I must admit I was not sure if I wanted to go, I thought to myself, “When am I ever going to get to experience something like this again. I constantly speak to Team building and workforce development groups that, when one reflects upon their life, you are not going to regret what you did. It is the opportunity you did not take that haunts you. I called Danny, and met him at the stadium.
I arrive at the Buffalo Bills stadium and I am in awe at the size of the stadium. Being able to view the stadium when a game is not in progress is a rare opportunity in itself. Danny finds me and gives me a quick tour. I look over and there is this giant crane lifting a yellow metal cage. The metal cage is waving in the breeze and I can see the thick steel cable holding the yellow metal cage with some people inside of it. I think, “that must be the way up” I feel a little stomach bile push it’s way up my throat fully knowing I am here now and I must commit to my action. I am given a full body harness and I play with the auto locking “lobster claws” and explain to Danny how they differ from what is used on high ropes courses. I stand there quietly watching the yellow cage lowered to the ground. “I have never been that high up with a single locking device. I hope I do not faint!” this is my internal monologue. I attempt to rationalize the thoughts speaking with Danny about static vs. dynamic weight ratios. I estimate the load capacity of the "O" ring that holds the cables to the cage. Finally, we enter the cage I ask Danny, starting a meaningless conversation, “just attach anywhere in the cage?” he shows me a metal loop to attach to and then he gives the crane operator a thumbs up! Off we GO! Immediately I feel my knees get weak my grip tighten and an awkward yet familiar feeling in my stomach. Whoa!! Whoa!! Whoa!! And some profanity is all I say. Danny asks, “Do you have your camera? Don’t drop it use your wrist strap.” We are 50 feet off the ground I can see the upper decks of the Stadium. Danny asks, “you alright” I respond, “I think so this is something”. I felt a great wave of adrenaline and deep fear as we rose 75 feet, 80 feet, with another 100 feet to go!! I relax and enjoy the view. It is AMAZING! The wind blowing, the cage waving, the cars and trucks below looking like small toys. We are arriving at our final destination point. Two of the electricians are changing the bulbs. We stop! 180 feet in the air I take a couple of deep breaths and look around.
“This is a feeling that I do not experience enough”, I think to myself. I am always coaching groups and individuals to take calculated risks and to push out of their comfort zones. I realized that I rarely seek out opportunities for me to leave my comfort zone. I wonder exactly why that is? We spend about 20 minutes in the air over the Bills Stadium snapping pictures and enjoying the time. The longer I am 180 feet up the more comfortable I feel at the height. I begin to have greater confidence in the cage, and the safety system. Danny calls the crane operator over the radio to bring us down. On the way down I feel pride and I look at the Bills Stadium differently than when I first arrived.
We return to the ground and I immediately can feel a difference in my self-esteem, and perceptions of myself. I think about transferable learning and about teams development; • Managers are encouraged to create procedures and policies that encourage people to follow proven “trails” to create a measurable outcome, maybe a sale, or a product. Managers spend time working to make people be at their most effective. How often do managers, individuals, and teams push themselves out of their discipline (like me in that cage)? How often are individuals and teams given the opportunity to safely practice pushing that comfort to a panic zone, to walk a different “trail”? Once a manager, individual, or team pushes past a comfort zone or prescribed “roles” they then have the ability to view a procedure or policy through a different “lens”. This change of “lens” empowers the team or manager to create policies and procedures that can raise the effectiveness of those on the team. The manager when pushed past a comfort zone may now see that the procedures and policies themselves are an evolving and dynamic process, full of synergistic solutions. This change of “lens” has the ability to illustrate that there is an abundance of ideas and creative solutions to be seized upon, and all it takes is changing you perspective pushing past the prescribed “roles” and comforts of the daily routine.
• Team concepts developed as a result of the people who were brought together to accomplish the goal. The electricians, crane operators, and supervisors had to organize a system to reach a win-win outcome for all people involved. There is a small chance that a person as an individual working could safely scale the poles and change those bulbs. The crane operators had to work in conjunction with the electricians in the metal cage. They created and agreed upon a communication system that was understood over a radio 180 feet away. Additionally a system for safety and success was put into place for everyone on the team. A highly functioning team (no matter how transient) was created that required open and honest communication on all ends, the crane operator, the electricians, as well as the supervisors overseeing the project. Team work and Team Building are a constant evolving experiment that requires practice. I encourage people and groups to do things that scare them, to push that comfort zone into the panic zone enough to create and connect new brain based synapses. To empower yourself and teams too see people and feel experiences in a way that at one point seemed impossible.

In the beginning, nothing comes;In the middle, nothing stays:At the end, nothing goes.Of the mind there is no arrival or extinction!- Milarepa