Leadership – moving from chaos to trust

I know, ashes on my head, I haven’t written in a while. But it was for good reasons – I’ve been on an [absolutely great] management training. Perfect weather, chilly, windy and rainy; great people, who didn’t speak much to each other for the first two days, after which they/we danced frantically in a pub until 2 am; and one very wise and shrewd facilitator. huge_1_5020

The Challenge

On day 4 of the training, we were split in teams and were given a challenge. We were supposed to find some clues, pass through some teambuilding exercises and solve a mystery. You know, the usual teambuilding treasure hunting game.
But this time, it was different.

We were given pages of ambiguous information that did not connect in any way.
We had no facilitators, we were supposed to solve the mystery on our own.
Every resource (including cars, to get to the clues) cost fake money, and we were given 50% of what we would have needed to get started.
Each team received incomplete information and different priorities.

In a nutshell, we didn’t know where to start, we had no one to ask and we were on a race against time. The first clue for my team was hidden in a place that closed at 5 pm, and it was already 4 o’clock.

The meeting

We decided to hold a common meeting with the other teams.

What resulted was chaos.
Imagine 20 people, out of which 3 appointed leaders and 17 informal, loud shouting problem solvers.

You’d have the feeling we were experienced enough to get past that point. But that’s what you get in an organization with empowered employees – they all want to solve the problem. They all want to get involved. And somewhere along the road, the roles get all mixed up.

What was missing here was trust.
Trust that the appointed leader would know what to do and what to decide.

And what resulted were several people pulling on the same piece of string, in different directions, and then wondering why we weren’t moving forward.

The next day

We came back exhausted, with the clues found, thanks to the main facilitator who pitied us and took us to the next target. Otherwise, the game would have been lost from the first hours.
The next day we decided to talk less and agree more. Already the former leaders had established some ground. 

We solved the mystery, earned triple more money than we needed, and we completed the challenge.

What actually happened

You can’t have common alignment and move forward without trust.
Trust goes twofold: between team members, on one hand; and from team members towards the leader, on the other hand.
And you can’t rush to build trust. It takes time.
Rushing creates chaos. To me, trust is a synonym with stability.

The old, seemingly slow Yoda vs the young reckless padawan.
The rushing river against the steady rock.

Perhaps I could not have slowed the process down and earned trust earlier. The chaos was meant to happen, in order for us to realize we have to move away from it.
But maybe you can.

What could you do differently, today, to slow down and move from chaos to trust?

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1 Comment
  • River rafting team building
    March 2, 2012

    Ah the most sought after thing in business, teams that trust each other. This was a great example of how trust and team work can over come massive challenges.

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