Improve Your Team’s Performance with These High “5” Tips
By Jim Grout
A long time ago, I learned that even an experiential educator can’t experience everything. That may seem obvious, but in my world of adventure learning, experience is the key to everything we know and it directs our hands-on teaching methodology. However, the days, weeks and years—I’ve spent 40 years as an experiential educator—do not contain enough time to experience it all. So I read, a lot. Sometimes, when I find a book that sheds an interesting light on the work we do at High 5, I share what I’ve read with our staff. That’s what happened when I read James Kerr’s Legacy: What the All Blacks Can Teach Us About the Business of Life.
Tip #1: Culture Based on Character is Fundamental
The All Blacks are a professional rugby team from New Zealand—they’re national champions and perennial contenders at international championships. Year after year, in one of the most physically demanding sports humans have invented, the All Blacks are at the top of their game. There’s a reason for their success that may surprise you. It isn’t about individual performance statistics and assembling the right team based on the science of analytics (remember the movie Moneyball?). It isn’t about grueling workouts, or coaching strategy, or luck—though you can bet all of those contribute to their success. The reason the All Blacks consistently perform so well is that they have developed and carefully maintained a team culture based on character, on each player being the best person they can be.
Tip #2: Character Triumphs over Talent
Whether in business or professional athletics, the idea that character triumphs over talent may seem an unusual organizing principle. And yet that has been our experience at High 5 in all of our work with corporate management teams and professional athletes, including the Boston Bruins, the New Jersey Devils, the German national hockey team, the Mannheim Eagles, to name a few. As Max Offenberger, the Bruins team psychologist and a member of High 5’s Advisory Board, put it, “We’re not making better hockey players; we’re making better people who become better hockey players.”
Tip #3: No Room for Egos
When you’re building character, there’s not a lot of room for big egos. Rather, character is based on having a clear sense of who you are. It’s based on the humility of asking yourself if you’re the best person you can be? And for any team with a shared mission, it’s about asking: how can we do this better? How can we work together to win–this game—this season—this quarter–this fiscal year?
Tip #4: Discovering Greatness
Discovering the greatness in a team—like the greatness that led to the Bruins’ Stanley Cup victory in 2011—involves looking at the individual members and understanding their strengths and weaknesses, and how each person’s best combines to create an unassailable strength. And we’re not talking about the coaches or management here. We’re talking about the entire team—every member—having a clear understanding of his or her own strength, and being aware of the strengths of each of their teammates, and valuing how their respective bests fit into the larger whole. This ethos is paramount to achieving both individual and collective team goals. Each member is motivated and inspired to push their limits and find their cog in the proverbial wheel of success for the team.
Tip #5: A Team of Equals – Level the Playing Field
Gaining that understanding isn’t easy or simple and requires the commitment—maybe it’s courage—to step outside your usual role, the thing you do that tells you and others who you are and where you fit in. It takes the entire team working together outside their comfort zone to discover a greater potential. At High 5, we know how that works. When a team–whether employees or athletes– works together on educational activities in combination with our challenge course, they are a team of equals, there aren’t any stars. It is in that context, working together as equals, that the team discovers its true strength: strength-based on character, not just talent. Great change can happen when people literally go out on a limb 30’ high on the challenge course and begin to rely on the trust, support, and encouragement from team members on the ground. The experience is unique and creates a playing field stripped of any office politics or social hierarchy – it’s quite liberating!
A Winning Tradition
The last time the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, they’d come to High 5 for a pre-season team building retreat with our staff. As one of our returning customers remarked, “The work that High 5 has done with my teams has made the difference between being contenders and being champions.” We can help your team–however, they compete–develop a “champion” ethos with a focus on the greatest asset of your organization: the people who show up to give 100% every day.
To learn more about our adventure-based Team Development experiences click here.