Monday, April 23, 2007

Outward Ho!

So our recent "Outward Bound" weekend was a success in terms of the goals I was trying to hit, although there were some interesting facets doing it in China compared to the UK.

The trip there - I had elected to drive but the majority went by bus. Where the place is (青山湖) there is a pristine highway linking it to Hangzhou that was only recently completed. Underneath the highway is the old 'road', except that it's now mostly sand and gravel after the construction of the massive elevated road. The training company elected to make the bus drive along the windy, bumpy, single-track old road with a cry of 'but it would have cost 100RMB (6 GBP) to use the new road!'.

The training company is based in the grounds of a three-star hotel but quite clearly it had seen better days. The meals sucked big-style and the staff weren't particularly helpful.

Me: I'd like a beer please
Waitress: No
Me: What?
Waitress: You can't have beer
Me: Why? There's beer in that fridge. Cold beer. I have money.
Waitress: You're not allowed
Me: Says who?
Waitress: The training company

Aha. A representative arrived and negotiations ensued. An allowance of 2 bottles of beer (And 2.1% proof beer to boot!) was offered which eventually turned into 5. I understand that they don't want people partying all night but this did seem to me to be a fundamental difference in approach as to how to break down some barriers and get people talking. Last Outward Bound I did in the UK, people got to actually know each other far more in the bar (at least that hotel had a bar, unlike this one) at the end of the day then they did while we were abseiling or potholing.

Breakfast was by far the worst meal of the day because even the things I might have eaten (pork buns, for example), were horrible. I don't believe anyone would come up with the catchphrase "Go to work on a 满头" but that was pretty much the only edible food, largely because they (that's steamed buns by the way) don't really taste of anything.

Asking for a coffee, I was told "There's hot soy milk" - and that was that. No alternative.

What made me sag slightly was when I realised that on the wall was a huge colour picture of a country cottage kitchen table and upon said table were plates and cups with scrambled eggs, bacon, some lightly buttered toast, croissant, orange juice and coffee. Posterlicious. Sadly, not one of those things were available in the hotel.

Breakfast, and indeed most of the meals, had a habit of reappearing (no, not like that) - lunch, for example, contained several types of "vegetable with pieces of fried breakfast products". Yum.

The training was actually pretty good and most of the negatives surrounding it are really directed at the hotel. Note if I ever do this again is simply to bring enough food and drink that I'm completely self-sufficient.

One of our first exercises was to be divided into teams and go through an exercise, part of which was to create a team song with the advice that taking an existing tune and changing the words to the song would be ok, except the Chinese National Anthem which would have been illegal. It sounded pretty serious as it was repeated a number of times.

The exercises themselves were interesting mix of physical and mental activities and worked fairly well at getting people mixing and communicating.

This one, which I call "falling onto a group of people who are significantly smaller than me" was a bit of a worry. Before anyone writes any witty suggestions, the trainer on the platform with me was simply making sure people fell in a straight line... The saving grace was that I was one of three Laowai in my group so we could at least take turns in the key (posterior catching) position. On the flip side, I imagine from the point of view of "having someone significantly larger than I am fall on me" probably wasn't much fun either.

All-in-all, I don't think some of the exercises would be possible in the UK and certainly not the US from a Health-and-safety point of view (getting everyone over a 4-meter high wall certainly had its moments) but no-one died, good fun was had and, a bunch of my staff now have a nice shared-experience.

There are more photos of people undergoing derring dos training company's website.

And on the way back, we even managed to persuade the training company to send the bus on the new, fast, smooth road so, improved communication skills at work!

1 comment:

HistoryElephant said...

Hank : The key to motivation is trust. Let me show you what I mean. I want you to close your eyes and fall backwards, and I'll catch you. That's gonna show you what trust is all about. Ready?

Homer: Right.

Hank : Three... Two... [phone rings] One second... [Hank answers the phone and Homer falls to the ground] Oh, my God, the guy's on the floor. Uh, that was a phone call; don't chalk that up to mistrust, now.