Through my years of experience of working on a challenge course, I have seen many different theories, ideals or thoughts on how to run a group through a challenge course. Some are very complicated, some are easy and some ride right along the middle ground. The one that I have found to be the most effective is the seven principles of a challenge course. Communication, Trust, Teamwork, Leadership, Self-esteem, Problem Solving and Decision Making are the seven principles. These are the core areas that a team needs to improve or work on to be a well-rounded and successful team.
We encourage real learning of critical listening and discussion skills important for any group attempting to accomplish difficult tasks.
This is the foundation of everything. If you have bad or no communication then the group will crumble and fail or struggle through everything presented to them. Not only must a person work on the verbal communication skills but their non-verbal as well.
Teamwork is the key that allows a group to meet a challenge successfully. The experience makes it clear that each individual can accomplish more as a member of a team than by going it alone.
“Many hands make for light work,” is self-explanatory and effective when talking about teamwork. Another analogy I like to use is a clock. It will only run if all gears and cogs are fit together correctly and that’s what each team needs to do; meaning using everyone’s virtue and avoiding his or her vice. Each person should have the strength to overcome someone’s weakness. By working together, a goal can be achieved that an individual may find too difficult on their own.
Participants completing difficult tasks on a course develop trust in the facilitator, the safety of the course, each other and themselves
Trust needs to be established early in a group even it is just a little, but a little can soon turn into a lot as long as there is some foundation to start on. I have also found that a person can find it very easy to trust another person before they will trust in themselves.
Leadership is given and assumed naturally, and it can be expressed in many ways. Team members attempting to solve problems on a challenge course have many opportunities to develop and exercise leadership skills.
This can make or break a group. Everyone wants to be the leader and on a challenge course, everyone should try at least one time to be the leader but everyone should not try at the same time because when you have too many “Chiefs” and no “Indians”, nothing gets done. There is a saying, “In order to learn to lead you must first learn to follow,” meaning if you have no idea what the person you are trying to direct feels or needs from you then you will never be a great leader. The best leaders are always those who work their way up to the highest position. Also some people just aren’t cut out for the job for reasons such as that they make poor decisions or can’t rally their group or can’t communicate jobs effectively. A challenge course is a great place to find that out.
Also called the brain storming time. A Challenge Courses require groups and individuals to develop solutions to interesting problems. Participants can then test their solutions and evaluate the results.
Challenge Courses require groups to make decisions by developing one or more solutions to a problem, considering the available resources and alternatives, and evaluating the probable results.
Problem Solving and Decision Making go hand and hand. Each person in the group is going through life differently and thus sees how to accomplish a task differently, which means there are as many different ways to finish a task, as there are people in it. What the group needs to do is make a decision on which idea is best suited to solve the problem. One thing to note that I have noticed from my years of running groups through a challenge course is the quietest person in the group sees some of the simplest way to get things done. That is why it is important to hear everyone’s idea. Sometimes it takes a good leader to get everyone’s idea out of them.
Meeting the challenge of an event allows individuals and groups to develop self esteem and encourage them to adopt challenging, attainable goals.
Self-esteem is the most fragile of the seven principles and can vary throughout the day of team building. It is the harder to build self-esteem in an individual person then it is in a group, but in order for the group to be at its maximum potential every person must be working to there fullest ability and if they do not believe in themselves then the entire group could end up suffering.
Some people would argue that there are things that are missing. There is nothing that says you couldn’t add a principle to these seven. Think of seven listed above as the foundation of a great team, everything else is just extra. One specific example I can think of is a lot of people ask why planning isn’t on my list. Well that is simple because Problem Solving and Decision Making equal planning. I think it is more appropriate to break down the process of planning because through introspective examination, the group can improve it performance.