Vernon Sanders Law was a major league pitcher for the Pirates in the 1960 World Series. I bet you’ve heard this saying once or twice, “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” He’s that guy. But my favorite quote of his is this one: “Experience is a hard teacher. It gives the test first, and then the lesson.”
This is exactly what happens when we facilitate an experiential team retreat. Dozens of practices over the last few years have engaged our team of facilitators to assist in creating, planning, and delivering what we call a Recalibration Retreat. It’s a chance for teams to “recalibrate” together around a common vision and set of strategies.
One of our responsibilities is to investigate, uncover, and help address any hidden barriers to the team achieving its vision and mission. Once we discover the issue(s), we custom-craft experiential exercises so the team can uncover the issues themselves as well as create the process for their moving past it. These exercises involve a test (of sorts) first, and if we’ve selected it correctly and facilitated it well… the lesson always follows.
Here’s an example from a dental team in the Midwest which demonstrates how experiential exercises can test your team and help them find for themselves the inherent lessons within the test… which then lead straight to the solutions.
“The issues holding us back seemed to always occur when our team was under tremendous stress. We did fine when things ran smoothly but virtually melted-down as a team when they didn’t. Katherine arranged to have our meeting at a local climbing gym which had a conference room upstairs which looked down over the climbing walls.
When it was time for the exercise, we were each paired with a partner and then decided which one of us would be the “climber” and which one would be the “belay” holding the safety ropes from the ground. Our two-person teams then had to compete with other pairs in a race to get our climber to the top of the wall first. The only problem was our climber was blindfolded and the belay had to not only control the safety ropes but also envision the path of footholds and finger-holds that would get the climber to the top, all the while shouting out the instructions to their climber against the background noise of other teams who were doing the exact same thing. It was instant chaos and, of course, felt strangely familiar to what happens when the stress goes up in our practice. After a long struggle to get someone to the top and lots of yelling, miscommunications, and a few folks just flat giving up… one team finally got someone to the top though they were more frustrated and exhausted than exuberant and triumphant.
We then regrouped and debriefed about what happened and why, as well as what we learned from it. We then strategized how to communicate differently under the pressure and on the second go-round all the teams were neck-in-neck to the top with the winning team beating out the second place winners by only a few seconds but beating the overall times from the first round by about half! It was truly an eye-opening experience and Katherine’s team was masterful at bringing out just what we needed to apply what we learned back home in our work environment. We’ve been a different and much better, more cohesive team ever since that experience.
And to top it off, we had one teammate who refused to even attempt to climb the wall at the beginning of the day. Katherine didn’t force or push her but simply asked if she would be willing to save her final decision until right before we started. By the time we got to the actual exercise, she had changed her mind and still scared and embarrassed, decided to give it a chance. The absolute best part of the entire day was when her partnership won the entire competition! Seeing her climb quickly to the top with great effort was something I’ll never forget. It was a breakthrough for her in terms of handling her fears and limiting beliefs and she still speaks about it to this day. It was truly life-changing. We could have listened and talked forever about the same information and lessons but by experiencing it within the facilitation expertise of Katherine’s team, we were able to discover, embrace, and apply the lessons on an entirely new level. We’ve agreed that we’ll put our Annual Calibration Team Retreat on our calendar every year and look forward to the next round of deep learning and barrier-removal for our team and practice.”
Experience gives the test first, and then the lesson. Really the only way to have true transformation for individuals and teams. This week, discuss with your team about how you can have more time together with less information and more transformation. We’re here to help if you need us.
“We seek too much information and not enough transformation.”
~~ Shirdi Sai Baba