Corporate Climb: Rock Climbing Teambuilding Workshop

Corporate Climb: Rock Climbing Teambuilding Workshop

This unique program is an experiential team and leadership development workshop during which your team will:

  • experience working together as a team outside the workplace & build camaraderie
  • identify team, leadership and workplace dynamics; surface patterns of trust, communication and problem-solving
  • discuss how your experience relates to the workplace

After explaining some of the basics of the way in which we work, especially concerning the unique way that Wolf Management Consultants, Inc. has created a "business simulation" using a rock climbing wall, we make sure that everyone understands that our "Climb" challenge is a team challenge, not a rock climbing exercise. We emphasize "100% participation" -- but just like at work not every member performs the same function. There are multiple responsibilities and roles (i.e., belaying, climbing, technical coaching, motivational coaching, score keeping, and organizing). Some participants will choose to be climbers, others might choose to "belay" (managing the safety rope for the climber), still others may coach or keep score or help keep the team on track with their goals. The important point is that the team will be most successful when everyone contributes his/her own unique talents and works collaboratively toward a team goal.

Now that everyone understands they have different options for how they will participate in the climbing challenge, we outfit the climbers with safety equipment. After a demonstration of climbing and belaying technique we provide one-on-one instruction and give everyone a chance to practice both climbing and belaying. At this point typically those participants who may have been reluctant to climb quickly realize it¬s quite safe and doesn¬t require tremendous upper body strength, so, they give it a try. This usually results in much cheering and is highly motivating to the team because it shows that we can accomplish much more than we ever thought possible, if we just try! The support and trust of the team is critical to the success of each team member.

Once the team has mastered the skills necessary for a safe climb, we introduce a challenge. The challenge itself is customized to the team so that it simulates issues, strategies and challenges in the work environment. For example, a sales team might climb for different color "tags" placed on the wall with each tag representing $1M, 2M or $3M. An R&D team might be told they must retrieve these tags in a certain sequence, which represent the phases of a project. Leadership teams learn quickly in a "tethered" climb (where three or more climbers must climb tied together) that communication among an interdependent team requires vision and consistent feedback. Every challenge, however, requires the team to set goals, define roles, strategize, and work collaboratively. The emphasis is on the goal, not on how high any individual climbs.

The discussion and debriefing of the Climb is important to the afternoon¬s initiatives. Here we present research findings that stress the importance of 12 team characteristics — such as goal-setting, communication, trust, etc. By having the team assess their own performance on these dimensions, we are able to talk about their own team dynamics, and how those dynamics play out at work. We end with defining some "performance improvement goals" and a commitment from the team to practice some new behaviors.

Building on the performance improvement goals, participants are presented with an entirely new climbing challenge. The earlier initiative relied on individual contributions to the team. Our "tethered" challenge requires that teams work much more interdependently. As 3-4 individuals are tied together, they must climb in unison to achieve their goals. Once one individual "falls," the entire team "falls" with them, and the team must start over. This initiative is not as physically challenging as it is mentally challenging, as it requires the team to strategize much differently.

The final discussion of the day centers on the differences of the two team types, individual contributions vs. interdependence, and how the team can challenge themselves at work to continuously improve their relationships and processes. As personal learnings are shared among the team, individuals get a chance to talk about their personal experience and commitment to improving the team once returning to work.

One of the best things about experiential education is that the team learns from the immediate feedback provided by the experience itself. Participants immediately see the impact of their actions. Because participants on the ground have a better "big picture" perspective than the climbers, their coaching and communication are key success factors to the climber. Ongoing feedback helps the team readjust their goals and strategies. Belayers find out just how important a support role can be. And, teams who work cooperatively frequently exceed their own expectations for performance.


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