How we helped a remote team to communicate better
In the woods today, we worked with nature to help a remote sales team from a global medical supplies company answer a pressing question: "How do we want to communicate with each other?"
Client: Global Medical Supplies Co
Location: Woodland, West Sussex
Group size: 7
Who they are
This global medical technology company provide innovative healthcare and medical solutions. The south east region team is pretty new and has grown from two to seven people in less than a year. The product they sell is complex and the market is competitive.
Team members come from diverse backgrounds, and all work remotely, so they don't spend much time together, and don't contact each other often.
"How do we want to communicate with each other so that we can work together better?"
photo by Sarah Davenport
What can your team learn from building a shelter in the woods together, that you can take back to the workplace?
A team from digital agency Pragmatic come to the woods for one of our outdoor team building and strategy away days, and to explore their purpose.
Read what happened and what they learned in the case study here.
#digitaldetox #teambuilding #businessunplugged
Photo thanks to Sarah Davenport
Setting up a team day - time-lapse video
What could your organisation learn from spending a day in nature, helping each other, and having a meaningful conversation? Here's a time lapse of us setting up a team day in the woods for a digital agency client.
Groups from Sussex University's Library Service get creative at an outdoor team building and wellbeing strategy in the wild day.
The Library got in touch because staff are pretty stretched and stressed. They were looking for non-traditional ways of dealing with that. They also wanted to make more use of Stanmer Park, which is a great outdoor resource on their doorstep.
Their challenge: "How can we use nature to manage the pressures of work and reduce stress in the workplace?"
Read what happened on their strategy away day and what they learned, in our case study here.
PR in the Wild: Team Day Mocktail
Delicious foraged mocktail knocked up by the R+T team as part of their wild team buidling away day with help from @brightonherbalist. Spot the hogweed straw and edible flowers.
#teambuilding #foraging #wildisthenewworkplace #digitaldetox
Why team building is important
First things first - why do any structured team building at all? As a leader there are so many day-to-day pressures, that having time out of the office with your team might seem like a luxury you can ill afford.
But what happens if you don't invest in your team, take time to improve social relations, resolve workplace tensions, and build a forward-thinking culture?
The answer: your team may suffer from a lack of progress, poor productivity or conflicts, all of which can lead to under-performance as a whole.
As a leader it’s your job to resolve these issues as quickly as possible. If you don’t, you may find your staff leave you for a competitor, as a recent survey by LinkedIn shows: 70% of professionals would not work at a leading company if it meant they had to tolerate a bad workplace culture.
For today’s workforce, culture reigns supreme, and as Peter Drucker said “culture eats strategy for breakfast” ie it’s good for the business too.
Read on to discover why heading outdoors into nature is one of the most effective ways of achieving your team building goals and is a vital part of any HR strategy.
At our Leading with Purpose sessions, I ask: "Given all that you've learned and experienced today, if you could commit to doing one thing to make a difference, what would that be?"
Since the start of 2019 we've been convening groups of business founders, leaders and pioneers around a campfire to talk about how to solve 21st challenges - of how you lead with meaning and purpose in an increasingly uncertain world, and improve the planet and your business. So far we've run six campfires for 40 leaders. Publicly committing to an action in front of the group has been a key part of each session. This is what people have committed to:
Think Productive work on communication, culture and strategy at a ninja away day workshop around the fire.
Who are they?
Founded by best-selling author Graham Allcott (How to be a Productivity Ninja), Think Productive help transform the productivity and wellbeing of leading organisations around the world, through practical, human and straight to the point time management and productivity training and workshops.
Think Productive are a close team, a mix of trainers (called Productivity Ninjas) and head office staff.
The time I cried in a client meeting
Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash
The other day I go for an early 8am coffee with a client. The HR director of a large charity, she has kindly agreed to meet me to explain why they have decided not to go ahead with my proposal for a leadership programme in nature.
Circumstances have changed. They’ve just done a 360. It has thrown up some unexpected stuff and the CEO has decided to go with a different plan.
It’s fine, I understand. And anyway I appreciate that she cares enough to explain this face to face.
Over coffee we have a wide-ranging discussion about culture, and the challenges and tensions of an organisation that has frontline support staff and also a retail arm, with different issues, different needs, and different personalities.
And then she mentions homelessness.
