What I Learned on the Challenge Course: Trusting My Coworkers

TrustScottish author and poet George MacDonald once said “To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” This may seem odd to you at first, but it makes sense. In many cases, love is a feeling; it’s unconditional. Trust, on the other hand, must be earned each and every day. But how?

Trust is defined as a “reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.” In layman’s terms, trust is one person’s confidence in another. It is the foundation of any strong relationship – professional or personal – and without trust there will undoubtedly be less collaboration, less innovation, less creativity, and far less productivity between individuals and within a group. So, how do you foster trust? How do you nurture trust? Theologian Isaac Watts once said, “Learning to trust is one of life’s most difficult tasks.” We are here to tell you that it isn’t quite as difficult as Mr. Watts thinks…

Building Trust on the Challenge Course

“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough.” – Frank Crane

If you do not trust the person next to you, what kind of relationship is that really? Without trust you have nothing. Unfortunately, you can’t force people to trust each other. That is just not how trust works. But you can put people in situations where they will learn to trust each other. This is where team building and the challenge course can help.

For those of you who don’t know, a challenge course, sometimes called an adventure course or ropes course, involves both on the ground and up in the air elements

, such as climbing walls, zip lines, and more, designed to entertain and challenge participants. Most elements require team work and collaboration and some require co-workers to belay or secure their counterparts in the air.

“The elements produce powerful memories and provoke deep thoughts and emotions, while challenging physical abilities,” write Brent D. Wolfe and Diane M. Samdahl.1

One way to build trust amongst your team is to put your employees in situations that get them out of their comfort zone and encourage them to interact with their coworkers. Team building can help break down barriers and get your employees to start trusting one another by putting them in situations that promote problem solving and communication in order to achieve a specific goal. This will help improve teamwork and cohesiveness, and ultimately build trust.

A 2010 study conducted by research Jenny Phan tested this notion with a particular emphasis on challenge courses.2 Phan evaluated and tested the benefits of these activities on 120 subjects. The results revealed that challenge courses and team building activities “impacted the participants at an emotional and social level,” and most participants saw a noticeable increase in their “emotional and social skills.”

Of the 120 participants, 104 stated that the activities had some type of an impact on their ability to trust their fellow participants, 79 believed challenge course activities helped them overcome fear, 76 noted a positive impact on self-esteem, 97 confidence, 83 empathy, 75 ease of stress, and 94 noted a positive outlook on life after their afternoon on the challenge course.

“From the data, it shows that placing the participants in challenging situations does increase their trust level with themselves and others,” says Phan.

I Learned to Trust My Peers on the Challenge Course

Having people work together to support each other gives opportunities to develop a trusting relationship. Challenge courses are great for this. Team building exercises like those done at Terrapin Adventures can help people know each other and develop that all important underlying trust. Our facilitators can help break down those artificial silos that people operate in, forging important improvements in working relationships.

“We appreciate the opportunity for this adventure. Throughout the full experience, your facilitators were professional and supportive. They allowed us to be creative and find our own way. At the end of the day, the importance of leadership, openness, trust, and creativity among the team shined through.

– John Cave, Director Supplier Management, Boeing

“As their teacher, I could see the difference the next day as the students interacted with their peers. They were more confident and trusted that their classmates respected and valued them. Having a convenient location for lunch and bathroom facilities was also key.

– Tonnet R., Greenmount School

“Talking with the teens afterward, we spoke about trusting teammates, knowing that they have your back…but that they’re also going to challenge you to go a bit further than you have before. As the end of the day, I asked him what his favorite part of the day was, and he said the giant swing.

– Bailey Skils, Capital City Church Youth Group

Improve Trust and Teamwork by Teaming Up with Terrapin Adventures!

Conveniently located in Howard County, Maryland, between Baltimore and Washington DC, Terrapin Adventures features the ultimate challenge course with three levels taking you up to 40 ft. in the air! Each of our 19 traverses is designed to entertain and challenge participants. But what makes our ropes course truly unique is our continuous belay system. You only have to secure your safety line once for each level, letting you focus on your next challenge with confidence.

We also have a course specifically designed for children ages 5-10 – our  Terrapin Explorer kids’ course.

Book Now!

All adventures are led by our expertly trained Aerial Adventure Guides and Facilitators who will be there for you every step of the way.  Everything you need including harness and helmet is provided.

If you have any questions, please call Terrapin Adventure at 301.725.1313, or email us at info@terrapinadventures.com to learn more.

Works Cited:

  1. Wolfe, B. D., and D. M. Samdahl. “Challenging Assumptions: Examining Fundamental Beliefs That Shape Challenge Course Programming and Research.”Journal of Experiential Education 28.1 (2005): 25-43. Web.
  2. Phan, Jenny. “The Impact of Therapeutic Recreation through Ropes Courses and Teambuilding Activities.” Diss. 2011. Abstract. Print.
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