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Archive for May, 2010

These are definitely not guys you can put in a circle and have talk about their feelings.”

Presenting a half-day Adventure Advantage™ event last week with the top-tier leadership team at a Fortune 50 company, Chess Edwards and I were warned repeatedly not to expect much. “Just suggest anything even hinting at ‘kumbaya’ and you can kiss your entire event goodbye,” we had been cautioned.  “These folks will stonewall you.  They will cross their arms, roll their eyes and you will be effectively marginalized for the rest of the day.”

Chess and I had no choice but to risk it.  After all, if we didn’t choose the unusual, the daring, the bold, we were not being congruent with our own core message.  But I must admit – as at the start of any expedition with an uncertain outcome – we were nervous.

I did the keynote, unfolding stories of life and death… the search for meaning and personal significance. Chess followed up with an interactive coaching session, helping folks find their own workplace adventurer. Animated, revelatory conversations filled the room.

By the time we got to the outdoor experience people were into it.

They chose wooden ‘totems’ to represent their beliefs, painted them with bright colors and began sharing personal values. People held up crazy-colored ducks, palm trees, sailboats. They worked together to gracefully complete a series of tasks that seemed initially to be impossible. Then they cheered.

In a final debrief people committed to specific actions.  A different feel was now in the air. There were heart-felt smiles. Laughter. By all accounts, in three hours and forty-five minutes (four hours minus a ‘nature’ break) something remarkable had transpired.

But how?

Firstly, we had the support of a visionary and charismatic team-leader who lent us the credibility necessary to enlist the full participation of the attendees. That was essential.

Chess and I then invoked the metaphor of adventure – the challenge of creating a truly ‘connected’ team. We dove deep. We climbed high. We did not relent. Participants rose to the occasion and the view was exhilarating  – the ‘inward’ equivalent of the ‘outward bound’ experience. The entire leadership team shared a mountaintop moment that would serve them in real life situations for some time to come.

What did Chess and I learn?

Never believe the judgments and limitations we tend to place on others… and ourselves.  When given the opportunity most of us will strive heroically to communicate authentically.  In the most beaten-down of corporate hearts there remains a soul craving for an invitation to come out, show itself… and play. It just takes skill, finesse and courageous leadership to make the summons stick.

After lunch, our job done, Chess and I grabbed a cab for the airport.  We last glimpsed the team tackling ‘nuts and bolts’ issues outdoors under the resort gazebo. It appeared they were having a good time and addressing serious issues handily… in a circle.

It looked pretty ‘kumbaya’ to me

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