Enhance Listening – A Catalyst For Relationships – With Outbound Training

Outbound Training

Managing a heterogeneous group in a training program is usually a challenge. But the complexity of the challenge proliferates manifold in corporate outbound training programs if frontline executives have to share space with their super-boss for team activities. Though I have come across few super-bosses who take this opportunity to empower subordinates with great long-term benefits during outbound training workshops programs, most of the super-bosses have left adverse effects on the team morale.

Unfortunately for the executives, the presence of the super-boss constraints their creativity, restricts communication and sets the tone for a low energy session. The Super-boss on the other hand, with the pressures of having to compete with subordinates become vociferous with his/her ideas and thrusts them on to the team.

I had to come down very hard on a Super –boss recently while doing an out bound training program for an automobile giant. This was a one-day out bound program for a heterogeneous group of 72 employees. Right at the start of the program the group was divided into 6 teams to compete against each other over 8 different activities. The team that garnered the highest points stood to win a gift hamper. Barring few members the rest of the group were super-excited. After completing 4 activities the scores were pretty even except for the team that had the super-boss. In the points standing they were way behind the fifth placed team.

My co-facilitators noticed that in each of the activity that preceded, the super-boss found his way to get the team to implement his ideas. The team members, disappointed with the super-bosses’ lack of confidence in their ideas, went about the activities with very little fervour and conviction.  The super–boss was getting frustrated with his team. He was so riled that he ended up making nasty statements about the team.

So, on the fifth activity I pulled out the super-boss from his team telling him that it was unfair for just one team to get the benefit of his brilliance and gave him the responsibility of overseeing all six teams to keep a check on adherence to rules of the activities that followed. As expected, relieved of tyranny the de-moralized team made a remarkably improved showing. In fact they won 3 of the 4 activities that followed and managed to second place in the overall point standing at the end of the last activity.

During the final de-brief, realizing the folly of not listening to other’s ideas, the super-boss made a memorable 2-minute speech, talking about the importance of team communication and trust. His speech did not get a standing ovation but left the participants pondering. And I must admit I can never be hundred percent sure if all of the 72 employees took away relevant outbound learning from the outbound training but the super-boss sure did!

The Genesis of Outbound Training


Two years ago as I was designing an Outbound training program, I became curious about the evolution of this extraordinary learning format. As I researched, I learned that Dr. Kurt Hahnfounded ‘Outward Bound’ in 1941. During World War II, Hahn used the tumultuous waters of the North Sea to provide young sailors with the exposure and skills necessary to survive at sea.Thus getting them ready to handle the vicissitudes of war.

The success of this exercise birthed the ‘Outward Bound’ methodology. ‘Outward Bound’ is a nautical term that indicates a ship’s departure from the certainties of the harbor. Interesting term as the only certainty of an unpredictable journey in a volatile sea is left behind in the harbor. In the Outbound training format, the office is comparable to the harbor and the unbridled outdoors is comparable to the sea.

The secret of success of learning through experiences lay in the unique selection and combination of the principles that Hahn believed in and, most importantly, Hahn’s charismatic energy and persuasive ability to put his ideas into action.

Below are some of the key principles of Kurt Hahn’s experiential learning:

Education is about the development of intellect as well as character:
– Hahn believed that the purpose of education should be twofold: the development of both knowledge as well as character. He felt that the concept of experiential learning in nature would provide the experiences to enhance self-esteem, discover untapped innate abilities, and develop a sense of responsibility toward others.

• “Your disability is your opportunity”:
– At the age of 18, Hahn suffered severe sunstroke for which he had a long recuperation period and left a degree of permanent disability that Hahn nurtured for the rest of his life. Hisadage “your disability is your opportunity” became the foundation for his thoughts on experiential learning. Hahn felt that when you are faced with challenges and you are in the depths of despair, at that time you have a great opportunity to either give up or make a decision to grow.

Strengthening physical abilities help people make moral choices:
– Hahn believed that each child is born with innate spiritual powers and the ability to make correct judgments about moral issues. However, in the progression through adolescence, the child loses these abilities because of the ‘diseased society’ and the compulsions of adolescence.Hahn trusted in helping students to strengthen their biological physical abilities, which will help them to overcome natural physical weaknesses. Hence his belief in exposing people to nature that naturally provides the opportunities for each person’s growth.

One phrase Hahn used to sum up his philosophy was, “There is more in You than You think” (plus est en vous).

Having understood the passion and purpose behind Hahn’s thoughts, we at MMM Training Solutions pay him homage through each one of our outbound training programs. Each activity is carefully designed to include the three principles of Hahn and the objective is simply to help an individual discover their inherent capability to handle all the vagaries of life.