The Amazing Race & Outbound Training

While most TV shows are created for the sole purpose of entertainment there are a few that actually (probably inadvertently) give the viewers a few life lessons to ponder or reflect over. Shows like ‘Survivor’ and ‘The Amazing Race’ are good examples of outbound training to glean such lessons from. I’ve followed the Amazing Race for a few seasons now and I’ve always been quite moved by the transformative power that it has on the people involved. Participants generally pair up as couple teams and are provided with detailed instructions on what the mission is, where they need to go, how they can get there and exactly what they’re supposed to obtain before they can move to the next level. But this isn’t your average backyard treasure hunt; it is a race against the clock from one part of the world to another. And the goal is simple – the first team to get to the finish line, having completed all the required parameters, wins.

If you haven’t watched the show, first impressions are that it sounds fun. But the participants soon come to realize that the rigors of planning your journey, organizing travel logistics, travel delays and unexpected setbacks happen more often than not, hampering their plans. But there are critical things happening just beneath the surface. Participants’ characters are tested in the process – their patience, values, communication skills and perseverance are pushed to the breaking point. They begin to see their partners in new light, some times positive and other times not. In the end, it is those who keep these weaknesses in check, harness their deficiencies to drive them and work together as a team that come out victorious. Almost every show I’ve seen ends with the winners and losers introspectively discussing how much they had learnt from the competition, how much it challenged them and changed them, but really on a deeper level, showed to themselves who they really were. Everybody came out being transformed by the experience. In many ways this is precisely what Outbound Training is designed to achieve. Lets look at this using a ‘sailing’ analogy: –

1)   Comfort Zone – Probably the first most important thing outbound training does is to move the person out of his/her comfort zone and into new unchartered territory. The familiarity of the shores gives way to the vast expanse of unknown waters. And while this can be unnerving at first, it is vitally crucial to learning new life lessons.

2)   Setbacks develop innovation – The second important lesson outbound training develops is by forcing the individual to dig deeper within themselves to come up with creative ways in dealing with new and unfamiliar problems. Most people do fine as long as the sailing is smooth. But when the winds get faster and the waves bigger, the situation calls for making bold but tough decisions to avoid being capsized. This will test one’s courage but also their perseverance and conviction.

3)   A transformed perspective – People will often tell you that it was the hardest and most challenging times in their lives that made them stronger or more determined. Having survived the storm, although battered and beaten, one arrives at home shores with a deep appreciation and healthy respect for open waters. The only difference is that now they’re stronger and wiser. And it took the unfamiliarity, the storm and the survival to become stronger and wiser.

Some of the most successful people even in the corporate world are the ones who were willing to leave behind the familiar, venture into the unknown, take risks and come out better for it. Sometimes it is the challenges of new environments and adventures that will develop leadership, character and courage in an individual. And often it is those traits that will serve as a ‘sail’, ‘rudder’ and ‘anchor’ to make it through the storms of work or life. In that context it is crucial for companies and corporations to invest in Outbound Training for their employees to learn life lessons that a cubicle or work desk may never teach them.

For more info on Out Bound training refer to this resource:

The Genesis of Outbound Training

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!