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Thriller team-builder Featured

4:50am EDT January 2, 2002

Arras Group President Jim Hickey fondly recalls his first "trust fall." For the uninitiated, a "trust fall," is simply where you stand on a chair or a table with a group of people standing behind you, their arms outstretched in front of them. You close your eyes, fall back, and "trust" that the people behind will catch you.

Only in this case, Hickey wasn't the one falling. It was Gino, a towering, 400-pound ex-gang member who worked for the Simmons Mattress Co. Simmons is one of Arras' clients and Hickey visited the company in Springfield, Mass. during a staff building exercise called "The Great Game Of Life," designed by Wilson Consulting in Vail, Colo.

Gino, who went to the event claiming that he "doesn't trust anybody and never would," departed the day of group bonding activities closer to his coworkers and with a genuine feeling of trust.

"Everybody was hugging everybody, charged up and ready to go back and make a difference," says Hickey, who participated in the activities. "After the evening, Gino said it was one of the best things they ever did. For a guy who wouldn't trust anybody his whole life to climb a ladder, close his eyes, cross his arms and fall backwards into a group of his coworkers – to do a real trust fall—was extraordinary to witness."

Hickey was so impressed with the "Great Game Of Life," activities and the effect it had on the Simmons staff that he decided to bring it back to Cleveland for his 62-member marketing communications firm.

The three-day event, which started on Thursday this week, involves a ropes course where workers will climb and traverse various challenges on an obstacle course about 35-feet in the air. They wear safety harnesses attached to ropes, which are run through a guide wire and then down to the ground where another coworker holds onto it. As the employees travel across the ropes the course, they shout commands to their coworker below so they are prepared when they attempt more difficult maneuvers.

"On belay!" shouts the climber.

"Belay on!" the belayer responds.

Hickey he says he chose this type of activity to help his staff work more cohesively as a team, and to encourage them to take intelligent risks in their jobs and not let fear hold them back.

"I think they'll see that there's really little to fear outside their comfort zones," Hickey says. "And that's what it's meant to do: Push them outside their comfort zones."

The next day, the Arras staff will meet and discuss their experiences, what they felt, and how they can apply what they learned about themselves and their team to their daily work lives.

"Ultimately, we want our people to be thrilled to be here, to feel that it's a positive in their lives, and that it demonstrates how important they are to us," Hickey says. "In a slowing economy, we think this is absolutely the best time to do this. It's about leaning into the headwind."

Arras Group