Last month I completed my second Tough Mudder.
Tough Mudder is an endurance event series in which participants run 10–12-mile-long courses along which there are 25 to 30 military-style obstacles. Designed and created by British Special Forces to test mental as well as physical strength, obstacles often play on common human fears, such as fire, water, electricity and heights. The events are untimed, and an average 78% of entrants successfully complete the course. Event coordinators call it “Possibly the toughest event on the planet.”
I’m someone who has a passion for leadership and teamwork in action and I look for them being demonstrated everywhere I can. In the Tough Mudder, you see both in droves, particularly in how teams are led and navigate the course.
Here are 4 teamwork lessons I took away from the Tough Mudder.
1.To accomplish something really big, you need others to help you do it. It is a team event, not an individual event.
- Leadership is about inspiring other people to commit to a shared goal that is bigger than what one person can do alone.
- In the Tough Mudder, you need help to negotiate most of the obstacles. And you get more of a sense of accomplishment when you help others do the same: that’s what teamwork is about.
2.Discomfort is the name of the game
- Doing something new and big takes you out of your comfort zone. And if you never stepped out of our comfort you would never find out what we are really made of.
- Believe me; nobody in their right mind is comfortable in the “Arctic Enema.” If the title does not make you uncomfortable, then the icy water will.
3.Teamwork is about listening
- Don’t underestimate those on your team. You’d be amazed where the best ideas, at the right time come from.
- Listening played a factor on my team at the “Pyramid Scheme.” At this obstacle you had to work as a team to get everyone up a slippery, inclined wall. It was too steep to climb by yourself and too slippery to run up. The rookie member of our team had the idea of using each other as a human ladder to get up and pulling everyone up as we went. It worked like a charm.
4.A few encouraging words when the going is tough can work wonders
- Language matters. The right words can make the difference between motivating someone to give that last little bit of effort, or it can tear someone down and make them feel like they don’t matter.
- I saw teams disintegrate when words at one obstacle were, “Keep going, you can do it!” and then later shifted to “Why are you so slow?!”
You don’t have to run a Tough Mudder, to experience the power of a high performing team. You can, however, develop a more powerful team by asking yourself how these lessons apply to you.