We lead team building and leadership development programs for Ropes Courses, within the Western New York Region
Corporate-Adult Team Building as well as School-Youth group Team Building
"Climbing walls have gone the way of Ping Pong Tables. Everyone has one and
all they are used for is Beer Pong Courts"- Anonymous
Considering a team building program for your organization?
Teams get stuck in the belief that held strong in the early 1980's that a ropes course also known as challenge courses is the way to go. Much has changed in the training, team building and organizational development field since then. Including a paradigm shift that team building is more than a one to three day adrenaline pumping amusement ride, with no application to the workplace.Research in Brain Based Learning has shown that mental as well as collaborative activities that involve all the team members working as one to accomplish goals, simulating a workplace environment still pump the adrenaline and show increased returns on investment in training and workforce development than a Standard Ropes Course.
***You May want to rethink the Ropes Course!***
· Obesity makes many adult and child participants unable
This is a fact that we as Americans have to face, many of us wake up, drive to work, sit behind a desk all day, drive home, eat, watch Television, sleep then start all over again. A climbing wall and a high ropes course are a challenge to many as well as a safety risk.These high challenge elements were created to help people build their self-esteem and believe in themselves to "push past their assumed limits". When a participant is peer pressured by work mates to climb a telephone pole and can barely make it off the ladder. This does not help the self-esteem and self-confidence of this individual. If fact it does just the opposite it helps them to further view themselves as a failure and brings them down, I have seen many employees quit their jobs after a ropes course experience.How is that building a team culture, when you humiliate your team members??
· Ropes courses are individual: Person vs. Element
Many Ropes Course facilitators work really hard to create programs that are team oriented on high ropes courses. I have seen and worked with some.The majority of facilities do not have the proper set up and staff to make these elements team active. One or at the most three people are being active on the ropes course, while you have the rest of the team sitting and watching. Generally you will have some participants cheer most people lose interest and this takes away from the team process. The only active time is often 10 to 15 minutes on the element and 3 to 4 hours of just sitting on a bench eating snacks and gossiping about each other.How is this Team Building, when the majority of the team is not engaged in any activity at all?
· Concerns about "Hostile Work environment"
Team members feeling forced to climb a rock wall or jump off a platform This is a concern for Human resources departments; we live in a litigious society. Great team building facilitators create a "challenge by choice" environment. They let participants know that they choose how far they wish to go in the element, and it is alright to choose your personal level of comfort.Although when the CEO of the company is watching and encouraging you to climb a 60 foot climbing tower and you are about to wet your pants out of fear you start to think, can NOT doing this effect my future, possible promotions, if I do not succeed will I be on the outside? Flash backs of the Cool Kids Lunch table and the table for the outsiders, is not team building! Team building is meant to make everyone feel and behave like an insider.Participants feel bullied and a great amount of peer pressure to perform. If you are passed over for a promotion by someone who did climb the 60 foot tower, it makes you think is this why I did not get the promotion? is this why I am being treated differently? Unfair and hostile work environment lawsuits, can your company afford one?
· Poor Facilitation of experience, the Ropes course becomes an amusement park of wasted opportunity.
This is why choosing your experiential facilitator is so important.SO IMPORTANT! When you hire a team building facilitator or go to a Ropes Course for a team building day, interview the facilitator working with your group. You should treat this person as you would any individual coming to you wanting to be hired by your organization. Do not trust that because they work for a college or a well known conference center that they are going to deliver on your teams' needs. Ask for references, follow up on the references ask people in the community.Additionally what I have seen some companies do is the Bait and Switch technique. The facilitator you are speaking with and meeting with and who is creating your team building program is not the one that actually runs the program on the event day.With poor facilitation what a Ropes Course does become is an amusement park with long waits, bad weather, overpriced and crappy food, and an annoying guide [team building facilitator]. Afterwards your team is asking why did we do this?
Ropes courses have their fit with team building and leadership development, if properly facilitated any experience can be metaphorically tied-back to work life. The challenge for the consumer wanting a ropes course experience is to have realistic expectations of what can be done. What team members should realize is that there are great team building activities out there that do not require a ropes course, that push your limits mentally and physically and allow the team to use all its power to replicate and solve work and organizational problems. What it takes is a paradigm shift in the thought process of the ropes course facilitator and the organization wishing to take part in the ropes course experience. This paradigm shift is the realization that team work requires all of the team to be present and active for a return on investment in the workplace.Be an informed consumer of your team building needs and realize that success comes to those who choose unconventional paths for team building. A great team building facilitator takes the time to get to know your group and gives the team leaders open and honest feedback about what is best to accomplish your team goals.Realize that you do not need a ropes course or a climbing tower to make a breakthrough in your leadership and teams' potential. What you need is a great environment and open dialog to see where the path you are on is taking your team. Push past the comfort zone and change your view on what team building is and you will find success!
To learn about team building activities that are effective and are inclusive for all team shapes and sizes check out team building activities.
-Michael Cardus: An adventure consultant and experiential trainer for Create-Learning-Team Building. Located in Buffalo NY.http://create-learning.com/