After returning from a successful trip to Spain, working with Ralph Lauren, my next project took me to a totally new and fascinating location. The excitement began as the door bell rang at 5.30am, which marked the beginning of my trip from London to Columbia, where I was to facilitate a teambuilding session using drumming. Drumming was chosen as a great means to break down barriers in a multi-cultural, international team.
My trip entailed a flight to Miami, with an evening stop-over, and then down to Cartagena in Columbia. We have worked in many far-flung places around the world, but this was the first time that we had delivered a team building session in South America!
Arriving in Colombia early gave me a whole afternoon and evening to combine seeing the beautiful city and to make my preparations. It gave me time to further consider my facilitation approach and, in particular, how to manage the language barriers that I would face. With a group of around forty professional people, I was unsure as to how good their English would be.
We had specially imported the drums that our participants would use. Once they had been checked and unpacked, I hid them in an adjacent room ready for the big surprise later! These Fairtrade drums, which looked absolutely stunning, were to be given to every individual as a special gift at the end of the session. This always creates a great feeling of good will between the host company and beaming-from-ear-to-ear participants!
After the initial surprise introduction to the conference (where the delegates entered what was a new environment, surrounded by colourful drums and a wall of sound), I was introduced using a number of translators. Over half of the group had very limited knowledge of English, so I was faced with communicating mainly through visual signs and periodically using the translators.
This was definitely a new experience for me, but drumming is so instinctive and transcends global, cultural and language boundaries. With participants supporting each other using eye contact and focusing on the sound around themselves, the group came together perfectly.
Throughout the session, using call and response techniques and many different hand gestures, I was able to indicate my intentions as their facilitator. As there was a language barrier, this did take a couple of attempts but, once we successfully established communications, everyone quickly moved through the process of learning to play together as a group.
It didn’t take long before participants realised that they could play their drums with confidence and really get creative with their own ideas.
What a privilege it was to watch a diverse group of individuals come together as a unit and to create music together. I was so enthused at watching, as the session progressed, the change in attitude from nervousness and uncertainty to self-belief and confidence.
With very happy drum-owning participants and a delighted client, all that was left for me to do was travel the 6,000-mile journey back home. My next exotic trip is to the Isle of White! Oh well…
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