What Can Paintball Teach Us About Team Work?

Last month Integrum decided to do some team building and have some fun. Our minister of fun, Roy van de Water, set up a game of Paintball. I’m pretty sure Roy might have been the only person on the team that had actually done indoor paint balling. The rest of us were pretty nervous, but excited. In true Integrum style, we let the build up fuel our expectations. A few people went to Goodwill and bought clothes to wear and we decided to take our build fail sombreros with us as well.

We showed up to pack of pre-teens with custom, top of the line gear. We could smell our asses being slaughtered before we even took the field. With that, guns were loaded and the six of us were put up against the six of them. Game 1 was completely chaotic. We were doing our best to not get hit and just squeezing the trigger whenever something moved. Somehow, we ended up winning with two of our guys left standing. It was ugly and we were out of breath.

We switched sides of the field and a funny thing happened. We had a retrospective on the match without even realizing it. We decided for game 2 that we would pair. We quickly grabbed a buddy and the whistle blew. We ended up losing. We headed off the field for our first break. We all admitted that though we were pairing, we were not a team, but rather three individual pairs. Before taking the field for game 3, we decided to keep pairing but added some general strategy on how we could be more of a unit. We won, leaving two guys on the field. For the first time we no longer felt panicked and rushed.

Before starting game 4, we made major adjustments and defined the goal for each of the pairs to be considered success. Not only was movement of each route defined and the roles to navigate it, but they were done in 20-yard increments. We were much more paced and won, leaving 3 members on the field. This time during break, we reloaded and started talking about how we were becoming more of a team and the opponent was starting to fall a part, becoming less of team.

Heading back in for Game 5, we had heated discussion on how to agressively challenge the target. Each pair defined its own objective and coordinated it back with the team. Most notably, each pair was verbally talking the entire time while advancing on the target. The target was taken and 4 members were left standing on the field. At this point we were dying to improve. We could feel that our team work was making us not only tough to beat, but tough to get a kill against.

Before heading into Game 6 we did an assessment of the other teams technique and tactics. We reviewed that our cover fire had been weak because of a poor choice of angles and bad initial first steps. Each pair set a new objective. At this point we had full trust in each other to cover and communicate. This trust allowed us to be beyond aggressive. We grabbed the target, taking each of their team members out at a 10′ range. All of our team members were still standing untouched. Complete and utter dominance.

So what changed between game 1 and game 6? We became a highly functioning self-organizing team that trusted each other.

How did we get there?
Mini retrospectives between each game.
Finding weaknesses to improve and focusing on fixing them.
Iterating towards a better outcome even when successful.

What did we learn?
Trust within a team allows them to tackle problems more aggressively because they are less afraid of what happens if they fail.
Decisive victories when up against tough challenges strengthens a team.

Ultimately excellence is hard work. Teams willing to not settle for winning but seeking decisive victory make adjustments and build one another up to achieve it.

The best part was at lunch afterwards. The entire team was so chatty in line, having a great time and joking so much that the owner of the restaurant asked if we had been friends a long time because they hadn’t seen a group of people get along so well in so long.

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