That’s when things take an unexpected turn.
For some reason I’m compelled to tell her what happened the day before. A visit to a meditation class has kickstarted my on-again-off-again resolution to be more generous to the growing number of people begging on the high street.
On my way to get some lunch, there's a toothless guy sitting on the pavement by the Barclays cashpoint, as I drop some coins into his hand, I ask him how it’s going.
What does burnout mean for your organisation and how can you use culture change and the power of nature to help your teams to thrive instead? Here’s a 5-step toolkit to cope with an always-on world. Words by Lauren Psyk
Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash
In a 24-hour, globally connected world, we are always-on - spending our entire lives connected to technology, with instant access to the world around us.
There are undoubtedly positive benefits to business and organisations from this state of 24-hour connectivity.
You can be more productive by managing projects using cloud based tools; you’ve got the convenience of being able to access everything you need, from meals to travel, with the touch of a button; and you can easily serve international markets during their waking hours, as working across different time zones and having staff based across the globe is becoming de rigueur.
However, it's also becoming clear that it’s not all sunshine and roses.
You may be able to have a gourmet meal delivered at all hours of the day and night, but what is this state of being always-on doing to your mental and physical health, and the health of your team?
Collaboration, impact, and purpose. How campfires help business leaders develop a plan for the future
In the last few months, School of the Wild has been convening groups of business leaders to explore what we can do to address global social and environmental challenges, and how to make the world a better place. Here, business coach Neil Pavel explains what he experienced around the campfire.
I have experience of this twice now after Nigel, who runs School of the Wild, invited me to attend a couple of the Leading with Purpose campfire catalyst sessions that he facilitates.
For a few hours, myself and the other people in these groups shared our stories, ideas and insights into leadership and responsibility, and about culture and the future.
Being outside has an immediate impact.
I notice how we all think and behave more-than-slightly differently. There’s an openness to the conversations, less boundaries, and lots of trust.
Having the time and space to reflect on leadership and impact with a bunch of complete strangers allows a wide range of subjects, voices, and opinions to be heard and mulled over.
Being outside has an immediate impact. I notice we all think and behave more-than-slightly differently. There’s an openness to the conversations, less boundaries and lots of trust.
How does your organisation stay connected? How can your team have more impact and make more of a difference? Making meaningful connections and having conversations that matter to address these questions at a team building away day in the woods today.
#team #strategy #nature #business #schoolofthewild
Marketing guru and writer-photographer, Lauren Psyk, came to a Leading with Purpose campfire catalyst session. She wasn't expecting it to be so powerful. This is her story.
photo of Lauren Psyk by Saskia Nelson.
In my twenties, I was attracted by the bright lights of London and had ‘trendy’ marketing jobs with media organisations.
From an outside perspective I had what every young professional wants - I worked on partnerships with music and media brands, I got to go to glamorous events and trendy media industry parties and I had a decent enough salary to enjoy the London life.
Back then, nobody talked about millennials, the buzz word at the time was urbanites - and I was living the stereotypical urbanite life; work hard, play hard, spend hard.
Lack of purpose
But despite my initial excitement, within a couple of years it became clear to me that I had set off on the wrong path. Neither my job nor my lifestyle were going to make me happy or give me any sense of fulfilment. Life and work felt meaningless, empty and vacuous - essentially I was lacking any sense of purpose.
So I quit the media life and went to work in Government communications, on a THINK! road safety advertising campaign aimed at reducing deaths and injuries amongst motorcyclists.
My work had meaning and I felt fulfilled. I got a huge sense of achievement from the fact I was doing something with purpose, and which had a positive impact.
Eventually I left London to seek a healthier and more balanced lifestyle by the sea here in Brighton, and I started designing a career that fits around my needs and values.
More recently, I have worked a lot in the charity sector and on projects which give me creative freedom. But purpose, and doing work which has a positive impact is still a core part of what drives me.
What’s the point? How to maintain your business mojo in the face of crises and uncertainty.
In such a rapidly changing and unpredictable world, identifying an overriding purpose for your business is more important than ever. Being a greater force for good and achieving personal fulfilment are arguably just as important as pursuing profit. Here’s why connecting with your purpose is a vital part of a successful business strategy. Words by Lauren Psyk.
