Christian humor self-development prayer

Life lessons learned from climbing up a mountain with a juice box, four sweets and wearing flip flops – Pt5

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FSNP: Analysis

Teamwork makes the dream work…..John C Maxwell

Understanding group dynamics is useful knowledge for anyone who has or will in future work with other people. Even more so for a manager or a person in a position of leadership  in any area or aspect of their lives. Bruce Tuckman’s group development theoretical model (1965), provides great context and understanding through it’s universally applicable stages of forming, storming, norming and then performing. As no matter the purpose, goal, location, age or socio-economic background of the group, members will need to navigate the aforementioned necessary stages in order to meet targets, objectives and deliver results.

Forming

My experience of climbing a mountain under unusual circumstances, serves as a useful application case study of Tuckman’s initial four stage theory. Typically in the forming introductory stage, there is caution, anxiety and excitement amongst the group. Members look for acceptance, seek to understand project goals, how the task will be accomplished as well as each other.

Storming

Some groups never progress past the storming phase due to conflict, competition and misunderstandings. Arguments, tension and challenges to management authority are commonplace at this stage and some members quit or become withdrawn. Managers/leaders may need to step in to quell dissension and disintegration of the team.

Norming

At the ‘norming’ stage the team may regress back to the storming phase from time to time, though on the whole, there are respected ground rules, boundaries and cohesion. Leadership is shared, feedback is constructive and individual contributions are recognised by the team as beneficial for all.

Performing

If a team manages to make it as far as the performance phase, members are highly motivated, use their initiative with very little supervision or no management required.  The high performance team are even willing to go the extra mile to accomplish goals and are successful in completing objectives. The team can adapt to change and respond well to unforeseen challenges. This is a productive and efficient team whom now have an affinity for one another.

 

Conclusion

I had little or no relationship with the majority of the group prior to that eventful day, as we were from different backgrounds, ages and I even had a bit of a language barrier with one of the team.  However, in order to successfully achieve our shared goal of getting off the mountain alive and unhurt, we all had to work as a team. This meant unequivocally working through Tuckman’s ‘forming, storming, norming, performing’ group development stages. As I had no option of quitting, changing teams or the luxury of bringing in preferred people.  Therefore being able to get through that experience was a great learning and development, character-building opportunity for me in respect of being adaptable, working with different types of personalities, working through different issues, improving communication skills, persevering under pressure and of course trusting in God.

Christian humor self-development prayer

Life lessons learned from climbing up a mountain with a juice box, four sweets and wearing flip flops – Pt4

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FSNP: The Case Study

Forming , Storming, Norming, Performing

 

Forming

The forming of the group was very simple as there were no restrictions or barriers to entry (basically just turn up at 8 am at the entrance). The group was very polite too, as although I stuck out like a sore thumb due to my impractical outfit, everyone was very nice and even complimentary of my stylish taste. The group had grown from five to seven people and so there were lots of introductory conversations taking place and overall there was a real upbeat atmosphere of anticipation. That said, there was little actual agreement on anything and there were lots of questions aimed at our walking guide, which delayed our departure a little.

Storming

So bearing in mind that the original agreed arrangement, was to take a brisk early morning scenic walk and then the cable car to the top of the mountain, being part of a group whilst carrying out this activity was just an innocuous, secondary incidental. Things were initially fine in the group, but that changed about 10 -15 minutes after we set off.

You might think that the objective of moving from point A to B was simple enough and therefore so would be the circumstances, but the reality was that three of the seven in the group wanted to stop and appreciate the atmosphere and scenery. Four of the group wanted to keep moving at a fast pace and two of the seven wanted us, when we did move, to walk at a much slower pace. One of the group, who had hiked the mountain before wanted us to take a different pathway to the one we were on, as it wasn’t that well known. It is fair to say that there were a few disagreements and as a result sub groups/cliques quickly emerged.

Norming

After about an hour on the mountain, in torrential downpour, the group dynamics changed. I think it happened after we saw from a distance that the cable cars had been shut down. It was at that point there was a realisation that we would all be together for some time – whether we liked it or not. Attempting to sing ‘I will survive’ by Gloria Gaynor proved to be a humorous icebreaker and improved team spirit, in part because no one really knew the words except the all-important and relevant chorus, that we would survive!

We willingly pooled our food and drink together and in my case I had four sweets and an apple juice to offer the group. Luckily this was not all there was though and a total of five bottles of water, four oranges, three sandwiches, two bars of chocolate and a packet of biscuits was shared between us all. It certainly wasn’t a kings feast, but thankfully it was enough to keep everyone somewhat hydrated and energised. When we came across the snakes, a couple of people quickly obtained, fashioned and distributed strong sticks to everyone with such speed, it was actually quite amazing.

Performing

By the time the mousiest, beanpole of a guy, began impromptu to sing Ron Kenoly’s ‘I have known the father cares for me (he’s been good)’ (blowing us all away with his voice in the process), I knew we had transformed into a strong team, where members felt comfortable with one another. As a result, we had an amazing time of prayer, praise and worship. All the former cliques had disbanded and there was a resulting sense of cohesion, despite the obvious challenges we were trekking our way through on the mountain.

After about 4 and 1/2 hours later, when we eventually reached the top of the mountain and from there accessed the road, there was a real sense of team accomplishment and camaraderie. Each member had contributed in some way to our success (no one died and bar a sprained ankle, no one was seriously injured), whether it be guidance, direction, leadership, encouragement, prayer ministry and/or praise and worship (I think I unintentionally contributed through the provision of light relief).

