Over the years I have had the dubious honor of attending many team building exercises. These are usually intended by management to build team spirit among their employees. “Esprit de corps” is the term that comes to mind. From what I have learned, there are three ways to build this bond that employer’s desire.
First is through all kinds of stupid trust exercises where people fall backwards and hope their co-workers catch them. Second is through solving problems through voluntary cooperation and sharing of knowledge. The third is through shared suffering. Yesterday we mostly hit upon the first and third, mostly the third.
One of the guys with Vestas is a serious advocate for fitness. He lives in Boulder so naturally he is into rock climbing, hiking, and bottled water. He is in incredible shape and decided that we would all work in a more cohesive unit if we shared lots of muscle fatigue and finger abrasions. We went to an indoor climbing gym first thing in the morning. Not just any climbing gym, but the largest, tallest, most-in-your face climbing gym in all of Colorado.
Yes I did climb all the way to the top, over forty feet. And I climbed successfully three and a half times. Ok, the last time wasn’t all the way to the top, hence the half time. We spent four hours climbing various diabolically designed walls. By the time we were done, some of us much earlier than others, most of us couldn’t raise our arms over our shoulders. My grip was gone. I was becoming really concerned that I would have trouble with fine motor skills; zippers require a manual dexterity that may problematic. I stopped drinking so much water.
After lunch it was time to do some hiking. Our upper bodies were completely useless but, our legs still functioned. This was apparently an intolerable condition. In team building everything must be made to suffer equally. It’s a P&C (HR) thing.
Our hike was up a trail at the foot of the Flatirons. By up, I do mean up. We went from 5300’ to 6800’ in elevation over the 2.2 mile hike. Our guide (health and fitness Nazi) said that it would be a “mild” hike. The further along the trail we went the more we questioned his definition of the word mild. After the second mile we passed a sign that said “Chappaqua trail, .22 miles to the Arch. So we had a little less than a quarter of a mile to go, a good sign. Then the trail changed to stairs made out of rocks, roots, and flagstone. For those who are keeping track, that’s one thousand, one hundred, and sixty one feet of stairs. My legs felt like my arms. I didn’t think I would make it. Many didn’t.
Then on the way down I found out that a different set of muscles are used in the legs to keep you from running down stairs than are used to trudge up stairs. Yes, trudge is the best description.
I got home just in time to find that sitting in a car motionless for over an hour is not the best way to work out muscle fatigue.
The team building was, in my opinion, a success. Through shared suffering and a common enemy everyone that participated seems to be a little closer. The group is now little more tolerant of each others quirks, a little less competitive, and in time they will eventually forgive our guide. Mild also has new meaning.
My muscles have a mild ache. But I will survive.