This blog was written by a Cross Continent MBA student prior to the program’s merger with the Global Executive MBA program.
Every Fuqua student will spend a day during MBA orientation with some of the best team dynamics coaches around at the Triangle Training Center outside of Durham. It will consist of a hot, humid day of running, yelling, strategizing, climbing, zip lining, attempts at challenges, and honest discussions.
However, this isn’t just a day for fun and team building activities. It’s also a day for profound realizations and useful abbreviations.
1. You Will Not Wall Climb Alone
One of the biggest takeaways of the day for me was how wall or rock climbing is a team sport. One of our last team building activities featured a 40-foot wall. As a team, we decided that our goal was to have every single one of our 12 members reach the top.
The problem was, I had discovered that day that I have a slight (more accurately, moderate) fear of heights. I have never climbed a wall before. The most experience I’ve had with heights was taking the elevators to Taipei 101 and the Willis (Sears) Tower in Chicago. At least there I was safe behind indestructible glass.
However, as I was scrambling up that wall as fast as I could—so that I can get back safely on the ground as quickly as I can—I realized that I wasn’t alone. I had a huge team below me, guiding me to the right footholds to step on, and the right beams to pull myself up. When I got almost all the way up, I slipped and skinned my shin. But not only that, I started to shake from adrenaline (or fear).
My fellow climber, Daniel, stopped on his way up, came up beside me and helped me up onto the last beam. As cliché as it sounds, that moment, trembling (and trying not to panic) on the top beam, with my fellow climbers beside me, and a huge team below me, I realized that I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t climbing that wall, and conquering my fear of heights alone. When you join Fuqua, you will never have to climb alone.
2. Recognize “Little R’s, Big R’s”
Our coach was a thin, quiet man with glasses and a constant, secretive smile. Throughout the day, he would share little tidbits and frameworks for better decision making. One such structure was aptly named “Little R’s, Big R’s.”
In life, we have the Big R’s—Big Rules—that we must work with. These Rules can consist of budgetary restrictions, deadlines, and lack of resources.
But we also have the Little R’s—little rules—the limitations and standards that we create for ourselves.
For one of our first team challenges, we were instructed to spin a metal ring until it buzzes, and pass that buzzing metal ring to every single group member without interrupting its spin. We had 15 minutes to do the task. Needless to say, it ended up being much harder than it sounds.
When we first started, we immediately spanned out into a circle. On our first five tries, we were only able to pass the ring twice, not even close to making it all the way around the circle. After awhile, our coach asked us what our rules were.
“Fifteen minutes,” one member commented.
“Pass it to everyone,” another said.
Our coach agreed those were Big Rules, set in stone, but then asked us several questions that scrutinized the little rules we had set for ourselves during the challenge. I won’t mention them here to avoid spoiling the exercise for you in the future. But to us, the statements changed our outlook and our strategy as a team.
In life, as in this challenge, we create limitations and little rules for ourselves. As a leader, it is imperative to be aware of this tendency and to overcome self-made limitations. Learn to identify the Big Rules, which are not negotiable, and the little rules, which are self-made.
I can go on and on, and share everything else I learned that day about teamwork and how to approach challenges. But one of the big takeaways I would like to leave you with is this: the day at Triangle Training Center and its team building activities serve as a cornerstone of what Fuqua is. And, like your experience at Fuqua, that day is so much more than just fun attempts at problem-solving. It will surprise you, it will challenge you, and it will change you.