The Growth Equation

The Growth Equation

How do you help your team grow? One part of the equation should be to challenge them. Why? Challenge pushes us out of our comfort zones, causing us to feel stressed and uncomfortable. Since we don’t like this, we seek ways to solve that challenge and become comfortable again. This leads to growth.

I’m in the business of trying to help teams grow. To achieve this, I often use activities on a challenge course – aptly named, don’t you think?! When facilitating experience, I adjust different aspects to find the right level of challenge. I want to get a team into the growth zone where it’s challenged enough to feel uncomfortable, but not overwhelmed. Recently I made a mistake, but managed to turned it into an opportunity for growth.

The Mistake

On the challenge course, one activity called “The Islands” requires a team to move through a series of three islands (platforms about 4 inches off the ground). A team cannot touch the ground but must figure out how to bridge the gaps using two boards. One board is short, and the other is long; however, neither one will span the full length of any gap. There’s also another, separate activity that uses similar, but longer boards. When I recently set up The Islands activity, I grabbed the normal short board, but grabbed the longer board from the other activity.

As the team that day went to cross the first gap, I was shocked when one of the boards bridged the entire gap! I realized my mistake and immediately began to think through my options: stop the group and make them restart with the correct board, or just let it play out. I decided to let it play out. The activity was no challenge at all, and the group quickly reached the final island with little teamwork, little discussion, and minimal engagement.

The Push Into challenge

At this point, I gave them the correct board and sent them back towards the start. I saw a major shift. Now the team was pushed out of its comfort zone. Stress and anxiety entered the activity. They didn’t know what to do and had to figure out a new way to bridge the gap. They also realized it was going to require trusting one another and much more communication than before.

The Growth

The team did the following to help them handle the stress and uncomfortable feelings. You can use these same ideas to help your own team when it’s challenged.

  • Slow Down: When hit with the true challenge, the team slowed down and took time to evaluate and plan. Make sure your team takes time to plan and communicates that plan to everyone. It may slow things down initially, but it can help your team avoid costly pitfalls.
  • Remain Open: The challenge required a totally new solution. They had to be open to creative ideas. Encourage creativity by emphasizing openness to ideas. Create a climate where team members can share ideas without being put down or dismissed. One “crazy” idea might not work but it could spark another that does lead to the solution.
  • Support Each Other: The increased “risk” caused the team to begin supporting each other verbally and physically. Now they were reaching a hand out to each other as they crossed the gap. When your team steps out of its comfort zone, find ways to be supportive and to help them support one other. This helps them handle the stress and builds confidence.

In contrast to the first trip through the islands, the second resulted in a greater growth because of the challenge. They had overcome the challenge together and felt accomplished. Don’t shy away from challenging your team. With your help, the growth zone can be a marvelous time of learning for your team.

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