On Friday, September 21st, we had the pleasure of welcoming 15 executives from Arista Consulting Group to Camp Highland for a day of service, fun, and team building. Arista is out of Alpharetta, GA, and their mission is to help lead people to financial security by designing and delivering benefit programs that give employees the best possible opportunity to become financially secure. This was not Arista’s first visit to Camp Highland, however it was their first time incorporating team development and leadership training.
The day began bright and early as everyone met at a central location near Canton, GA to jump onto a charter bus and head north. Over the years we’ve consistently observed the times in which teams spend traveling to and from Camp Highland (CH) as being some of the most valuable. This day proved to be no different as we kicked it off with introductions of each person. This is a pretty close-knit group and everyone already knew each other, but ironically everybody seemed to learn at least one new thing that they didn’t already know about one another. The time quickly passed and pretty soon we were turning onto the 3 mile stretch of gravel road that led to our destination.
Upon arrival, the Arista team took a short time to take care of some internal business before the Camp Highland team stepped back in to set the pace and expectation for the day’s events. Arista’s goal for this retreat was not just to do the typical “team building”, but rather to intentionally dial in their focus as one unit, one team, One Arista! This meant that they were going to have to become a little vulnerable at times and even be challenged physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Before getting started, the CH team presented the group with their first real challenge of the day which was to hand over their phones until they got back on the bus to leave. For most Americans these days this doesn’t come easy by any means. The mobile devices that we keep close by have essentially become extensions of our everyday lives. They can be really wonderful tools that allow us to manage and communicate with family, work, emails, emergencies, play games, check the news, monitor their home, and a long list of many other items. This is why it can be a big challenge to actually disconnect from these devices for a time so that our attention and focus can be on the people and tasks at hand. It’s also a challenge that the CH staff present to everyone who comes to camp, and one in which Arista embraced.
When planning for this retreat began months prior to today, the Arista Charity Committee (made up of a handful of their employees) wanted to choose an organization that is making a real difference in the lives of children and where they themselves could play a meaningful role by giving back their time, resources and even some of their own finances on a consistent annual basis. When Camp Highland was chosen out of the long list of incredible organizations, we were all ecstatic and couldn’t wait to join hands with them in this partnership!
The first physical activity of the day was a service project. The team was led down a trail into the woods behind the main building until they came upon a clearing where an amphitheater was recently constructed. Out in front of the stage stood 44 wooden benches, enough to hold around 300 people. As they approached the stage, laid before them were stacks of paint brushes, sandpaper, and stain. This was no surprise to the group as they were prepared for some manual labor, however the actual project had not been revealed before this point in time. Everyone was excited and got to work right away. It took no time at all and the benches were sanded and cleaned of the dirt that they were covered with. Then, buckets of stain were poured and each person took a brush and got going. Before we knew it, the benches were complete! They looked incredible with their light, natural brown color and a water protection that will help extend their life. As high fives got passed around so did the bbq! Everyone took a seat on the stage and enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared by a local restaurant called Mr. P’s BBQ. Everyone got to sit back and not only enjoy the good food but, also the big accomplishment that stood before them.
After lunch the group made their way just a short distance to one of the high rope elements called The Team’s Course. Once the course came into view immediately all kinds of mixed emotions began flying. We heard things like, “Sweet, this looks awesome!” and “uh.. are we seriously going way up there”? At any rate, they listened to the briefing and all agreed that they were up for the challenge. So they suited up with harnesses and helmets and headed to the entrance of the course. The rest of the afternoon was spent balancing, stretching, leaning on one another for support, encouraging, and there may have been a few choice words thrown around, but low and behold everyone made their way through each obstacle until they all ended up at the top of the tower (about 60 feet up in the air). One of the employees actually went through the entire course with a boot on her foot from an injury the week before. There was no stopping the Arista team! Hootin and hollering filled the afternoon air as each person zip-lined their way out of the course and back down to solid ground. SUCCESS!
By this point the day was coming to a close. Right on time the bus pulled up and the Arista team piled back on for the journey home. After about half an hour of getting caught back up on missed calls, emails, and text messages, we debriefed the day and managed to pull out some really insightful take-aways. The group realized that the activities could not have been accomplished without everyone’s input and buy-in. It took each person’s unique set of skills and talents to successfully complete all that they had accomplished that day. They also realized that without becoming a little vulnerable and learning that each other’s strengths and weaknesses made them better as a team!