Experiential team building


What do sailing, cooking, rock climbing and work have in common? More than you may think. If you’re looking for something to do as a team, and you’re tired of the same old golf outing or ball game, and you want more value for your investment, consider trying one of the many experiential team building experiences in your area.  It can rejuvenate spirits, build trust and improve communications—not to mention be a heck of a lot of fun!

Some programs are facilitated by independent consultants. Others are offered at resorts, community centers or run by non-profit groups.  You can even arrange your own off-site teambuilding session at a local restaurant or college. For example, a community center, such as the Town Square, in Green Lake, Wisconsin, recently hosted a team event, where executives tapped into their artistic and creative skills. They surprised themselves with their creative talents and learned a few new things about each other in the process. 

Teams will get the most benefits if they work with an experienced, well-trained program leader who can combine the goals of the team with a customized experience. While all the activities are fun, the best experiences are facilitated and relate back to the workplace. They can be combined with paper and pencil instruments and debriefing sessions, so the group can discuss what they learned about themselves and how to apply it back at work.

I recently spoke with several leaders of well-respected experiential learning centers. “The team leaves with a powerful story of what they can be as a team,” explained Suzanne Hartung, Manager of the Kohler Experiential Learning Center, in Kohler, Wisconsin. “They realize that if they could figure out how to sail this boat, cook this meal, or even experience failure together—and survive—they are stronger together than they thought they could be.”  

The Kohler programs include some typical team activities, such as “ropes courses.” (You can choose from high ropes or low ropes, depending upon the amount of challenge and risk you want to experience.  Even though the boldest among you think you have nerves of steel, you may learn a thing or two about risk taking when you are standing on a tall platform in your harness—held by your teammates-- telling yourself it’s safe to jump.) 

Most experiential programs take advantage of their geographic location, or their other assets. For example, Hartung’s program takes full advantage of the fact it is part of the Kohler Company, which owns The American Club, a five-star resort.  

For instance, the Team Cuisine experience takes full advantage of the resort’s world-class chefs. If you love the idea of combining food, collegiality, and community, your team could participate in the Cookin’ for Hunger experience. Your team would go to a local farm and learn about sustainable agriculture, harvest vegetables and then cook a meal for themselves and a local shelter. Teams learn about collaboration and project management, along with giving to the community. A related event is Cookin’ on Fire, where self-directed teams have to completely create a meal cooked over an open fire, at the river’s edge. They have a timeline, budget and have to use project management skills.  

Is wine your thing? The Vino Challenge teaches team members how to taste wine before they break into groups and are given a wine with no label. Their task is to create a label and marketing plan and pitch it to judges.  

The Nature Place Leadership Development Center, outside of Colorado Springs, takes advantage of its location with rappelling, rock climbing and orienteering.  Their proximity –The Continental Divide—provides the perfect venue for fossil tours and geology education. Samantha Peck, Associate Director, shares Hartung’s enthusiasm, “They learn about their strengths and weaknesses and see the unexpected value that everyone brings. They have more empathy for one another that they bring back to the workplace.” 

Hartung agrees, “It’s amazing what a day of challenge and adventure can do for a team! Not only are they having fun, they are seeing one another in an entirely new light.  They can use the team building activity to enhance their communication, collaboration and problem solving. Some teams refer back to the experience long after the day is past, referring to how they took a calculated risk or pushed themselves beyond their perceived limits.”  

Interested? Check the websites www.kohlerlearningcenter.com

www.thenatureplace.net and www.greenlaketownsquare.com 

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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