Christian humor self-development prayer

Life lessons learned from climbing up a mountain with a juice box, four sweets and wearing flip flops – Pt2

Lesson 2 – Plan and Research

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Following on from lesson 1, I’ve established and explained why it is generally easier to follow and much harder to lead. As well as why you have no one else to blame if you thoughtlessly follow someone down a dead end, follow bad advice etc.

I like to at times ‘live in the moment’, ‘wing it’, ‘take life as it comes’ – basically be open to new experiences. But having a laissez-faire attitude can leave you in situations that could be avoided. Take for example if you go on a journey to a place you don’t know, or decide to climb a mountain, doing some research should really be a consideration. I generally believe that we are obliged to use the brain that God has given us, but in this particular situation I found myself, disengaging my brain. So the second life lesson is about research and planning.

You see, when it was suggested at dinner the night before that we go and check out the majestic landscape views of Cape Town, from a great focal peak point, I simply said ‘great – I’m in, what time am I being picked up?’ I assumed we would be in the luxurious air conditioned van driving for most of the way to the top, but upon honest reflection, if I’d asked a question or two, done a little research, I wouldn’t have found myself in the predicament I wound up in.

If I’d googled, bing’d, yahoo’d – searched on the internet, I would of discovered that this South African landmark, was not the presumed hill top I thought we were going up, but an actual 3,563ft mountain. Seriously who decides to climb a mountain over dessert? Yes we were all joking about walking off the calories the day before, but as we approached the base of the mountain, my pupils began to dilate.

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As we get out of the van, and the driver leaves us at the entrance, I guess I’m in a state of shock as I look around me and I become acutely aware that looking ‘nice’ and well styled was not the priority of the rest of the group who were all wearing hiking gear! Though a little late, I find my voice and I decide to speak up and enquire what exactly we would be doing this morning.

The group’s majority decides that we should walk for a bit and then take the aerial cableway the rest of the way to the top. I’m reassured by a lady who’s at least twenty five years older than myself that the path we will take is scenic and that the 30 minute walk will be done at a slow pace. As it’s such a nice day (the sky is blue with a warm gentle breeze), I’m won over, it sounded like a good plan and besides I didn’t mind the early morning stroll.

However forty five minutes later, we are still walking, not near the cable car entrance and the weather has dramatically changed. The sky has darkened and it’s now raining. I’m near the back of the group of seven walkers and I can just about hear what the guy leading the group is saying. From what I have gathered thus far, when the weather is like this, the cable cars are stopped. Therefore by the time we’d reach them, the area would be locked up and we wouldn’t be able to ride them to the top of the mountain.

I turn around in order to begin to walk back down, but my walking ‘partner’ for want of a better word (we’re the last two at the rear of the group), grabs my arm and explains the bit I’ve obviously missed. The entrance of the mountain will also be locked up by now and there is no way we will be able to scale the wire and fencing, even if we wanted to (I asked). She then hugs me as my face must obviously show my bewilderment and trepidation as it dawns on me that I am going to have to climb this mountain with only a juice box, four sweets and in my flip flops. There’s a loud clap of thunder and I think to myself that this feels like the set-up of a horror movie….as it turns out, I wasn’t that wrong…..TBC

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Christian humor self-development prayer

Life lessons learned from climbing up a mountain with a juice box, four sweets and wearing flip flops

Lesson 1 – Be careful who you follow.

It’s important that you don’t just follow anyone’s ideas, fashion sense, into battle – or in my case, up a mountain….

It’s easy to follow, much harder to lead and sometimes it actually makes sense to follow a more learned, experienced person. I could even cite the great biblical example of Elisha following Elijah here and in fact go as so far to say I believe we all could do with an Elijah type figure in our lives – a spiritual mentor, father and/or mother. But let’s be clear that’s not what I’m talking about so that said, you have no one else to blame if you follow someone into some kind of ridiculous dodgy situation.

In my case I’d paid hardly any attention to anything that had been said about the day’s itinerary the day before and simply settled in my mind to follow others as we would be doing everything as a group anyway. This was not the first time I’d used this strategy and it had always worked out fine to let others take the lead. No worry, no stress.

Therefore if I’m honest, upon reflection I hold my hands up and acknowledge I’m ultimately to blame and I can’t really say following the advice of a 10 year old boy about whether wearing my flip flops that day was okay. Especially when my inner voice said at least twice, change into trainers (sneakers) before I set off that day. Somehow following the advice of a kid overruled my gut feeling, the Holy Spirit and any kind of common sense. It of course set me up for big problems later on, but at the time, I thought ‘que sera sera, whatever will be, will be – basically what’s the worst that could happen?’

Anyway by now some of you may be wondering if I am being serious, perhaps exaggerating or confusing a very steep hill with an actual mountain. Well the mountain in question has the following Wiki Facts:

  • Table Mountain is a mountain overlooking the city of Cape Town in South Africa
  • The highest point of Table Mountain is 3,563 feet above sea level
  • The mountain’s main feature is a level plateau at the peak approximately 3 kilometres from side to side, surrounded by steep cliffs.
  • Table Mountain has apparently for various reasons, seen more deaths in the last century than Mount Everest.
  • Climbing a mountain was never on my bucket list.

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Part 2 to follow shortly