Many of you must have gone through some leadership training during your career. The experience and effectiveness vary wildly. Sometimes lengthy and expensive training does not generate the desired results. If there is no follow up on the initial training, effectiveness is often low. Experience has proven that taking managers through exercises with some theory before and after generates the best results. The exercises are often remembered and contain good learning elements. The outcome varies based on the instruction, the type of training and the motivation of the group.
I recently attended a leadership training session that involved an outdoor snow exercise. The group was divided into teams of five, and each team had an hour to build a quinzhee. A quinzhee is a shelter carved out of a large pile of snow. Each group received an instruction sheet with the requirements. The team that met the most requirements won the challenge. The space inside the quinzhee had to be large enough to house the group of 5 comfortably for the night. The instructor prepared equal sized piles of snow along with shovels, spades, little rakes and buckets.
As the groups went to work, it was interesting to see the different approaches. One team immediately added more snow to the pile and dug an entrance. Another team took their time reading the instructions and discussed the division of tasks and ideas. One group had to deal with conflicts between members and divisions within the team.
As time progressed, team members started glancing at the competition, and some decided to change their approach. After an hour, the results from each group were very different. Some quinzhees were small, not finished, or collapsed. The instructor evaluated each team on 12 requirements.
The lessons learned from the winning teams were:
- Take the time to read the instructions (but not too long) carefully
- Ask questions early on to make sure you understand the requirements
- Accept a clear leadership structure
- Discuss capabilities and divide tasks accordingly
- Evaluate progress regularly and compare with competition
- Tweak approach where and when it makes sense
- Check on team members and give support when required
- Boost the morale with motivational cheers
- Have a determined approach, not aggressive
The exercise was a good learning experience. It provided new insights but more so confirmed what we already knew. The combination of a physical challenge, a visual result, and a discussion afterward, made for a lasting memory. Furthermore, it proved that good leadership, clear strategy, teamwork, sense of urgency, regular reviews and the right culture make a winning team.