Successful team building

by Ian Campbell October 6, 2022

I remember the old days when corporate Outward Bound programs with rope bridges and trust falls were all the rage in team-building activities. Now I love my staff, and if you ask them in front of me, they’ll tell you I’m the best boss ever, but I am in no way delusional enough to do a trust fall with any of them.

Our team outing last summer was a trip to the British Virgin Islands (Instagram link). Three, 51-foot powered catamarans with no captains made for a challenging, and fun week. Ignoring the alcohol-based stories, driving the boat, picking up moorings, tying fenders (really, you guys can’t tie a knot), and filling water tanks (I kid you not, both Sam and Charlie dragged the water hose to the end of the dock then stared at both ends as if water would magically pour out), put constant demands on the team for mutual support.

I recently saw an updated video of that week and that got me thinking about why it was so successful.

First, it was honest. No contrived escape room or axe throwing (a horrifying thought), the week was an honest adventure with unseen challenges to overcome.

Second, real challenges. You can’t moor a boat like that by yourself. The team needs to rely on each other to get the task done and there’s no option to fail. The smile on Isaac’s face when, as captain, he was pulling into a mooring at Peter Island said it all. By that point, he knew his team would do their jobs flawlessly and they did. Of course, I still told him he came into the bay like the opening scene from a Fast And Furious movie but in reality, I couldn’t be prouder of what he accomplished on his boat in that one week.

Third, we failed at a few things. Not many but there were challenges that had to be overcome (food, water, rum), and team dynamics that required diplomacy to survive the week. It worked because it had to.

Fourth, it was genuinely fun. Running out of alcohol on the last day only to find out one boat had a secret stash of tequila turned into an act that bordered on piracy. Trevor and Cam in matching speedo’s (don’t ask but we have the picture), and the two nights at the Willy-T’s were memorable, to say the least.

I could go on but for me it was the best team-building week I could hope for, and that was because it was disguised as a fun company trip.

I’m thinking of Kilimanjaro next.