Awesome Company Cultures Don't Have Boring Corporate Retreats - Part 2

September 22, 2015 Written by  Comments Print
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Our definitely not boring company retreat had been shattered by a serious injury to one of our team members. Our company culture was being tested in the truest way possible.

As our team who treked up the mountain returned, we realized that we were about 300 yards from the outer ring of a camp ground. A vehicle could definitely reach us there.


Now it was time to face the fact that we actually had to physically get out of here without further damaging our team member’s broken ankle, or picking up new injuries because of how steep and rugged the terrain was. There was still debate on whether to go up or down; our injured teammate was adamant that she could slide down the mountain on her butt with us supporting her shoulders and legs.

In the moment her comfort was paramount, however the closer you got down to the railroad, probably only 400 yards away, there was a 90 degree drop right before the railroad tracks. That was a game changer. We all agreed, we would carry her up the mountain. It was the only option to get to a point where the paramedics could reach us.


I title this section strategy because yes, we needed to determine who would hold where, what direction the leg was most safe and how the hell we were going to keep our feet under us and not sustain more severe injuries to the team.

But once all that was fleshed out, it came down to the pure grit and determination of our injured teammate. She fought for every inch of that brutal mountain side. She hopped on one leg, she reverse crab walked, she gave everything she had - we were amazed by how much fight was in her. However, when you sustain an injury like a break, the blood flow seems to take on a mind of its own, and she became very dizzy and nauseous, horrible signs for someone with a broken ankle in the middle of the woods.

The initial pair that made contact with the campsite was able to find cell service and call the Howard County Fire and Rescue. We want to thank them from the bottom of of hearts because these are the people that are there when you are most desperate, most vulnerable, most in need.

But the story doesn't end there...

As the ambulance arrives, there are two of the strongest looking guys you would ever hope to see pull up. But there was an issue - there was only two of them. This wasn’t a question of strength. These guys, our people, we were certainly strong enough to carry her, it was the terrain that needed to be conquered.

The paramedics hiked down to the area where we had set up base and all I can remember is the look they give each other when they begin to follow down and take in the terrain for themselves. They knew it was going to be hard and they knew it was going to be even harder ensuring no more injuries occurred attempting to get out, including to themselves.


They asked how many of us felt comfortable helping them on the carry out, and all hands go up, a testiment to our company culture. The strongest and most confident are offered over. As the paramedics hiked up to grab a special gurnie that is able to be carried by 6, we began to feel like we were going to get her out of the woods. When they returned, they came with exactly what we needed, a flexible yet sturdy board with handles all around.

The ascent began and slow and steady was the name of the game. Imagine needing to climb 1 foot in elevation per step, in sync with 5 others mostly without being able to see where your feet are landing. As we got to a large tree that must have been struck down by lightening, the front left carrier slipped, which totally released their grip. The remaining 5 were able to absorb the load and rebalance.

After about 30 minutes, we saw the campground and knew, we did it. We got her out safe.

Lessons Learned

Our friend and team mate still has a long recovery and a broken ankle is tough, but we know things could have been much worse given the terrain that we were navigating. She is a true champion of courage and we have now initiated a “Life of Courage” award named rightfully so after our bravest and toughest.

However, what we did learn was tremendous. We learned that in even the most rugged terrain, our teamwork could not be stopped. No egos were present in those woods. Only helping hands. No one cared about anything but making sure we got her out safe. In that selflessness some carried, others organized, many stayed clear of the situation. Our company culture passed the test.

My biggest takeaway from this experience is that when everyone knows where we’re going and understands what we need to accomplish, explanations aren’t necessary. When people have a clear vision of their purpose, they innately become autonomous - the best versions of themselves - because they know where to go. The how doesn’t need to be explained or protocoled or over engineered or anything else.

 Lessons learned greeNEWit retreat

The other lesson learned is the importance of having the right tools. If the paramedics did not have the gurnie, we would have continued to struggle up the mountain side most likely picking up further injuries. The tools that are needed cannot be overlooked, and the importance of knowing what you need ahead of time, makes all the difference when time is of the essence.

The best teams coach themselves and the best companies don’t micro manage. They trust in the team to organize the best people for the best challenges and then they crush it. If they don’t and they fall, they get back up because the collective strength of the group is there for them to lean on.

 Lessons learned greeNEWit retreat

This was certainly not just another corporate retreat, and I hope that this brief recapture of events added value to your life. I know that this will be remembered for the rest of mine.