Taking proper time out for team building is a luxury that many businesses have cut back on in recent years. This isn’t just due to cost either. When there is so much to be done day-to-day, it can feel hard to justify the “softer” benefits of lost working hours. Especially when you are running a business like PrivateFly, that’s all about efficiency and making things happen faster.
Of course we like to have fun here, and do enjoy many evenings out, table tennis and volleyball tournaments and regular team barbecues. And as many of the team are aircraft enthusiasts, we’ll go to airshows and other aviation events that cross the line between work and leisure.
But to take several well away from the office for a few days at the same time for team building, to do something totally different? There’s so much going on here that this is quite difficult to justify and we’d not done it for a while. However this month I was reminded of the huge benefits of doing so.
One of our suppliers, aircraft operator GlobeAir, had offered a competition prize to the broker who placed the most flights with them over a set period – and we were delighted to come top of the board. The prize was a long weekend of luxury in the Mediterranean. And knowing the team as I do, I thought they’d enjoy some adventure thrown in (with a competitive edge). So GlobeAir changed the itinerary to offer three nights’ away sailing.
When I was in the RAF, we’d occasionally undertake what’s known as “adventurous training”. This is a peacetime training concept that’s designed to enhance teamwork and leadership skills.
I remember lots of my friends outside the Air Force thinking it was all just a lovely jolly, to be sent away for a two-month cycling trip to Malawi, or skydiving in Florida. There was probably a part of me that felt the same way at the time. I can’t pretend it wasn’t a lot of fun. But I look back on those experiences now as hugely valuable to building the skills that I use every day in a business environment.
For this team building sailing trip, six of the team and myself were flown out to Naples, in the south of Italy, on the Friday morning and joined our captain on our sailing yacht, just off the Amalfi coast. Cue the first day and a half of learning how to crew the boat, interspersed with diving off the back, enjoying the sunshine and scenery, and some delicious food and drinks.
All of this was valuable in itself, with the team relaxing and enjoying themselves, working together and enjoying a bit of healthy competition. But it was when the weather turned later in the weekend that I saw some other skills brought to the fore.
Having experienced calm sailing up until then, we found ourselves suddenly in much more troubled waters. This was a rapid change which we had to adapt to fast – a good business analogy in itself.
We were trying to get back into the port on the island of Ischia, and what should have been a three hour sail, turned into a tough six hours on very choppy waters. We were under the guidance of our very experienced captain but, nevertheless, it could have been quite dangerous, should anyone have fallen overboard.
Added to this, three of our team experienced some severe seasickness, sustained over many hours. This is pretty debilitating stuff and in a confined space, not something you can hide from your fellow sailors! It was fantastic to see those who weren’t suffering show such compassion in trying to help the others overcome it. As well as some healthy banter to keep spirits afloat.
All of them were so focussed on supporting their teammates and on pulling together to bring the boat safely into the port, it really was a fantastic group effort and a great result. There was a big sense of shared relief and achievement when we finally reached dry land.
Back at our desks on Monday lunchtime, I reflected on the value of that time spent away for team building. Was it worth just over 24 hours of “lost” working time? Absolutely. It was more than just a sales reward. When the going got tough, the team were there for each other and trite as it may sound, I’m sure this bonding experience will serve us well in the sometimes choppy waters of day-to-day business life ahead.
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