Once you reach a certain level of management, the soft skills so critical to early-career success might begin to feel rusty. When Valeant Pharmaceuticals saw that members of their leadership team could use a refresher on good communication strategies and collaborative skills, they asked for a customized Wagon Builders™ charity team building workshop. We planned an afternoon that would give folks a chance to work together in a fun, low-pressure way that allowed them to re-connect organically.
Circling the Wagons in Bridgewater, NJ
The 15 people waiting for us in a large meeting room at Valent Pharmaceutical offices in Bridgewater, New Jersey, were clearly not a tight-knit group. Folks looked pretty stiff, and there was minimal small talk. We got to work right away though, assigning people to teams, and then running through a few ice breakers, before we moved on to wagon assembly.
Teams were each given a set of tools to work with. In order to get the parts needed to put wagons together, teams competed in simple games that encouraged teamwork, communication, and a little luck. Teams picked up the parts they needed by winning games. Once teams earned their parts, we issued a few activity challenges, too. What seemed like fun was really a chance to work on critical interpersonal skills in a low-stakes environment.
Next Steps for Valeant’s Team
As the afternoon progressed, each team’s participants loosened up and really pitched in, helping each other meet a shared goal. While we laid a good foundation here, the group’s work continued after our Wagon Builders™ workshop.
The members of the leadership team decided to organize a company book drive to fill the wagons. After that, they’d arrange to donate the books to local kids in need. This allowed for on-going opportunities to minimize the silo effect of working in separate departments and maximize reinforcement of the skills we worked on as a group. So instead of filling wagons with donated toys, books, and school supplies like we normally did in a Wagon Builders™ workshop, the Valeant participants wrapped up their program by decorating wagons with the creative supplies we brought in.
Making Real Change for Kids (and Workshop Participants!)
The feedback we received from participants was overwhelmingly positive. Folks were honest with us. They admitted that at the beginning of the workshop, they were not sure how much they’d get out of it, but by the end of the day, they were eager to continue working together on fulfilling the charity mission of Wagon Builders™, plus meeting their organizational goals, together.