Thursday, 20 July 2017

Team building with a Treasure Hunt

The end is finally in sight! But yew won't need the buoyancy aid to rescue Clue No 8
Take two PAVO staff teams, 8 clues, an amazing outdoor local venue and a dry June afternoon day – and what do you have? Well, as it turns out, a really fun opportunity to find out more about your colleagues’ work whilst exercising and enjoying Nature at the same time! The perfect team building session!

It all started when our mental health team was asked to devise a “walk and talk” style engagement activity – along the lines of the dementia walks which have been taking place in North Powys for the past couple of years and which we wrote about here. The idea is that people in contact with mental health services, and those close to them, will have the opportunity to participate in a walk with people planning and providing those services (this activity is being planned for Autumn 2017). The dementia walks are very successful, as participants feel relaxed and happy to open up in a more informal environment. In other words, walking does prompt talking!

We decided it would be a good idea to stage a pilot event and troubleshoot any issues which may crop up before launching straight into the main gig. For example… when we did a risk assessment we realised a few fundamental things such as…. that at our chosen location – Llandrindod Lake – it is important to have a few twenty pence pieces in your pocket in case you want to use the facilities!

We had been trying to meet up with the new Community Connectors’ team at PAVO for some weeks, without much success, because how do you manage to find one day that all fourteen of us can make it for an office meeting? Tempt people with fresh strawberries and a treasure hunt though… and it’s surprising how quickly they get back to you with a positive response!

With a venue and a date confirmed, two of us walked the route for inspiration and set to writing our clues and picking hiding places. We also set eight questions for the Connectors which would reveal how much/little they knew about our work. On the day we planned to fill in any gaps and answer questions as we walked from one clue to the next.

Llandrindod Lake provided the perfect spot for the activity as it has well-spaced clue-hiding sites, a ready-made circular route, some mature trees for shade, and the stunning dragon fountain as a backdrop. The landowner, Powys County Council, gave us permission to go ahead once we clarified the details of our activity (and produced a copy of our insurance certificate!) We also informed the local police in case anyone reported “suspicious” activity. We bought some cheap sandwich boxes for clues and questions, and translated a couple into Welsh (with some “Emergency English” for non-Welsh speakers).

On the day Jane, our team manager, set up a base at the Capel Maelog stone circle a short distance from the Lake. After the briefest of briefings (no swimming in the Lake, no climbing the trees) and light refreshments we were ready for the off. We split the Connectors’ team into three groups and staggered their start times on the hunt. One of us went with each team to answer questions and help if the clues proved too testing. But mostly they were pretty straightforward…

Clue no 1: Bear left along the pavement towards the Lake: find a guarded question (sword and axe: both fake).

Community Connectors L:R - Suzanne Iuppa, Carla Rosenthal & Sally Richards

And Question no 1: What are the mental health team’s two core activities? (Answer: Information & Participation - just in case you haven't  worked it out already).

Over about the period of an hour and a half the teams then hunted high and low for their next clues and questions, and between clue locations staff chatted about their work, their feelings about their work, and the issues that were coming up regularly that they needed help with. Staff in the Community Connectors’ teams were also given the chance to ask their mental health colleagues one main question at each clue location. The three Connectors in my group paused at the jetty on the Lake (where they didn’t get “stumped or stung”) to ask “what is the biggest barrier to accessing mental health services?” This was where the thorny issue of waiting lists first came into the conversation…

Ella's favourite birdwatching seat sent us here...

Personally I found the activity the perfect way to get to know new colleagues in an informal and friendly yet also focussed way (if our conversations started to stray from the main agenda then the next clue just round the corner soon got us back on track). I had not previously met Sally Richards, the Connector from Ystradgynlais, so I was very pleased to have the chance to get to know her and also learn what was happening (or not) in Ystrad. And another bonus: we all laughed a lot on our way round – and not just because the previous team had sneakily hidden all the sandwich boxes in much less obvious places!

When we all regrouped at the end to talk through the activity, pretty much everyone had found it a positive experience. Several wondered what we would have done if it had poured down… so we need to take that on board when planning future outdoor activities.

Chwiliwch am greadur barfog ddwfn yn ei lyfr / Look for a bearded creature reading a book

When it came to conversation topics it turned out that one of the most popular questions was around counselling. There are currently many cases of counselling waiting lists across the county as we have previously discussed on this blog. However, the Connectors were pleased to discover that we have a Counselling Links page on our website with information about options other than NHS counselling in Powys. And one of the key things all the Connectors really wanted to find more about was: What are the participation opportunities in our team? At this point Anne and Philip were able to tell them all about their respective projects – Stand up! for emotional health & wellbeing, and supporting the individual representatives to feed back to various boards.

So… no blisters. No one stole our PAVO sandwich boxes. No one lost or missing. Just lots of smiley faces! Real faces! Bring on the next staff treasure hunt!

If you have any questions for us and can’t wait for the next treasure hunt activity, just pop them in the comments box below.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you had fun and gained lots of useful knowledge too. I want to go on a treasure hunt too!