Read time: 4 mins
The world is changing and the future is unpredictable. Brexit, Covid-19, climate disruption and the transition to a digital economy are just some of the more obvious challenges facing today’s business leaders.
In the face of these uncertainties, and with the daily demands of running a business, it’s easy to see how your purpose can get lost.
The urgent day-to-day pressures of meeting deadlines, finding clients and managing a busy team can often become more important than what seem like idealistic notions of ‘purpose’. This may lead you to feel a dichotomy between being true to your values and running a successful business that earns you a decent living.
The desire to do some good, rather than chase purely short-term financial goals, is something you may end up putting aside.
And if you’re an entrepreneur or a startup, you need to achieve credibility, clients and an income quickly in order to grow your business. It’s all too easy to grasp at partnerships, projects or areas of work that don’t meet your wider objectives just to get your business off the ground.
As Andrea Collings, Director of Brighton based startup Terrier Marketing, says:
“When we first started out, we were chasing clients who weren’t the right fit for us, just to get up and running. Eventually we realised we needed to take a step back and reconnect with our purpose. We said to ourselves: 'Hold on a minute, why are we doing what we do? We didn’t start out to work this way, we have certain values to uphold, and these have become lost.' We’re now attracting and working with clients who are the right fit for us, and we are right for them.”
Technology now enables anyone to run a business wherever, and however, you choose. Coupled with a fundamental shift in attitudes to work, it’s clear that the very concept of what a ‘team’ means in the modern organisation is changing dramatically. As CEOs and team leaders you ignore these developments at your peril.
How can you embrace these changes and continue to create happy, productive and successful teams in the 21st century? asks Lauren Psyk
Remote workers at a co-working space: Photo: Shridhar Gupta/Unsplash
Read time: 4 mins
In 2019, people no longer ‘go to work’ in the same way they used to - in fact, you could say work is no longer a place, but a space. Business teams are not just spread across a city, but often across the globe. Many employees now enjoy flexible and remote working, which can no longer be seen as a perk but a central part of working life.
The digital world is not the only driver for this change in where and when we work. There has also been a dramatic shift in our very attitudes to our careers. Increasingly, salary is not seen as the key marker of success.
Goals for career fulfilment now include being valued as an individual, working fewer hours, protecting your mental health and working for a more socially responsible organisation.
When looking for new roles, a positive work/life balance comes before salary or career progression as one of the most important things employees seek. Bestselling books such as The 4-Hour Work Week promote the idea of living more and working less.
Alongside this, social media means your employees are all busy cultivating a strong ‘personal brand’ online and individualism is valued above all else.
In recruitment, the power is increasingly held by the applicants, who see themselves very much as their own brands and are asking: “Does this company fit with my values and my ethos? Can they give me the work fulfilment I’m after?”
If you can’t deliver the lifestyle that a talented, young graduate is looking for, there are plenty of other creative, forward thinking startups and organisations who can.
How Spending Time Around a Fire Had Unexpected Benefits, Both for Myself and for My Business
Getting a different perspective with like-minds around the fire was worth the investment, and got me some great new clients, says PR and communications consultant, Jill Woolf
When I saw the email come through from the NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator for a ‘Mentors Go Wild’ event set in the great outdoors in Stanmer Park, my first reaction was “They’ll never get me in wellies round a camp fire!” I left the email in my inbox and carried on with daily life.
Something about it must have resonated though because I was drawn back to it and reconsidered.
As anyone who knows me well would expect, my initial concerns were over shallow (I prefer the word ‘practical’ – it’s all about personal branding) things like what the weather would do to my hair, and what would be the best thing to wear.
Having assuaged my doubts on these, I focused on the benefits – spending time out of the office, getting back to nature, learning new things, looking at issues from a different perspective, sharing with strangers who didn’t know me and therefore would respond with potentially fresh ideas and views – and suddenly the idea seemed delightful.
No email, no mobile phone, no interruptions for a whole morning. A focus on my own thoughts, plans and ideas. Learning. Listening. Interacting. Sharing. Helping others.
And so I booked myself on, found my wellies and joined in.
Biophilic design is the new trend for bringing nature into the design of your home and workspaces. These 3 plants are the best for your office, says interior designer Chloe Bullock
l first learnt about biophilia whilst watching Biophilic Design – the Architecture of Life. It’s a film about the overwhelming benefits of buildings that connect people and nature: hospitals where patients heal faster, schools where children’s test scores are higher, offices where workers are more productive, and communities where people know more of their neighbours, and where families thrive.
