Team Building Exercises - The Risk of Going Forward
Ask yourself this: Are you
getting what you want in your life? Are you satisfied where you’re at or do you want more? Are you ready to challenge yourself in order to move forward on to something new and better? What are you so committed to in your present situation that you will settle for what you have always gotten in the past?
I think we can all agree that, generally, it is better to go forward than backwards. Ahead of you there is almost always opportunity for growth and reward. But, what if there is more than one path, or more than one choice ahead of you? In fact, what if there are several choices in front of (or even behind) you? What if the options ahead are tough and there is no guarantee your first choice will yield a reward? And, what if your choice, your path, and the outcome of your decision has an affect on people who are close to you? Is standing still a option? At one point or another it will be up to you to choose, but can you make the tough decisions? Are you brave enough to choose what matters most?
When I talk to groups about this subject and ask them these questions, I’m always met with the same set of responses. First, there is the look – a sort of bewildered, baffled look. Then, a variation on one or more of the following:
Them: What on earth are you talking about? [When all else fails, go into denial.]
Me: I’m talking about you getting what you want.
- or -
Them: I can’t make that kind of choice. [When you’ve already given up.]
Me: You can make any kind of choice you want.
- or -
Them: You don’t know my situation. [My personal favorite one-upmanship of who has it tougher or who has suffered more.]
Me: No, I don’t know your personal situation and I don’t pretend to know.
- or -
Them: If I make a wrong choice, you don’t know what that would do to my family or my company. [Oh, how selfless! I’ll get to this one below.]
I may not know your personal story, your dreams or your fears. But, here’s what I do know: Ahead of you there may be some tough choices, but there is also opportunity for growth and reward. I have compassion and empathy for you because I have been there, too. I promise I will always try to understand your point of view. But, I will also continue to challenge you and ask you again: What are you so committed to that you are willing to settle for what you have always gotten before?
When I do seminars and team building exercises with corporations, I sometimes use an activity called the “Electric Maze.” The Electric Maze is a six-by-nine-foot piece of carpet comprised of one-foot carpet squares. Underneath each square are wires with sensors. The sensors in each square can be turned on-and-off separately. If you step on a square that’s turned on, you hear a beeping sound. If the sensor is not turned on, there is no beeping sound.
In this team building exercise, teams use the Electric Maze as a tool to understand team dynamics and how they experience taking a risk. Each team member makes their way across the maze one person at a time, one square at a time until they hit a beeping square. The trick is to cross the maze from one square to another without setting off any beeping squares.
When you step on a beeping square going forward, all you have to do is turn around and come off the carpet without setting off another beeping square! There is no penalty for going forward and hitting a beeping square, but there is a penalty for hitting a beeping square on your way back.
So what happens is, you depend upon your teammates and colleagues to help you remember which squares beeped on your way in. That way, you can get back off the carpet without setting one off again and getting a penalty.
But, a funny thing happens in this team building exercise. Remember, there is no penalty for stepping on a beeping square going in. But, when a person is going forward and they hit a beeping square, they automatically freeze. They stop because there is an automatic groan from their team! And they say, “Oh, I can’t believe it!”
Now, they’re not penalized for stepping on a beeping square going forward. But they are penalized for talking! So saying “Oh, I can’t believe it!” gets them a penalty.
But for some strange reason, that doesn’t change things. Every time we do this team building exercise Electric Maze with teams, we see the same thing happen over and over again. Right away, the team creates a culture that makes it unsafe for a person to step on a beeping square as they go forward. There’s no penalty for it, but it sounds like there’s a penalty. They can’t know which squares are going to beep, but they believe they’ve made a mistake. And the team penalizes them for it.
The more often they hit a beeping square, the less support they get from their teammates. After a while, they actually get abandoned! So, when they have to turn around and come back, they need their team’s support, but they don’t have it! So a person gets stuck out there on the carpet, trying to get off without setting off a beeping square because there is a penalty for hitting a beeping square on the way back out. But their team isn’t with them. Nobody helps.
What is the beeping square going forward? The beeping square going forward is just information. It’s just data you can use on the way back. That’s all it is. It’s just a beeping square, an experience in life.
In fact, the team should get excited whenever someone hits a beeping square. They should celebrate the fact that they’ve found a beeping square! It is the process of elimination. The beeping squares are actually helping the team become more successful – if only they could see it that way. And it’s the same in life. When we make a mistake or something goes wrong, it only means we’ve found a beeping square. It’s not good or bad. It’s just information. It’s just data we can use the next time. It’s just a beeping square.
In the same way when you are making a sales call, and the customer says No, it’s just a beeping square. It’s not rejection. It doesn’t mean you or your product is worthless. It doesn’t mean you’re lousy at your job. It’s just a beeping square. It doesn’t even mean you made a mistake. Maybe you did everything right. But, I’ve got news for you – even when you do make a mistake it’s just a beeping square! That’s all a mistake is.
So, go back to the top of this article and ask yourself all those questions again but this time with a different perspective. If you know the only risk of trying something new and different is just information to find a better path to success, what’s the real risk? What new information will you learn today by taking a risk?
Learn about team building speaker, Jim Jackson.