A Simulated Plane Crash Boosts Morale

If you’re looking for a way to boost both morale and team building skills, there is now a new option. Get everyone at the office together and head over to Survival Systems USA. The company traditionally offered training for people who may in fact be likely to find themselves in scenarios where they need to escape from a helicopter that has just crashed into an icy river or lake (e.g., EMTs or pilots). Over the years, the company has noticed that while people are learning to escape a sinking helicopter or plane cockpit, they are also building leadership and teamwork skills. Now, they are inviting everyone to explore the benefits of survival training. As they advertise, “Build your self-confidence, increase your stress tolerance and work better as a team.” But why would nearly drowning in icy water with one’s co-workers actually help life back at the office?

Working Under Pressure

A new study by the American Institute of Stress suggests that American workers are under more pressure at work than ever before. 40% of workers find their jobs to be very or extremely stressful, 25% view their jobs as the largest source of stress in their life, and three fourths believe workers are more stressed on the job now than they were a decade ago. Shockingly, work was even more strongly associated stress than health complaints than financial or family problems. We also know that when workers are stressed at work, performance wanes. Workers who feel stressed at work report higher absenteeism, higher turnover, poor time keeping, lower productivity, low morale, poor motivation and increased health concerns and accidents. One might say the answer is to reduce pressure in the workplace by softening deadlines and reducing workloads, but in most cases, this is simply not possible. In a competitive world, few businesses are willing or able to do this. As a result, a growing number of businesses are looking for ways to help teams work under pressure and this is where survival training comes in.

At Survival Systems USA, teams are trained and then given an opportunity to put their training and team skills to the test when they are strapped into the simulator, submerged and flipped over. During the exercise, they have to reach for the window frame, undo a seat belt, get out of the sinking cockpit and swim to the surface. While an instructor is present to ensure no one drowns, the simulation is still high-risk and high-stakes. Some people back out. Others reach their breaking point during or after the exercise.  But for many, the experience had a permanent and transforming impact on their team.

Leading Under Pressure

If building teamwork is one advantage of what some trainers describe as “extreme experiences” (in the past, race car driving and bungee jumping have also been used in this capacity), building leadership skills is another potential take away. It’s one thing to lead teams under normal circumstances but stepping up during a stressful situation requires other skills entirely. Someone who generally leads through consultation may need to make quick decisions without talking to anyone on the team. Someone who generally encourages “fails” as a way to explore possible solutions may need to abandon their philosophy and focus on simply choosing the best possible solution.  In short, leading under pressure and during crisis means adapting one’s leadership style in order to achieve an optimal outcome in a short time frame.  Survival training is one ways that organizations are helping train leaders for worse-case, high-stakes situations.

Maria C. Hanna, the president of Survival Systems USA, believes that teaching aviation disaster skills to people across industries has many benefits: “We’ve seen residual effects along the way: improved morale, self-esteem, capabilities people didn’t know they had.” For anyone hoping to raise the bar on their team-building or leadership training, Survival Systems USA’s new Leadership & Team Development course will soon launch and cost $950 per participant.

January 9, 2017   Updated :January 9, 2017      

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