“Leadership is not a personality style; it is a learned set of skills attained through development opportunities that are integrated to a lifestyle of learning,” writes Katherine T. Whitnah in her research paper “A Phenomenological Inquiry: In the Context of Organizational Development, How Does Experiential Team building in the Form of a High ROPES Course, Contribute to Positive Leadership Development, and How Can it be Improved?”
For years, organizations have been using high ropes courses as a team building intervention and means to introduce its employees to that “lifestyle of learning,” also known as adventure-based education.
What is a High Ropes Course?
Challenge courses have been around since 1941, according to “The Complete Ropes Course Manual,” written by Catherine M. Tait, Don Rogers, Karl E. Rohnke, Jim B. Wall. They started as a military tool to train soldiers. Today, these fun and educational courses have become a popular tool for the private sector as well. Many organizations swear by these courses as a means to positively affect leadership, teamwork, and so much more.
Challenge courses can be characterized as either low or high ropes courses. Low challenge courses are activities start at one foot off the ground and go up to twelve feet using pre constructed equipment and requiring spotting (spotters). Low ropes courses typically focus on team building. High ropes courses, meanwhile, are those that are 12-40+ feet above the ground, requiring belaying. “The elements produce powerful memories and provoke deep thoughts and emotions, while challenging physical abilities,” write Brent D. Wolfe and Diane M. Samdahl in “Challenging Assumptions: Examining Fundamental Beliefs That Shape Challenge Course Programming and Research.”
Both high and low courses are proven to be effective team building tools.
Do High Ropes Courses Work?
“In the same way that naturally occurring events create changes for an organization, an organization has the ability to create a team building event that contributes to a culture of dynamic leaders who naturally adapt and respond to change,” writes Whitnah. “As a result, organizations attain their goal of an inspired climate of learning that delivers ongoing and possibly accelerated, leadership development for individuals, teams, and the organization as a whole.”
What Whitnah is referring to is team building via challenge courses, specifically high ropes courses in which “Participants encounter an experiential succession of events encompassing focus, challenging action and reflection.”
Building a Better Teammate
High ropes courses pit your employees up against their greatest enemy – themselves – “building confidence, becoming more assertive, developing problem solving skills, increasing motivation, and improving leadership skills,” write researchers Terry Long, Donna Lindenmeier, and Terry Robertson in their study, “Challenges on the Challenge Course: Factors to Consider in Helping Challenge-Course Participants ‘Discover the Benefits.’”
On this journey of self-discovery, your employees will learn to focus during stressful and chaotic situations, initiate creative problem solving skills, grasp and accept change, work through conflict, and more.
Building a Better Team
According to researcher Penny Johnson in her article “Four Steps to Effective Collaboration,” it is during the performing stage, “before or during the high elements,” where “effective collaboration truly occurs.” It is at this level where participants are “committed to the success of the group” and decisions are made through “open discussions and disagreements are handled openly as a group.” This leads to greater collaboration and, thus, greater teamwork.
Planning Your Organization’s High Ropes Experience
“Well-planned programs are delivered by capable facilitators who guide learning rather than dictate results,” says Whitnah. “After the event is complete, proper integration ensures learning is transferred from the challenge course to the office.”
At Terrapin Adventures, every custom corporate team building adventures is led by one of our experienced facilitators, who will not only help guide your experience, but also tie the lessons back into the workplace. We do this during our debriefing sessions, where we sit down and discuss what we have just done and how the lessons can be applied in our everyday lives.
Terrapin Adventures is conveniently located in Howard County, Maryland, between Baltimore and Washington DC. Our experienced staff is able to create a custom team building program– onsite or offsite, indoor or outdoor – that is designed to help your group increase their ability to problem solve, think creatively and collaborate with one another.
We service Maryland and Washington, D.C., and have traveled to other states as well.
If you have any questions, please call Terrapin Adventure at 301.725.1313, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.