Hiking your way to Teamwork

Teamwork has stood the test of time and continues to be a key factor in a company’s success in the long run. It is the indispensable edge in today’s competitive environments. More than individual talent however, companies are increasingly looking out for people who are culturally fit to be part of their organizations. An effective team can go on to deliver extraordinary results and achieve great outcomes for it is the combined effort of a diverse group of individuals bringing together an eclectic mix of skills, talents, various ways of thinking and experiences to strive towards a common goal. A team thus has more potential to achieve more than what a single genius of a mind ever can.

Whether in an educational setting such as in schools, universities or in corporate offices, the individual members of any team can be brilliant in their own right but if they work as a disjointed group and not as a cohesive unit, their effort doesn’t amount to much. All their hard work may go in vain because for a dysfunctional team, meetings are never compelling, decisions never get taken, task commitments are not made, delays become the norm and deadlines are never met, work keeps piling up and ultimately, the achievement of primary goals remain elusive.

All great teams have a few basic common foundations. Forming of great teams are mostly on top of these strong foundations. The members of a dream team demonstrate trust in each other and are always ready to have a lot of passionate debate & healthy conflict. They ask questions, actively cooperate, support each other and commit to all group decisions made. They make their peers accountable without any personal discomfort and focus on the team goals and objectives rather than individual status or ego. Recruiters and employers invariably keep scouting for a ‘team player’ when interviewing prospective candidates. But it is not an easy task to identify a team player at the outset just by following the conventional screening & interview processes. It is also difficult to predict whether a bunch of people coming together to form a team will make an effective one. Also, it’s not easy to make them a cohesive unit by asking them to follow instructions or making them attend seminar or management courses on teamwork. How do you then ensure that a diverse group of individuals become your dream team? The answer perhaps lies in the great outdoors.

Hiking expeditions in the wilderness can help in this regard. The activity of hiking when done as a group can go a long way in building effective and well-functional teams. A group trek in a remote wilderness setting starting right from planning a route to reaching the summit or the destination overcoming various hurdles and challenges on the way has the perfect elements of bringing people together striving for a common goal. The activity itself forces the participants to depend on each other. It is an outdoor activity having an in-built mechanism to compel members of a group to support and help each other without which they may end up hampering their own individual progress.

The challenging natural environment on an expedition automatically provides the opportunities to learn from teamwork. The formidable obstacles on the way brings group together and compel them to use their complementary skills to achieve success. Imagine a remote area in the backcountry where you have only your teammates to rely on for everything. With limited resources at your disposal outside your comfort zones in an unfamiliar isolated area, you will be forced to communicate and cooperate with your fellow teammates to survive. From the planning stage to locating the trails, from reaching campsites and helping each other on the hike to pitching tents and shelters to sleep in, from finding a water source to cooking food for everyone, from cleaning utensils to ferrying the equipment load, from making a decision on which direction to follow to helping and treating the injured, all these come into play on an wilderness journey and that is when the real teamwork is can be experientially learnt and applied.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a school football team, or a bunch of university undergraduates working on an environmental project, or even the newly inducted employees of a company working together for business collaboration, the benefits of such a journey to improve team skills is applicable to any group. All will gain immensely by going on a hiking expedition.

In outdoor situations like these, the interpersonal interactions are raw and actions so real; reactions are authentic and emotions are all genuine. Pretentious and fake behaviors become obsolete in such real-life experiential settings. Initially the group members may encounter friction and difficulties on making their decisions and coming to a consensus. But soon they come around such hurdles and cooperate to achieve team outcomes. In such contexts, it becomes readily evident how working as a team achieves much more in quick time compared to an individual slogging it out. Hiking in a group helps build robust teams for it helps acknowledge and appreciate everybody’s differences and makes the team aware about each member’s strengths and weaknesses. Goals, be it reaching the summit or the next campsite for example, become shared pursuits and a genuine sense of collective purpose is noticeable.

Not surprisingly then, the adult or child participants of the group, who go through such experiences together as a team, form deep, special bonds and lifelong friendships. They tend to have a profound sense of respect for each other and demonstrate a very high level of trust in one another. Such outdoor encounters are so intense and rustic that team members become extremely comfortable and feel at ease with everyone else. They develop a very high degree of openness and are not afraid of being vulnerable in front of the others. These qualities or attributes which are non-existent in most dysfunctional teams form the basic foundations of highly effective teams. The ability to trust each other in difficult situations and cooperating to overcome adversities is the best way to lay the foundations of a great team. Thus trekkers develop social and interpersonal skills and start appreciating the power of collaboration. From strategizing to decision-making, to resolving conflicts and delegation of responsibilities, many important skills are honed. All these points make a solid case to start hiking with your team. Trekking in the wilderness can be the most effective way to form genuinely cohesive and resilient teams. So, instead of classroom lectures and management courses where it’s very difficult to learn about teamwork, the best way to create dream teams is perhaps to go out there and do a hiking expedition together.

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Into The Dirt

Life is so Adventurous