Dear Workforce How Useful Is Adventure Training

By Staff Report

Aug. 30, 2006

Dear Using Psychology:

Outdoor experience exercises can be great fun. For many organizations, they’re very useful in team building. But I’d be cautious about using outdoor training to identify leadership traits.

Outdoor exercises encourage people to think more creatively about how to meet their goals. They force people to work together productively, or they won’t get through the obstacles. Further, they can help individuals confront their physical fears and gain greater confidence in their own abilities.

But in planning to use outdoor training, you must consider the people who will participate. Are most of you fairly fit and active? Do you enjoy taking some controlled risks? If so, outdoor experiences can be an exhilarating way to get to know each other better and learn to work together better, especially if you choose skillful facilitators.

Be aware, however, that very often the announcement of an outdoor experience strikes dread in some people. Despite the very good chance that everyone will be successful, you may be causing deep stress among people who fear that they will fail, and fail publicly. People who are less active or who are older than the general population of your organization may particularly experience this fear. If you suspect you might get this reaction, you should consider another kind of experience for team building (cooking classes, for instance, or an off-site retreat).

I’d be wary of trying to use an outdoor exercise for identifying leadership traits. For one thing, many people who are quite capable leaders in physical situations may not be able to translate those leadership skills into the workplace. Even more important, leadership skills should be assessed over time, against a specific set of performance criteria developed for the unique needs of your organization. A one-time spectacular performance in an outdoor exercise won’t be a predictor of long-term performance, and may not be relevant to the everyday challenges of your business.

Sometimes we fall in love with an idea or technique, and then try to fit it into our already existing needs. If that’s the case with your organization’s interest in outdoor training, it would probably be better to start with the issue–identifying people with high leadership potential–and then choose or design a program to deliver on that goal.

SOURCE: Sheila Campbell, President, Wild Blue Yonder, Silver Spring, Maryland, December 14, 2005

LEARN MORE: Some companies like Wells Fargo still explore adventure-related training despite overall trends to cut back on training expenses. Also, checklists for managing a retreat.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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