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Zip Lines, Leadership, and the Nature of Team Building
A few weeks ago my family and I went together to visit Treetop Quest, one of the outdoor team building adventure activities the Great Results Teambuilding has partnered with.
Treetop Quest is located off of I-85 in Northeast Georgia, and is an enjoyable day trip for groups in or around Atlanta, South Carolina, or surrounding areas.
Our day began with an introduction to their conference center and facilities, which were impressive. We then went outside to learn about using the safety equipment and maneuvering through the zip lines and other challenges. Treetop Quest offers five separate courses for clients to enjoy – each with a different and increasing level of difficulty.
We began at level two course, and had a great time. Then got more adventurous and the level three course, which was primarily zip line rides.
It was on the level four course that we experienced the first real difficulty.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t my youngest daughter who had trouble...
At one point, early on in the level four course, you are asked to cross a series of about twenty wooden swings that hover nearly forty feet above the ground. It was my older, 14 year-old daughter who, once she started to cross, became overwhelmed with fear and froze up for a moment...
She started to think about what could go wrong and expect the worst, and was paralyzed.
And that teachable moment offers a great example of how experiences like zip lines and team building challenges improve leadership and teamwork.
The three lessons that she will take away from our day in the trees are part of the many experiences and insights and opportunities for growth that your group will enjoy.
In her moment of fear, high above the ground, suspended by the strength and safety of her hands and her harness, she learned that:
1. You can lean on others experience and knowledge when you are unsure what to do
2. Leadership, even when there is fear involved, is willing to take the next step
3. A strong support system allows people to make mistakes and learn from them
First, when you reach a point in your leadership journey and are unsure of what you should do, you can always look to a mentor or coach or experienced coworker to get advice and encouragement about which direction to move in or how to navigate a difficult situation.
The truth is that there are very few new problems or challenges – but as new leaders, they are often unfamiliar territory. The wisest teammates and leaders are those willing to ask for and trust in the wisdom of those who have experienced similar circumstances or challenges.
Second, strong leaders and teammates recognize that fear is not meant to cause paralysis. Fear can be a tool we use to learn caution and increase awareness or preparation, but it should never lead to indecision or stagnation. Once they have gathered information and collaborated with others, great leaders take action.
It is impossible to steer a car that is parked. To navigate your team, there must be direction and momentum. And even if you begin in a wrong direction, your momentum and effort can be steered or adjusted when more information is acquired. The important thing is to DO something and take a step so you overcome the inertia of inactivity.
And that leads to our third lesson.
No team – whether in athletics, education, or business - has ever completed a project without experiencing a mistake or two. In fact, as John Wooden has said, “If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything… a doer makes mistakes.”
What makes your team strong is its ability to support each other through those mistakes and remain focused on and enthusiastic about accomplishing your goals. When you stumble, good teammates will be there to pick you up. And when your teammates stumble, it will be your job to do the same.
A famous story illustrating this involved IBM founder Thomas Watson and one of the company’s vice presidents. Fortune magazine describes a risky venture which ended in a colossal failure and ultimately cost IBM $10 million. When Watson called the young executive into his office, the man asked if he should submit his resignation.
Watson’s reply surprised him. "You must be kidding. We've just spent $10 million educating you.” Anyone making a serious mistake will hopefully learn something serious from it and be even more committed to performing well for the people who appreciate his efforts and ask simply that he do a better job the next time.
These three lessons are only a few of the ideas you may find worthy of discussion after your time on the Treetop Quest Zip Lines… You will undoubtedly experience many additional challenges and enjoy other insights about leadership and teamwork in the midst of your thrilling outdoor team building adventure there.
My daughter DID make it across the wooden swings.
And as she moved onto the next challenge, she wore a large smile and carried with her a little more pride along with a powerful set of lessons that she will be able to draw upon in the future in the variety of unknown circumstances she will encounter. She will be a better leader, and hopefully a better teammate as well.
And while zip lines are a fun outdoor option, the nature of team building does not require that you wear a harness and fly through the air hanging from a wire that is fifty feet above ground. Team building and leadership insights can be enjoyed in a number of different ways – whether in a conference setting, as a group retreat, or at your site.
Team building offers a fun, safe, non-threatening way to improve communication, teamwork, and leadership skills with the laughter and lessons that interactive group activities provide.
To learn more, just contact me!