Go Climb a Tree (and other tips for building and leading a successful team)

On a gorgeous September day, Stern‘s Cambridge team set out to Kensington, NH to participate in the Grand Circle Leadership program:

LTR: Kelby Troutman, Ned Ward, Stephanie Heckman, Jen Ehrlich, and Elizabeth Atwater

KELBY TROUTMAN: “Our objectives were to have some fun, learn more about each other and explore how we can achieve critical results more rapidly. The afternoon was spent discussing our company and how we can all work together to become a more goal-oriented and productive team. The morning was spent on a ropes course…” (LTR: Kelby Troutman, Ned Ward, Stephanie Heckman, Jen Ehrlich, and Elizabeth Atwater)

Jen Ehrlich and Stephanie Heckman traverse the Grand Circle ropes course together.

JEN EHRLICH: “When you’re strapped in a harness and about to step onto a tightrope strung high above the ground, you’re physically aware of the obstacle ahead – your legs shake and your palms sweat. Barriers in the workplace aren’t always so obvious, but when left unaddressed they can become larger problems. Here are some lessons we learned on the ropes that can be applied to any business.”

The team belays from the base of a tree below.

STEPHANIE HECKMAN: “Communication isn’t easy. As professionals who’ve built careers around helping clients become better communicators, this is something we know well. People hold back for fear that communicating “too much” will backfire – revealing vulnerabilities or weaknesses. But how can a team succeed if its members don’t fully understand the issues impacting them? The first step – whether walking a tightrope 25 feet in the air or sitting around the conference table – is speaking up and encouraging others to do the same. By creating an environment where people feel comfortable communicating openly and honestly, teams can tackle any problem no matter how insurmountable it may seem.”

The team works together on the ropes at the Grand Circle Leadership course.

JEN EHRLICH “Once your team’s issues are out in the open, the next step is creating a plan to resolve them. In the office, it’s easy to follow along with the way things have always been done simply because that’s the way things have always been done. When confronting a situation you’ve never seen before, you’re forced to consider and articulate new ideas and solutions. Encouraging this kind of thinking off the ropes will inspire your team for productive creativity and innovation.”

Atwater and Troutman make split decisions on the Grand Circle ropes course.

NED WARD: “The goal to finish the course was clear. What wasn’t clear? The plan for getting there. Often in our business, the initial plan looks good – on paper. But when you’re in the trenches – or up in the trees – something always happens that leads to a change of plans. Are your communications goals clear? If so, terrific. Just make sure your plan is flexible, as the road ahead is rarely – if ever – straight.”

Elizabeth Atwater hangs on up high at the Grand Circle Leadership training course.

ELIZABETH ATWATER: “Thanks to a resilient plan and a determined attitude, our team maneuvered its way across the high ropes, with each of us finishing the course. We emerged with a sense of empowerment and accomplishment, all sharing in the team’s success. Likewise, by empowering colleagues in the office and sharing in goal-setting, everyone can participate in enabling the success of the organization.”

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