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Cobblers enhance communication skills on away-day

28 Jul 2009

Northampton Town BadgeThe first team squad of local League Two side Northampton Town ('The Cobblers') was put through paces of a different kind, as their communication, teamworking and leadership skills were put to the test during an away day at Highgate House last Wednesday.

Following an invite from Sundial Group, which owns the Creaton based meetings venue, the coaching staff watched on while the players tackled Teamscapes, a series of activities used by top companies to enhance the way their employees work together. After being split into three teams of seven, the players solved challenges including "Crossover", "Minutes to Zero" and "The Moonstone". It made a welcome break from the usual pre-season training schedule, and provided a mental workout, instead of a physical one.

Lucy McGibbon, Sundial's HR Director, facilitated the activities. "Teams of people, whether they work in an office or on a field, need to communicate effectively. Although I know little about football, I saw similar issues that arise in corporate offices and we tackled them in a similar way." Lucy was assisted by James Bland, the Group's Marketing Manager, and by Will Smail, an independent and experienced communication skills professional.

Ian Sampson and Billy McKay tackle BlockheadsIan Sampson, first team coach, was thrilled with how it all worked out, and is certain that the things learned at Highgate House will benefit the team over the season. "It was good to see them working well with each other," said Sammo. "A football changing room is a unique environment, quite different from any other workplace. However, it is, at the end of the day, our place of work, so I don't see why we can't learn something from the corporate world and use the same tools that they do to enhance communication and effective teamwork."

"Each summer we welcome about five or six new players into an established squad, and this away-day certainly helped our lads bond at a time when we coaches try to gel 20 talented, creative individuals - each of whom has their own personality - into one effective team."

The agenda

Steve Guinan shares his thoughtsThe Squad arrived at Highgate House at ten o'clock in the morning and had been split into three groups by the coaching staff. The day began with a discussion about what makes a good team with notes being made on a flipchart - the reason for this is to establish that they all know the theory, and to provide a visual reference for later in the day.

Still in the meeting room, the group then undertook two runs of "Blockheads", one of our indoor activities. The first attempt took the three groups between 15 and 20 minutes. The activity was then discussed, with suggestions being made about how a better result could be achieved. The times for the second run were between 5 and 7 minutes. It was then discussed how the behaviours they displayed during the activity mirror those they display in the changing room or on the pitch, and each person filled in a sheet stating how they will transfer the things they learned back to their workplace. The groups then completed some outdoor activities, (one before lunch and two afterwards) each time making notes about how they could improve next time and carrying these observations with them. At the end, a debriefing session revisited the notes made at the beginning of the day and reinforced the key messages. The day concluded at four o'clock.

About Teamscapes

Andy Holt, Abdul Osman and Adebayo Akinfenwa assess the briefSundial Group's Teamscapes are indoor, outdoor and culinary team building activities that challenge the brain, not the body. Teamscapes activities and exercises simulate workplace issues in a non-threatening manner, allowing companies to see how their people will respond and interact in certain situations. They are based around the idea of experiential learning - learning by doing.

A debriefing session evaluates the activities' successes and failures, and identifies learning outcomes that can be transferred back to the workplace to improve performance beyond the teambuilding event.

Teamscapes help you to;
  • Identify leadership potential
    Encourage appreciation of different abilities and personalities
  • Increase empathy within your team
    Eliminate communication blockages
    Stimulate an analytical approach to problem solving
    Co-ordinate different, seemingly disparate tasks towards a common goal
    Respond to changing circumstances and moving goalposts
  • Encourage quieter members of your team to speak up
    Discover hidden characteristics and qualities within the members of your team.

Teamscapes can be run at our three properties - in Warwickshire, Northamptonshire or in Surrey. Each venue is a beautiful country house with en-suite bedrooms and superb meetings facilities. Each is set within at least 20 acres of grounds in countryside locations, comfortably insulated from busy town/city centres yet still easily accessible.


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