I loved it. It all made so much sense.
There’s lots of research that shows we need nature at a deep and fundamental level, but our cities and buildings are often designed in ways that diminish the environment, and alienate us from the natural world. Biophilic design, in contrast, shows the way toward creating healthy and productive habitats in a modern way.
Biophilia itself means the human need for connection to nature - the idea that we possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life.
There's a reason they say it's lonely at the top.
For the leader of any organisation, you may have lots of people working for you, but with the challenge of a changing and diverse workforce, a never ending conveyor belt of meetings, reports, and decisions, with uncertain outcomes and the pressure to deliver, you can end up feeling pretty isolated and wondering how best to lead effectively.
You’re not alone: 60% of leaders say feeling isolated affects their performance, and instead they get caught up in the small details and push aside the decisions that really matter. [†]
"From de-stressing to being more creative, my work has benefitted from spending time around a fire with other business people," says Amy Lishman of Brighton Chamber of Commerce. "Here's how it helped me..."
I’m lucky that in my job I’m not constantly stuck in front of a screen for 8 hours a day. I get out and about and meet people across Brighton and attend networking events in venues across the city.
Most of these events and meetings are indoors though - in offices, coffee shops and co-working spaces like Platfr9m and Freedom Works.
So when I was invited to attend Mentors Go Wild, a session run as part of the NatWest Business Accelerator programme and facilitated by School of the Wild, a morning of conversation, teamwork and communication – all outdoors in the beautiful Stanmer Park – I literally jumped at the chance.
We did a number of exercises throughout the morning led by Nigel and the School of the Wild team. All designed to help the group get to know each other, discuss challenges and opportunities, and bring a group of seemingly disparate individuals together.
I’m not going to spoil the surprise of the innovative exercises we did, but instead I offer three things I learnt from working outside for the morning.
Staff from Matchbox Mobile show how it's done, aceing the team fire lighting challenge, one task at a time.
Take advantage of the warm weather to hold your team away day in the Great Outdoors. Taking your team into nature has lots of benefits.
An away day in the wild builds camaraderie and team spirit
A few weeks ago we ran an away day for the UK Green Building Council, a passionate and busy organisation who advocate for a better built environment.
We got their team of twenty to connect around the fire, take an inspiring tour of the Brighton Earthship, and do some whittling and foraging.
Usually based in an office in London, the activities and time together in nature really worked - Julie Hirigoyen their CEO wrote that the day gave them a “palpable sense of calm and togetherness which is still with us a week later.”
How we helped the Academy of Medical Sciences explore the future of medicine at a horizon scanning workshop in the wild
The Academy of Medical Sciences delve into the future of medical research at an innovation away day workshop around the fire
All pictures: Academy of Medical Sciences
Who are they?
The Academy of Medical Sciences is a fellowship of 1,200 of the UK’s best medical science researchers working at universities and hospitals across the UK, with a mission to improve health through research.
Looking at the future of medicine
It’s March 2018, and the Academy are running a series of Horizon Scanning workshops across the UK to look at the future of medicine over the next 30 years.
The workshops are bringing the Academy’s fellows and grant awardees together with curious creatives from various research disciplines, to explore what areas of medical research and innovation will have the greatest impact on society by 2048 (when the Academy turns 50).
The Academy have asked School of the Wild to host the Brighton workshop - the idea is to hold it away from the usual world of universities and hospitals, in an environment not normally connected to research, to inspire attendees to think more broadly about the future.
Futures consultant Oliver Grant is leading the sessions with support from Academy of Medical Science (AMS) staff, and writers and graphic visualisers who record the conversations.
How fresh air can lead to fresh thinking and why that's important if you're to reframe your ideas about today's challenges.
Dialogue and conversation are integral to every business. Despite the wave of new apps and technologies that offer better business processes at a click of a button, a fundamental element to any successful business is still face-to-face communication.
Innovation, strategy, creation, and implementation are all human-centred processes that rely on people talking to each other.
As Steve Jobs said, “There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat. That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions.”
