Doc Martyn’s Soul: Can Marketers Reach Higher by Climbing Ropes?

Team building can often have negative connotations. How many times have you heard someone complain about trust falls? But businesses engage in team building for obvious reasons: to help teams work together and learn from the experience. If you’re intent on developing staff then team building exercises can certainly offer positive results if people believe in the purpose of the exercises and enjoy them.

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Last week the marketing team headed out to the Eastern Nebraska 4-H Camp just south of Gretna, NE. The camp has an extensive ropes course: low elements, high elements, and a big eight-piece Odyssey course that sits forty feet above ground.

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As part of a strategic planning retreat, the team worked with a facilitator to get loose and comfortable, playing games that encouraged everyone to think and communicate before donning helmets and harnesses and heading up a rope net to begin the Odyssey course.

Each element of the course provides its own challenge, and our facilitator added wrinkles on each one to push us to work as a team, conquer unexpected obstacles, and to learn more about each other and how we work as a group. For some of the team, being that high off the ground presented its own challenge; for others, the balance and technical aspects of the course proved tougher. For others, still, the course and skills required came as second nature. No matter whether the individual had to overcome personal challenges or took to the ropes like a monkey in the trees, the team came together to work as one to succeed and persevere. Laughter abounded throughout the day. Jokes rang out constantly. Each person, even when struggling with a particular obstacle, took solace in the power of their peers’ good humor and spirit.

The challenge now is to take the experience of working as a team on specific goals on a ropes course and turn that toward working as a team on specific goals at our individual desks as we strive to market and sell our books. Did we learn things about our collective unit that will help us succeed in our daily responsibilities? I think we did. At the end of the day, everyone had a look on their face that indicated pride at succeeding, as well as pride in their peers’ success.

Our facilitator encouraged us to consider the nature of what we were doing up on the ropes as we completed each exercise, and he drew our attention to how those same things might apply to the business environment. Each of us will no doubt take something different from the experience, but I think we’ll be closer as a team. We have a better understanding of our individual strengths and weaknesses, and are ready to take on new challenges. So, when someone balks at the idea of learning to trust your teammates, take a moment to think about the benefits of doing so. After all, if you can trust your co-workers to guide you through a ropes course at forty feet with a blindfold on, I’m guessing you’re going to feel a lot better about trusting them in the work place as well.

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-Martyn (@martynbeeny)