Although a lot of water has flowed under the bridge, I still remember the special weekend when my colleagues in the old Sarawak Tribune and I took part in a team building activity at Camp Permai in Damai Beach.
Lectures were held as part of the course but what stood out in my mind after all these years was climbing a wall as part of an obstacle race. I am not sure how tall the wall was. Was it seven or 10 feet tall?
Those were the days when the newspaper was the top-selling daily in Sarawak and the top management was supportive of programmes that enhanced both the living and working skills of its employees.
So, there we were at the camp famous for its team building courses.
It was a day when the chief executive editor, deputy executive editor, news editor, sub-editors, features editor, chief reporter, reporters, desk-top publishers and proof readers took a break from the office to mingle together outdoors under the hot sun.
Everyone present had to climb the wall. There was no other choice.
Now, how do you ensure everyone succeeds in climbing the wall?
At that time, I was not as observant as I am now. All I can remember is we stepped on the shoulders of the big, tall guys and there was someone to lend us a helping hand and make sure we made it over to the top of the wall.
I made one surprising discovery — the guys who stretched out their hands and arms to us — who were balancing on the shoulders of the guys who were supporting us — were not tall. But they were sturdy and very strong. They pulled at our hands and arms until we reached the top of the wall and could be pulled over to safety.
I had never climbed a wall before. After the experience, I had much respect for these relatively unassuming but strong colleagues who pulled me safely over the wall. I had expected tall, big guys at the top of the wall but instead, our heroes were these smaller guys.
It taught me a valuable lesson — never judge a book by its cover.
After all these years, I still have much respect for these unexpected heroes at the top of the wall.
Have you ever taken part in a wall climbing exercise before?
Who do you admire more — the guys who let you stand on your shoulders or the guys who heaved and pulled you until you were safely at the top of the wall? Don’t forget these guys had to balance their bodies as they tried to bring you up.
Now, looking back, these smaller but strong colleagues remind me of the Nepal’s mighty Gurkhas who are small-sized but capable of carrying heavy loads. Their selection into the British Army is arduous; they have to scale the mountain peaks they come from. Don’t believe me? Go and watch “UK’s Finest/Brigade of Gurkhas” on YouTube.
It was indeed a challenge for all the men and women to mount the wall. Everyone made it to the top, thanks to trust and teamwork.
The fun we had during the team building activity that particular weekend drew us close together and built long-lasting respect for each other.
I was reminded of this team building activity with my former colleagues when I was watching documentaries on how soldiers train in different countries recently.
Some people are surprised when they learn that I like watching documentaries on historical figures and world wars. If you believe in reincarnation, perhaps, in my previous lives, I was a soldier.
Of course, the walls that soldiers have to scale during their military training are higher and more difficult. Sometimes, they have to do it at night.
This past week, I have heard a lot about teamwork — both at work and elsewhere.
Instructors stress the importance of teamwork to soldiers undergoing training. In the military, soldiers must work as teams because lives may be at stake. Military teams are deployed for various tasks like carrying out secret operations.
In organisations, team work increases productivity, fosters friendship and loyalty, improves service, solves problems and reduces deadline stress.
If they can afford them, organisations should send their workers for team building activities at least once a year.
Team building activities can help improve employees’ motivation and nurture a successful company culture. It can also improve productivity, collaboration, communication as well as encourage creativity.
Companies should consider team building an investment in their future. When they invest in these activities, they can expect a significant impact on various areas of their operations such as collaboration and leadership. These things can lead to improved bottom line. Over to you, my friends, if you are organisation heads.