I just got back from a vacation last week. Where did I go? To multiple places. Two days here and two days there. You know how it happens! But there’s one specific place that I want to tell you about today. One place that gave me a live Team Building Training experience!

Yup, you got it! Its Rishikesh with its famous White-Water Rafting😊

Well, this was my third Rafting experience. Second in Rishikesh and have had one more in Dandeli, Karnataka too in the river Kali.

And what was so different about this experience? The mere fact that it showed me the importance of Team Building! It showed me how not being in sync with one another can mess up the output and make you struggle to reach your goal.

Okay, so you’re probably wondering what happened that day! Let me tell you…

My Rafting Experience

So, there we were, all set to enter the River Ganga on that fine morning. One of our troupe members had to cancel (Dad was down with an upset stomach, so he had to stay in the hotel!). So, the three Musketeers; Mom, Sis and I set out on our dangerous endeavor.

We were also joined by a young couple. So, it was 4 girls and one guy who would be steering our mighty ship!

The Situation:

3 Musketeers for whom this was the 3rd experience. Two were quite focused. Mom had her mind on Dad back at the hotel. The young couple – the girl was freaking out as it was her first experience. The guy was doing his bit to scare her further! It was his second experience in the mighty Ganga.

The guide? A strict man in his early 30’s, I guess. He was not amused seeing his crew and made it a point to tell us multiple times not to panic in case we were thrown off the boat!

What we were up against? A river which was at its violent best, having rained the previous week.

To add to this, the apprehension of competition! Well, not competition actually. We were not competing against any other boat. But a neighbouring traveler who wished us luck seeing our male to female ratio.

In short, an overall grim scenario. A dangerous river. Crew members with mixed emotions and skill sets. A strict captain. And undermining looks of those around us.

The silver lining? Yes, there was one! Sis and my motivation. We were there to have fun and we were not going to let anything come in our way.

The Ride…here goes…

Now our Captain thought it best to place our sole male crew member at the helm of our ship. He may have felt that he would be stronger and more capable. However, the two Musketeers thought likewise. They reiterated their prior experience and enthusiasm for leading the ship. And the Captain finally gave in to their request.

Once all positions were taken and we were all secure, we commenced the ride. No sooner had we moved a few feet, that we were met with a massive rapid. While the two Musketeers tried to paddle relentlessly to keep the ship afloat, they realized that this was not going to be an easy task. Why? One, because of the rough conditions. The river was so rough that Level 2 Rapids were actually behaving like Level 3 Rapids. Therefore, there was a constant danger of the boat toppling over. Two, because of the other crew members. While Mom had now shifted her focus to the boat, our two other members were giving us a tough time. Why?

Well, our male team member who was sitting right behind me, was literally touching the surface of the water with his paddle. He was unable to cut the water deep enough to create a force strong enough to propel us forward. Also, he was unable to synchronize his paddling with mine. As a result, our paddles were clashing. And while we were putting in a lot of effort, we were reaping no result!

Our lady member was also struggling. She was unable to hold the paddle the right way. This prevented her from getting a good grip on it and applying her strength in a way that would help us move forward.

The Result:

The internal and external environmental challenges we were facing were getting the better of us. And it honestly felt like the river was more in charge of our boat than we were! Also, although we were not competing, other boats were overtaking us. Our captain was not happy with his team. The team members were also getting frustrated and silently blaming each other for our plight. We were definitely not enjoying the journey. And although the river and its rapids were literally throwing us towards the end point, we were completely unsatisfied with the way the result was being achieved.

The Welcome Change

And did the entire journey just finish off like that? Thankfully, no. My Team Building Training experience and my Sis’s Counseling experience came to our rescue in the nick of time!

I realized what was happening and how I needed to realign my focus. I was there to have fun and that was what I needed to focus on, rather than on the fierceness of the river or the inability of our crew members. As soon as this thought came to my mind, I was able to re-focus on the goal. And I was able to direct all my energy in fulfilling it in the best possible manner.

And how did that help? Firstly, I started enjoying the journey again. I was excited and motivated again. In fact, no sooner did my thinking change, I realized I was actually able to improve my paddling! I was able to hold the paddle better, cut deeper into the water and even improve my posture to create the correct amount of force required. Every time the instructor informed us of an upcoming swimming zone, I ensured I entered the water. While I did get hurt once trying to find a way to not swallow water while entering the river, my spirits were high. And I was determined not to miss out on a single opportunity.

And the Others:

My Sis also quickly came to this realization. She then joined me in my fun and good paddling endeavor!  Through all the rapids we faced, She supported me in taking the boat forward . She also made an effort to help the lady behind her by explaining to her on multiple occasions how she could hold the paddle better.

Seeing this, our Captain also slowly changed his energy. From being strict and maintaining only the required amount of communication, he first came to sarcasm and then actually became friendly! He patiently repeated his instructions multiple times to all those who were not getting it. He also lightened the mood by clicking photos and taking videos. In fact, during our last ‘swim in the river’ experience, he actually motivated our male member to finally take a dip!

The Learning

Learning about team building

Yes, this was a classic team building example. One that we see very often in our corporate setups. So, lets see what we picked up from it:

  • Environment – The environment is always tough. Whether it be growing customer demands, fierce competition or a negative internal work environment; we need to ensure we don’t get bogged down by it. We need to stay calm so that we can put all our energy in managing whatever situation comes up.
  • Matching Skill Sets and Experience – While some people may look stronger or more able, it’s important that we keep our biases aside and delegate work based on skill sets and prior work experience. This increases the probability of fulfilling the goal at hand, especially when the deadlines are tight.
  • Training – And what about those that do not have the required expertise? Ask those with the skills and experience to keep teaching the others. After all, we want them to also come up the learning curve to become more capable and feel more confident.
  • Conflict Management – Let’s face it. Conflict is a part and parcel of life. And whether it be an open confrontation or a silent undercurrent that hampers relationships and affects outcomes it needs to be managed properly. Therefore its important that we all learn the art of effectively managing conflict rather than suffer the not so pleasant consequences of it!
  • Leadership – A leader needs to be strong and positive to uphold their team and steer it to success. They also need to be open, approachable, patient and have the ability to encourage and motivate their team, especially when the going gets tough.
  • Motivation and Support – Enthusiasm and self-motivation are the need of the hour. And as you saw, have the ability to make or break a situation! We therefore need to be able to keep ourselves motivated, especially during difficult times. And support and motivate our team members when they are down the dumps and need it the most.
  • And Focus – One that has a tendency to waver a lot. However, if we can work on keeping it steady and fixated on the goal; it can help us manage the distractions that the external or internal team environment or our negative thinking can present. One of the valuable tools that can successfully pull us through to achieve whatever our heart desires!

Apart from these, what other learnings did you get from my story? And how do they help in making your team stronger and better😊

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