“What the heck are we doing out here?”
My client, a leader from a prominent software firm, admitted that these were the words that ran through her head at the beginning of her company’s team building program a few weeks ago. They hadn’t done an event like this before, the Global VP was worried about people opting out, and, to top it all off, we were having a big spring snow storm.
As the lead facilitator, I knew I had my work cut out for me. It was a room full of people – about 50 folks from all over the world. The first hurdle to face was the group’s idea of “corporate team building”. I had promised the leadership team that this event was NOT going to be your typical holding hands, ‘kum-ba-yah’ scenario but, in order to get this off the ground, I had to quickly convince the rest of the group of the same thing. I did the moonwalk, cracked some zippy one-liners and felt the ice was broken: we had initial buy-in.
Then, there was the weather. It had been raining on and off throughout the day and by the time we started it had turned in to snow – a lot of snow.
Having done this work for the past 14 years I know with certainty that some of the most successful and memorable events we’ve ever run have been in inclement weather. I might even say *because of* inclement weather. Whenever my clients ask, “what happens if it rains” or “do we do this even if it snows?”, I confidently tell them of my personal experience and assure them that we will run the event no matter the weather and promise it’ll be worth it. They don’t truly believe me until they experience it for themselves.
This group was case in point.
As my client was retelling her story of hesitation, she went on to say that at first she and her team were acting “kinda whiney” but once “the competition factor set in” they had a blast. “It happened just like you said it would happen!”
I could barely hear her words over the rowdy voices of the rest of the group. We were now at a historic local restaurant for the event closing. The teams had braved the conditions, finished their adventure and were celebrating their success with a raucous happy hour. People were shaking our hands, laughing, telling their stories, and saying thank you to the Spark4 crew. I leaned in closer to listen and talk with my client, she reiterated, “Thank you. That was SO much fun!”.
I guarantee that she was not the only one “whining” and wondering “what the heck are we doing out here” at the start. If left up solely to the individual I bet not a single person would have participated in the activity given the corporate team building stigma and the unexpected weather. However, something special happened. It’s the ‘something’ that makes me love the work I do.
Each person chose to give into the idea, just a little, and let go of control, just a little, and together all the “just a little-s” became enough to spark a fire. As they witnessed each other participating, playing, and competing, the collective sense of “we’re in this together” grew in strength. By the time they crossed the finish line, they were totally unphased by the rain, sleet or snow (or the moose – true story), instead, it was all about the team and the accomplishment.
I’ve seen it unfold this way so many times and it’s what inspires me the most.