You are locked in a room and the counter is ticking down. You have one hour to solve numerous complicated riddles that produce keys or combinations to open various locks, which ultimately unveil your escape route. But wait, there’s more! A bunch of your co-workers are locked in the space with you. You can’t get out alone; you must work together or the clock will run out.
If you think this sounds like the stuff of which nightmares are made, some people might agree. However, when the Internet Creations team took to the Amazing Escape Room in Freehold, it was quite the opposite. Everyone had a blast! It brought staff from various departments, who typically do not work together on a daily basis, together. Working as a team to solve various riddles enabled us to learn more about each other and further strengthen the bonds that we already have. This is important because, as CEO Chad Meyer has been known to say, “if your employees are happy and engaged, they’ll treat your customers well, and that’s fundamental to healthy company growth.”
Random Teams, Extraordinary Teamwork
For our night out, we broke into three teams, each tasked with a unique room to escape: Hangover, Samurai, and Black & White. We didn’t choose teams like kids in a gym class. Being a technology company, we allowed a computer to divide us into teams. After getting minimal directions which included not-so-helpful hints such as “everything can be a clue,” “keep your eyes open” and “good luck,” we were on our own.
An interesting thing happened. When faced with a countdown clock, everyone’s preconceived notions about everything slipped away. We were each focused on the goal and we quickly got to work doing exactly what we do best. We drew on our own personal skills.
Glen Wilson, director of talent at Internet Creations, commented: “When we entered our room, we all knew as much as every other person. No one had a particular advantage. That meant, every idea was a good one worth trying. So no one debated the merit of any idea, instead, the idea was quickly tested. If it worked, great! If it didn’t, we moved on to the next.”
Of course, leaders took leadership roles and those more comfortable taking supporting positions did just that. But that was entirely OK because it takes all kinds of people to work out challenges. The experience confirmed what most people know about effective teams; they are comprised of people who share some common traits and embrace differences. To work with others effectively, one must:
Understand what communication truly is. Communication is a two-way street, involving both talking and listening. For some, talking is no problem; these people have ideas and are willing to share them. On the other hand, some of your colleagues aren’t so quick to step up and voice their ideas or concerns. This may mean you have to solicit their opinions and “listen” more intently. Being a great communicator means recognizing that everyone communicates differently. The more reserved people in a group need to be given the freedom to express themselves in their own way. In this situation, active listening skills are required. They were certainly important during the escape room game.
“In our room, no idea was ever met with negativity. We all tried different ideas and methods to try and solve puzzles, and there was no judgment passed,” explained George Guhr, sales manager at Internet Creations. “It was never `No, that won’t work.’ It was more of `Yea, let’s try that.’ This freedom allowed solutions to flow and contributed to us escaping the Hangover room.”
Do you, to the very best of your ability. To be effective communicators in a team situation, everyone needs to come to the table (or in this case, the room) with a willingness to be a cog in a wheel. If a “cog” is faltering, the machine breaks down.
We all have strengths and, when part of a team, it’s critically important to bring your very best – attitude, attention, and patience. Be prepared and be ready to engage with others – be it to share ideas, debate ideas, or to simply be an extra pair of hands when needed. Whatever you do, do it fully. Be someone others can rely on.
“Despite all the different personalities and backgrounds in our room, I was really impressed with how everyone embraced and demonstrated the concept of fail fast,” said Wilson.
Be reliable. Do what you say you are going to do and do it to the best of your ability. This may seem obvious but reliability is a critically important trait, whether it be at home, work, or in locked in a room with a bunch of people. Being a team member others can count on is more than just showing up. It means assuming responsibility as appropriate, and following up in a timely manner. In the escape room, being reliable meant being an active participate for the entire hour – not giving up, not complaining. Be an active participant on the team, even when the going gets tough. There may be times when you are called on to do something that you would rather not do. Pitch in anyway.
Cooperation is key. Perhaps the most invaluable lesson learned in the escape room was that everyone mattered. No one could sit back and do nothing because there was so much to do and so little time. Everyone wanted to get out, to “win.” We were racing against the clock and, in spirit, against our colleagues in other rooms. The bottom line, working together means putting your differences aside to get the job done. You have to ask for help and be willing to offer it. In a time crunch, whether it’s an escape room or preparation for a client meeting that is happening tomorrow, extraordinary team members must overlook others’ style, focus on being part of the solution and not the problem.
In the Black & White room, Stephen Wood said his team was able to move past incorrect ideas quickly. “We did a good job of throwing ideas out there, discussing them at different lengths and deciding to move past them when they proved to be wrong or not the right time. There was no issue of discouragement from anyone.”
Teamwork: An Exercise in Focusing on the Whole, Not the Sum of the Parts
Yes, great teams are comprised of amazing people who bring all sorts of important traits to the table. Successful teams require intelligence and compassion, flexibility and a willingness to learn. When team members are encouraged to step out of their comfort zone to lead, or perhaps to take a back seat and follow, the team is certainly better for it. Each and every person brings a certain something to the success of the team, but no one is looking for personal glory. It’s about the team’s success, not personal gain.
According to Ten Qualities of an Effective Team Member, people on a team must “look beyond their own piece of the work and care about the team’s overall work. In the end, their commitment is about winning — not in the sports sense of beating your opponent but about seeing the team succeed and knowing they have contributed to this success.”
About Internet Creations:
Internet Creations is a business technology and Salesforce consulting firm that empowers organizations to operate efficiently and accelerate success by aligning people with technology. And, we’re hiring! Be a part of a team that wakes up before the alarm clock and is actually excited about coming to work. Learn more about Internet Creations, our history, culture and job openings. If you are smart, enthusiastic and want to lend your voice and skills to an award-winning team, we want to meet you. Visit www.internetcreations.com for more information.