“Customer Experience is not just about

passion. It is about profitable results.”

~Lior Arussy

Get Outside the Box: Employee Training in the Mud

Posted: May 12, 2014 by Dalya Arussy

What is your deepest fear? Who would you take with you in an attempt to face it – your best friend since high school or…a co-worker?

Over the years, companies have sent groups to marathons, bike rides, etc. with both the intent to create a bonding experience as well as to advertise with their beautifully designed, race-specific apparel. Now, Tough Mudder, the 10-to-12 mile obstacle course, is jumping into the mix and offering a “corporate team” option in the registration process, attempting to attract groups who have already found their place in more traditional races.

Tough Mudder provides something more than simple bonding and advertising. Participants are faced with common fears of fire, heights, and electric shock, adding mental tests to the physical ones. But this event is all about the team challenge – not the race. There’s no need to try and convince regular-runner Rob to hold back his speed because when he gets to the Pyramid Scheme he’ll need his co-workers to help him reach the peak. Similarly, there’s no need to persuade super-swimmer Sara to stay with the team because when she approaches Glory Blades she’ll want a boost to get over the slanted-toward-you, 2.5-meter walls.

And although it’s markedly different from a triathlon or a marathon, Tough Mudder’s most distinguishing feature is that participants aren’t penalized for not completing obstacles. That means you don’t have to perform 30 burpees if you fall down halfway through the Funky Monkey bars. As Lior Arussy writes in Exceptionalize It!, you can’t call it empowerment if you’re looking for only the “right decisions.” If you penalize your employees for failure, they’ll never even try.

Speaking of empowerment, many managers claim to trust their employees 50% of the time. As Lior says, that isn’t really trust. But what if they only trust them 50% of the time because they only know 50% of who they are? Managers, generally, are only familiar with the in-office personality of their employees. In-office training sessions only maintain that one-sided persona. Take the training outside the office, discover your employees’ other 50% and then maybe you’ll trust them the full 100% of the time (or at least close enough).

Trusting our employees and co-workers comes with the removal of our ego. Once we’ve reached success, we tend to believe “I did it” and “I am invincible.” But in order to Exceptionalize It! we need to recognize that that is not the case. And what better way to do that than in a half-marathon obstacle course where you need your teammates to pull you up the half-pipe that is Everest? The message becomes:“I am not invincible and we did it.”

As you progress through the rigorous course, you bond with your co-workers (read: teammates) and not only learn more about them but also discover some things about yourself. Lior encourages his readers in Exceptionalize It! to focus on the power they do have versus the power they don’t have. In Tough Mudder, you have no other option but to focus on the power you do have because if you focus on what you don’t have, you’ll remain somewhere in the woods at Mile 1 with no way home.

And that power may very well be within your colleagues. You may be forced to work with them in the office but not necessarily see the benefit. The advantage of working together is quite obvious in a Tough Mudder: completing the course.

So, learn about your employees, co-workers and yourself by jumping into the “mud” together. If not through Tough Mudder, how about another outside-the-cubicle-walls challenge? Let go of your ego and trust the other 50%. Use the power you have and push forward. Remember, within your company it’s not a race, but a challenge – and you’re not facing it alone. 

Read more on the Strativity blog: 

The Power to Serve: Let Employees Make Mistakes – You’ll be Better Off

My Best Buy Journey: The Six Stages of an Awkward Customer Experience

10 Steps to Customer Feedback and Dialogue Excellence – Are You Looking at the Past, or the Future?

The Importance of Creating Consistent Customer Experiences

Want Improved NPS? Not So Fast – First, Perfect Your Performance