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Don’t Expect Workers To Trust Blindly

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Next time your company decides to partake in some team building, you may want to steer clear of the exotic. After all, for one daring real estate company in Italy, a bizarre choice of exercise left some employees literally burned.

Who would have thought that walking on hot coals would be a way to empower individuals and build team unity? Yet, according to motivational speaker Alessandro Di Priamo—who has led thousands of people through firewalking the last 12 years—challenging employees to take such risks will help create confidence and motivation.

Firewalking helps people overcome their fears, seek new challenges and understand that most of what they see as their limits are self-inflicted.

Unfortunately for nine unsuspecting employees, their blinding walk did anything but flourish team unity. Instead, it placed them in the hospital with minor burns and scars. Turns out, despite Di Priamo’s own walk on the hot coals, his failure to double-check the standard of materials left him in the hot seat. It wasn’t until after the injuries ensued that he discovered artificial coal and incorrect wood were utilized for the fire pit. Ouch!

“I have done this job for 12 years with thousands of people and never had a problem. I myself walked first on that bed of burning coals and didn’t feel anything — in fact that same evening I went for a 16 km run,” he said.

Sometimes when a problem isn’t apparent, it’s hard to be aware that one exists. But that difficulty didn’t make this situation any less unpleasant for those employees who were struggling to walk for some time after trying to do something as simple as build team unity. This is definitely a situation that should have been avoided through proper planning and a little more caution.

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© Flickr user Beta-J

Without a doubt, Di Priamo’s negligence was quite concerning. Yet, just as worrisome is the fact that his participants were simply expected to place full trust in his unfamiliar leadership. And if that wasn’t enough, even more unfortunate was the fact that each employee was forced into one of two difficult positions:

  • Agree to participate, thus risking the possibility for physical injury.
  • Bow out of the exercise and risk appearing non-committal and unenthusiastic.

AccelaWork knows quite well: failure doesn’t always have to be bad. If nothing else, this incident is evidence of some good lessons learned. Chances are, Di Priamo will probably never hold another seminar without first checking materials and testing fire pit standards. Yes, this turned out bad for some employees, but it would be even worse if corrective actions weren’t taken to prevent a similar result in the future. And one hopes that companies will re-evaluate the way they choose to motivate and empower their staff. After all, building and maintaining a strong team is not created by backing stakeholders into a corner or burdening them with unreasonable expectations. Building a strong team is as simple as showing trust in your staff and allowing them to be empowered through their day-to-day work, not through gimmicks and other motivational seminars.

If your goal is to create a better working, more unified team, empower your stakeholders! Provide employees with proactive tasks and meaningful responsibilities. Encourage them to take on more ownership in their position and challenge them to improve their own systems of operation. This will lead to feelings of confidence and respect rather than submission and lack of importance. AccelaWork believes strongly in promoting accountability, creativity and cooperation among stakeholders. Reach out to our our consultants today today to learn how to use empowerment positively to improve workflow and build better teams.

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