And with flexible hours, the increase in time spent in front of screens, and the demands of city life, it's never been more important to get teams communicating and working at their best.
With workplace relationships being so very important, more and more organisations are becoming increasingly conscious of the importance of team dynamics, and are taking steps to improve company culture to create the conditions for better conversations.
A 2017 report by Mazars found that culture is one of the top three priorities for company boards, and that the importance of corporate culture to business success is an area of growing strategic importance.
However, with virtually all employers thinking about improving conversations in the office, at School of Wild we believe getting out of the office might be a better option.
Nilofer Merchant, author and business innovator, spoke about the benefits of outdoor meetings in a TED Talk in 2013. She found a direct link for how walking meetings can change how we think: “Fresh air drives fresh thinking,” she says, and delivers some scary statistics about the health risks of spending too long indoors to back it up.
“Nowadays people are sitting 9.3 hours a day, which is more then we’re sleeping,” she says. “Sitting is so incredibly prevalent we don’t even question how much we’re doing it, and because everyone else is doing it, it doesn’t even occur to us it’s not okay.”
But it’s not just health risks that can be reduced by getting outdoors. As Merchant found, going outside brought benefits to conversations too.
She explains, “There is this amazing thing about getting out of the box that leads to out of the box thinking, whether it’s nature or the exercise itself, it certainly works.”
And the science is there to confirm it. One study discovered that simply being exposed to office plants can boost employee wellbeing and productivity by 15%, which gives an inkling into the dramatic benefits that being outdoors can bring.
According to another study by the University of Kansas, being absorbed in nature can help increase creative problem-solving ability by as much as 50%.
With the multitude of distractions that office screens and phones give, it’s no wonder that getting away from the office is a good way to change a conversation.
Spending time in nature with your team is a powerful way to boost your workplace culture and employee wellbeing, and has a dramatic effect on creative thinking and team cohesion, says Liz Naven
In the past few years, culture change and workplace wellbeing have become staples of the modern office. Prompted by research demonstrating the inextricable link between employee happiness and productivity, organisations are placing serious attention on initiatives to improve employees’ experience at work, inspired by forward-thinking companies such as Google and Zappos.
Although your company may not have a budget as large as these tech giants, chances are you're looking to replicate the same positive company culture with practical alternatives that make work a positive experience for all, with a consequent impact on your bottom line.
Leadership and team development programmes, combined with flexible working hours, on-site massage and fitness classes, and duvet days are just some of the perks you might already be offering in a bid to increase employee happiness, engagement, and productivity.
The results are usually worth the effort: organisations who get culture right, combined with properly-designed wellness programmes enjoy large financial returns, amongst other competitive advantages. For example, according to research from Harvard Business Review, Johnson & Johnson's wellness programs cumulatively saved the company $250 million on health care costs, with a return of $2.71 for every $2 spent, between 2002 to 2008.
Yet are you overlooking the most effective activity to transform culture and wellbeing? To create a positive workforce full of high-performing employees, you may just need to send your team outdoors.
Being outdoors in nature has a dramatic range of benefits, for both physical and mental health. Time spent outdoors boosts mood and energy, improves attention and encourages connection and community.
If your business aims to put culture first, wants to prioritise the wellbeing of your employees, and improve workplace productivity, getting your teams to spend time in nature as part of their working life can be a vital piece of the process.
Here’s 6 reasons why taking your team outdoors is good for business:
Been given the task of arranging a team away day and wondering where to start?
Our outdoor team away days in the wild are the perfect way to bring people together.
An away day outdoors in nature has lots of benefits - including dramatic impacts on creative and innovative thinking, and decision making. Plus time in nature is a great leveller and breaks down personal barriers, making it much easier to connect with each other.
We cater for groups of various sizes from 6 to 50 people, in the Brighton and Sussex countryside, and in London. We'll help you arrange your team away day with ideas that suit your specific needs.
From a foraging walkshop to a creative campfire, we listen to what you want, share ideas and put our planning expertise into practice. You get an away day tailored to achieve your desired outcome.
There are plenty of options to explore, from facilitated conversations to bonding exercises. We have covered spaces in case of bad weather and all our team away days are designed with one purpose in mind - to keep your team effective and energised.
So leave everything to us, you can just relax and enjoy the experience.
Author & Curator
Nigel Berman is the founder of School of the Wild.