Special Report: Motivating the Salesforce: Regatta reinforced client’s values

In this special report, we asked meeting planners and motivational experts to describe a team-building activity they had planned and executed for one of their clients.We asked them to explain the client's objectives, describe how the program worked and outline the...

In this special report, we asked meeting planners and motivational experts to describe a team-building activity they had planned and executed for one of their clients.

We asked them to explain the client’s objectives, describe how the program worked and outline the results.

Also in this report, we include a listing of some of the products soon to be on display at next month’s Motivational Marketing Expo, a trade show featuring premium, incentive, business gift and incentive travel products and services.

The list begins on page 18.

Murray Shields is president of Panorama Conference Management, a division of The Mariposa Communications Group, a Toronto-based sales and marketing communications company.

Client: Warner-Lambert Canada

Program: The Anything That Will Float Boat Regatta

Water is a central fact of Canadian life.

Getting around it, along it and across it has preoccupied the indigenous peoples from time immemorial, the coureurs de bois throughout the 18th century, and generations of summer campers.

In the Canadian experience, little compares to the challenge of building a vessel and then navigating it across open water.

It strikes a chord in us that others cannot understand.

It takes ingenuity, practice and teamwork and therein lies the key to one of the most effective team building exercises we have ever run for a client — The Anything That Will Float Boat Regatta.

Warner-Lambert Canada, a Scarborough, Ont.-based company which manufactures prescription and over-the-counter medications as well as confectionery products, is one of the most aggressive packaged goods marketers in the country.

The company has five core values: prize creativity; open and candid communication; speed of action; focus on what’s important; and reward true success.

In April of this year, the successful conclusion of a year-long incentive program brought 300 Warner-Lambert sales and marketing people to a week of reward, recognition and business sessions at Disney World’s Grand Floridian Beach Resort.

Every event during the week had to reflect one or more of the core values but The Anything That Will Float Boat Regatta wove them all together into a successful team-building event.

The afternoon began with 30 teams of 10 marching down to the beach in color-coded T-shirts.

The soundtrack for all this activity was a barrage of appropriate tunes such as Surf’s Up, Sloop John B., Sailing, and so on.

A facilitator for each team gave out sheets of corrugated board, duct tape, a knife and magic marker and explained the challenge – to design and construct a boat from the materials supplied and then navigate it from the shore to a buoy and back again, carrying a crew of two.

The teams moved immediately to work, cutting, taping, singing, decorating and jockeying for the coveted captains’ and first mates’ hats.

As the cardboard constructions began to take shape we had our first intimation of the results this event would produce.

In one of those marvelous and unpredictable circumstances that take place when creativity is unfettered, out of 30 boats, no two looked even remotely alike.

There were Viking ships, river barges, canoes and even some cardboard sails hoisted above cardboard decks.

While the safety boat stood by to rescue any unintentional submarines, the teams took to the water and the soundtrack for the activity became the theme from the shark movie Jaws.

To the accompaniment of this music and the cheering of their teammates on-shore, the captain and first mate of each boat steered the course out to the buoy and back, although some crews were wetter than others as they stepped ashore.

Following the event, the teams gathered for an almost 60-minute de-briefing on what went right and wrong and why.

Each team filled out a one-page questionnaire that focused their attention on the ways in which the company’s five core values had been applied during the afternoon.

Take the fun out of the event? No way.

The de-briefing was one of the highlights of the day and clearly indicated the way in which valuable lessons had been learned throughout the afternoon.

Comments from the teams were instructive and incisive – ‘our boat looked great but it wasn’t built for speed’, or ‘we spent too much time making it perfect and didn’t focus on what was important – winning the race’.

The crews evaluated themselves strictly, and this proved to us that the lessons of the afternoon had been well-learned.

The event came to a close with a ceremony in which prizes were awarded that recognized the winners and the five core values, reinforcing the teamwork required to make success a reality.