Unbridled Blog: Back Up and Rolling!

And what better way to get the show back on the road than this classic example of Unbridled team building. Forced team building, as we all know, is notoriously artificial, awkward, and a complete waste of time. And blog posts on the topic abound with inspiring titles like “Five Team Building Activities Your Employees Won’t Hate.”

A Decidedly Different Approach

The solution business experts offer for this loathing is to “plan excursions that best fit the company’s culture.” Good answer! Not that we needed to hear it from outside experts. We know exactly how to plan outings that best fit our culture. Our ‘decidedly different’ way of being sets us apart with clients, and is one of the reasons that Unbridled team building ends up looking something like this.

The Rationale

It all started on a cross-country RV trip. With wheels turning {Stan’s, that is}, a simple “what if?” followed by a few phones calls turned into a gutsy “why not?” that he explained this way after it was all said and done.

“The corporate culture can create restraints against being truly known, so it’s not surprising that people view work as something they have to do instead of something they get to do. What if we turned things upside down by putting that characteristic of the work place in an uncomfortable position? What if team building and employee appreciation events don’t have to be fancy? I believe “fancy” can actually be patronizing, because it’s born out of guilt when a company doesn’t invest in truly getting to know its employees.

People want to be known … so I wanted to engage our team in an experience away from the norm, to strip away the typical facades associated with work, and introduce a certain rawness to the dynamic. I wanted there to be things to overcome that were real, not contrived … with natural elements of adventure, fear, and risk.

I knew it was gutsy, and that it would involve a huge risk and expense, but relationships are that important to me. I want us to be known as a company that values interaction and relationship over risk. Friendships are worth it.”   

Reactions to the Idea    

“40 strangers, 12 RVs, 3 hours away, 2 days in the wilderness?  That’s way outside my comfort zone.”  This one statement from my sampling of interviews best captured the predominant reaction. Apprehension mixed with excitement. One in five held the opinion that it was “weird.”

The Planning

“Was it hard to pull off?” I ask the planners, thinking that it must have been a logistical nightmare.

“Not at all,” they tell me. “It was easy … {yeah, right} except for figuring out where to go and finding a campground that could and would accommodate us.” {I knew it!}  Site selection, in other words. Part of the challenge and the fun of what we do.

Another challenge was grasping the essence of Stan’s vision to ensure it would be carried out. This is when it hit me. The decidedly different approach our clients value about us really does start with who we are, what we value, and our Ways of Being. It was clear that the desire to fulfill the vision was motivated by a high regard for the man who envisioned it, as well as for the co-workers who would experience it.

It’s the Little Things

Amenities matter, right? It’s why we launched Intentionally Giftd for our clients. And it’s what made a huge difference for one of our new hires, just 2 days into the job and terrified at the thought of being thrown into a crazy team-building excursion with complete strangers.

Just how much did the little things matter? The branded hats and flashlights? The trail mix and traveling tunes? A lot!

“I was so impressed by the attention to detail. So much thought went into the trip that I knew there was something unique about Unbridled Solutions. They created an experience.”

Some Things Just Can’t Be Programmed

One of the main things people loathe about team building is the contrived, often childish, programming and activities. Once again, we couldn’t agree more. And that’s why we opted for more of an un-planned non-program that participants described something like this:

It started with a little “social comfort” to get the party started, a caravan of RVs heading up the mountain {with designated drivers, of course}, and a completely random sampling of the following: smile for selfies, laugh, eat trail mix, star gaze, stay up all night, smile some more, a few more shots of “social comfort” documented by more selfies, followed by more and louder laughter than neighboring campers would have liked; hike, eat more trail mix, lunch with new friends, pull out the guitars, the banjo, and the harmonica; sing around the campfire, dance around the campfire, rock the RV, put up with the rocking if you’re the one inside the RV trying to sleep, because the value of what was happening overhead was worth way more than a night’s sleep.

Oh … and I almost forgot to mention the childish games thrown together at the last minute, ‘cuz last time we checked, “childish” was loads of fun. And, once again, we were glad to prove the business experts wrong.

Outcomes and Takeaways

So, do team-building activities really work? Well, it depends. The corporate world is forever trying to answer that question, but in our world the answer seems to be a decidedly definite Yes. Except for “one out of five,” that is. Remember the one who preferred something more traditional? Well, here are 3 perfectly legitimate reasons why:

  1. The dilemma of forfeiting time with family for a work-related weekend away
  2. Preference for keeping work and personal life separate, and interaction with co-workers more professional
  3. Discomfort with lack of structure and random people driving RVs

And still, this participant had a great time hiking and spending time together, while others echoed this sentiment:  “It was the single greatest team-building outing I’ve ever experienced.” 

Objectively Speaking   

And did we achieve the traditional work-related objectives of team building? We have no idea. We weren’t trying to, but here’s what we do know of the experience from a few others who were there.

  • “Since the RV trip, I feel more connected with more people; not as nervous to collaborate; more free to approach others without fear. It helped to bridge the gap between teams.”
  • “The X-factor was that we didn’t get shut down … by the campground or Stan. We were free to be Unbridled.”
  • “It was beautiful. It created a bond that only a radical shared experience affords. We returned from the trip with a new sense of trust and a deeper understanding of each other. We got to know people and their personalities in ways that just can’t happen on the job.”I’m grateful for a company that values me, and recognizes the importance of balancing work with nurturing the soul.”
  • “I knew it was a great company when I accepted the job, but after the RV trip, I knew it was also a company of great people – and something I wanted to be a part of long-term.”

And that’s all we need to know. All we could have hoped for. It totally exceeded expectations. But, because we’re always looking to improve processes and outcomes, here’s one final insight from the planners for future team-building excursions. “Next time, we’ll take amenity gifts to the campground hosts and neighboring campers for putting up with us. Or better yet, we’ll just rent the whole campground.”  

Be Unbridled: Value interaction and relationship over risk.

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