Why a Kayaking Excursion Is the Perfect Team-Building Retreat

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, it’s impossible to overstate the benefit of corporate team-building initiatives.

Fostering internal cooperation is even more crucial than usual after mergers, writes Forbes Coaches Council member Michelle Riklan.

“While there are many moving parts to consider when heading an M&A,” she says, “the most important thing of all is cultural integration.”

That begs the question: What’s the best way to ensure that everyone’s rowing their metaphorical boat in the same direction?

According to Manitoba-based kayaking enthusiast Lori Janeson, it’s putting everyone in a position to row their literal boats in the same direction.

“A non-competitive kayaking excursion is the perfect setting for a corporate team-building retreat,” says Janeson. She identifies six clear arguments in favor of kayaking as a team — with the caveat that the trip needn’t be mandatory for hydrophobes.

  1. It’s An Opportunity to Teach New Skills

Unless your organization is unusually outdoorsy, it’s a fair bet that not everyone on your team is an experienced kayaker. For some, this might be the first time in a paddle-powered boat.

Don’t shy away from the challenge. Use the excursion as an opportunity to teach useful new skills, from basic watercraft safety to advanced paddling techniques. Hold team members responsible for securing their own equipment, and turn frustrating interludes into impromptu “teachable moments.”

  1. It’s a Tailor-Made Trust-Building Exercise

Any wilderness excursion demands trust from everyone involved. Your team members need to trust the expedition’s leader to chart the right course, trust themselves to have the physical and mental endurance to complete the journey, and trust their colleagues to aid them in moments of vulnerability.

Plus, you should have no problem finding dry ground suitable for trust falls.

  1. It’s Cozy by Necessity

Kayaking trips are cozy. Really cozy. Multi-day retreats almost certainly involve rustic accommodations, whether that means pitched tents or no-frills cabins. It’s impossible to spend more than a day with your team on the water and not get more comfortable in one another’s personal space.

Paradoxically, this actually helps establish and set boundaries back in the “real world” — the more you know about a colleague, the easier it is to give them their space.

  1. It Requires Teammates to Spend a Lot of Time Together

Not everyone wants to be best friends with their work colleagues, but spending a great deal of time together can break the ice once and for all. This is especially important following mergers or shakeups, when teams may feature mixes of newer and more experienced employees.

  1. It’s Immersive

Team building works best in low- or no-distraction environments. A wilderness kayaking excursion is pretty much the textbook definition of “low-distraction environment,” unless you count the occasional swoop of a fishing eagle.

  1. It Has Transcendental Potential

Want your team members to remember your excursion for years to come? Make sure it goes down in a transcendental place, like a remote national park or end-of-the-world channel.

Have a tip for a great team-building retreat? Please share your comment in the box below.