Bright and early, one Saturday morning, I made my way to Grahame Robb Associates – Wokefield Park ready for Team Zhuhai’s Team Building weekend. We started out by gathering in a small hut, by some rather enticing structures, which unfortunately had to wait….
We gathered in the hut to (as a team) review the output of a Belbin questionnaire we’d previously completed, and discuss where each of us placed in Belbin’s team roles. There are 3 action oriented roles – Shaper, Implementer and Completer Finisher; 3 people oriented roles – Co-ordinator, Teamworker and Resource Investigator and 3 cerebral roles – Plant, Monitor Evaluator and Specialist. We had quite the spread amongst our team – this we worked out, was a good thing. We first gathered in the hut to (as a team), review the output of our Belbin questionnaire, and discuss the output of where we placed in the circle.
Following a thorough team review and discussion of our team strengths, we stepped outside for the first of our outdoor team challenges – helium stick. We lined up in two rows facing each other. We were then introduced to the Helium Stick – a long, thin, lightweight rod. We lay our palms face down and placed our arms out. The Helium Stick was then placed on the backs of our hands. Everyone had to be touching the stick (now, and throughout). The challenge was ‘simple’ – lower the Helium Stick to the ground. Let the task begin….
What was so surprising, was that mysteriously the stick kept ‘floating’ up rather than coming down, causing much laughter. Initially we were definitely a bit confused about the crazy behaviour of the Stick. It should have been so simple to just lower it all the way onto the ground. This exercise was deceptively simple but a very powerful exercise for learning how to work together and communicate (or not, as was our case!).
We made our way back into the hut for some further Belbin discussions, and how what we’d learned about our team roles could play a part us being a winning team – what did we see as the most important behaviours to being a winning team?
With the conclusion of the Belbin discussions, next up was the red/blue counter game. We were split into 3 teams and each given an envelope which contained a number of red and blue counters. There were different counters for each of the different teams. We were giving instructions which told us how playing a counter per round (there were 10 of these), we could earn/lose points depending on the combination of coloured counters played by the other team. My team (one) had a discussion and concluded that we were not one big team, but 3 separate teams. We would therefore look to maximise our points – whatever that took. Team two requested a meeting, where we discussed a strategy to maximise our points earning. I took this information back to my team, where we immediately decided to align for the next round. After another meeting with a representative from each of the other 2 teams, we again repeated the strategy, so that we were all on the same page. On returning back to my team, we had group consensus to go it alone, deviate from the strategy, and look to maximise our points. Sure enough after the 10 rounds, we came out victorious – or did we?! All 3 teams returned to the hut for a game debrief, where we were told that we weren’t intact 3 teams, but 1 single team. They definitely tricked us!!!
Anyway, we basked in our glory, feeling very proud of our deviousness, and then after a spot of lunch, made our way back outside to the giant structures. The group split between a choice of 1 of 2 activities – Jacob’s Ladder or Trapeze. I chose trapeze.
Jacob’s Ladder – a giant swinging ladder. Three people attempt to climb as high up the ladder as possible. It is important to work as a team in order to make progress. This task is quite physical and involves an amount of strength, flexibility and agility. As the team climbs higher the challenge increases as the space between the rungs gets larger. The rest of the team are involved in holding the ropes and offering encouragement and help. The climbers can be lowered to the ground at any time. Not everyone got to the top but they certainly enjoyed trying!
Trapeze – ‘the leap of faith‘. We first got into harnesses and hard hats, ready to climb the you up nice and safe before you begin to climb up the pole – to a platform at the top. No one mentioned how much the pole would wobble, and even the platform at the top. First up, once I’d reached the platform, tricky part was actually getting two feet on and being able to stand while I waited for my next team mate to join me. Once he’d also scaled the pole, and together we discussed how to get him to join me on the incredibly small and wobbly platform – no mean feat! After a little trial and error, and a lot of talking between us, we gathered our breath, counted to three, and then for the leap and try to catch the trapeze bar. Great fun!!
… and a leap of faith.
The next activity was the Mohawk Walk – as a team (crew!) we eyed up the task ahead of us, and (I suspect) individually (in our own minds) started to figure out how we could get all the way round the course, without touching the floor. Little did we know, we’d have a time limit (40mins) and an extra difficulty – getting a bell around too, and without it ringing!!! So once we’d spent a few minutes having the rules clarified, we quickly (this would be the only thing we would do quickly!!!!) jumped onto the starting platform. With all of the crew now on the platform and ready to make our way, 1 by 1 across the first wire, we appeared to deliberate for what seemed like an eternity. I was at the back of the platform and fighting every urge to issue some instructions, or at least, to get someone – anyone, to take a first step. Alas, finally the first crew member reached the first platform, and promptly ushered the next to join him. The next dilemma was, do we send them further ahead down the course, or do we try and stick together. Of the total 40 mins, I’m guessing we took around 15/20 to get half of the crew to the first main tree (platform 2). By this time, I was no longer able to keep quiet, with those closest to me certainly hearing my frustration at our team’s over-thinking of everything, and our collective reluctance to take a (small) risk.
At about (I guess) min 30, we actually started working like a team. Those who had made it further through the course were able to look back and with both their lessons learned and different perspective, able to share directions and words of encouragement for those at the back. We really started motoring, quickly moving from one platform to the next, taking a few risks, but really starting to make some significant progress! Before we knew it, 40 minutes was up. Given the progress we were making, we pleaded for another 5-10 minutes (which was granted) in order to see how far we could get the bell and the first crew member – they made it to the second to last platform. All in all, a good team performance (eventually). As is now becoming a standard event, once time was up, we all re-grouped to debrief and reflect on our performance – what went well, what could we have done differently, and what should we have avoided. The general consensus was that we should have taken a few more calculated risks, and not tried to solve the whole problem without at least trying. A good lesson for more than just this exercise I think!
Thinking that today’s challenges might finally be over, we head back to the hut only to learn that there would be one more activity left – Structures. We were divided back into our teams from the morning’s activity, and tasked with how quickly we could replicate a structure blueprint, using 15 planks. Once we had mastered the structure, we were then to remember exactly how we’d built it in the first instance, dis-assemble, and then under stopwatch re-assemble in the fastest possible time. This activity certainly tested our team’s ability to work together and refine processes, in order to produce rapid results.
Following the conclusion of the last team building exercise (only because we had ran out of time, as unfortunately not that all groups had succeeded on our final mission), we finally wrapped up in the hut, and made our way to main building – the bar!!
Following an evening of getting to know the crew a bit more, we had an early night (ish!!!!!!) and readied ourselves for another few hours together the next day, making some team decisions, and getting an update on some of our tactics… We discussed how we would spend our crew fund, always keeping in the back of our minds that Sir Robin says, the Clipper Yachts already have everything we need, and nothing we don’t – the yoghurt maker was swiftly struck from the list.
As a reminder, and as I’m now not only Team Zhuhai’s Assistance Team Co-ordinator, but now also Fundraising Manager, we are all doing this adventure for different personal reasons, but also to raise awareness and money for the great work UNICEF do. Please dig deep and show your appreciation too. You can do so via my JustGiving page here: https://www.justgiving.com/TC-1 This will also feed into our overall Team Zhuhai fund raising efforts, and into the overall Clipper Crew.
My next blog entry will include all the details from my final Level 4 Training, and lead up to RACE START on 1st Sept.