Taking It to the Extreme

By Lain Ehmann

Taking your sales team on an extreme adventure might be just the thing to jolt people out of their day-to-day routines and get them thinking in a more creative, limitless fashion. “The beauty of extreme activities is they take participants outside the normal boundaries of how they act with each other,” says Ann Krcik, president and founder of Extreme Connection. Before you sign up for an attack on Everest, consider Krcik’s tips for planning an extreme meeting.

1. Determine your team’s mindset. Salespeople tend to be more progressive risk-takers, but not everyone might be game for an African safari (pun intended). Also, a physical challenge is quite different than cold-calling a new Fortune 500 client.

2. Consider team members’ physical states. Are you a cadre of couch potatoes or a horde of weekend warriors? Is your sales VP an Ironman triathlete or is she more comfortable at the Four Seasons spa? Extreme adventures can be designed for any level of fitness – or for a variety of levels at once, says Krcik, but you need to know what you’re dealing with first. “Really look seriously at your group,” she says. “You want this to be a positive experience.”

3. Choose the right leader. Working with an experienced facilitator can mean the difference between creating an awesome teambuilding event and traipsing with a group of grumpy reps through the outback. Adventure leaders can help steer you to the right activity, prepare participants, keep everyone safe and involved and help debrief the troops. Find someone who is equally skilled at convincing recalcitrant reps to take their turn on the climbing wall and highlighting the teambuilding skills being learned throughout the activity.

4. Prepare the group. Let your team know far in advance what will be expected of them, such as the physical skills they’ll be asked to do, what equipment they’ll need and what clothes they should wear, says Krcik. If the activity merits extensive physical preparation, consider creating training teams that meet regularly to help members get in shape. The facilitator also should inform all participants – particularly those who might consider themselves the weakest link – that the activity is one suited to all levels and that no one will be asked to do anything they’re not comfortable with, Krcik stresses.

5. Keep your wrap-up in the same tone as the activity. Krcik says one mistake managers make is to try to “make an extreme teambuilding exercise into a serious educational process. It doesn’t fit right,” she says. Instead, keep your debriefing informal and fun so as not to squelch the excitement built by the activity itself. Pictures are a great way to end the session, as is a discussion of what participants enjoyed most and what surprised them about themselves and their teammates.