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Trust Walk Exercise

I prefer this exercise to Willow in the Wind. Including processing (discussion ) time, it takes about an hour. When the weather is bad I use Willow, when its good I use the Trust Walk.

Although this exercise can be conducted indoors, it is much more effective outside. A good location is the landscaped grounds around the office or plant. Regardless of the number of exercise participants - at least two facilitators are needed to assure that a safe environment is maintained.

The participants are divided into two groups in two lines facing one another. One line of participants blindfolds the other. The blindfolded group is told to remain in place for a few minutes. The sighted group is led aside out of hearing of the blinded group. The sighted group is told that when they return to their partner they will be leading them around the area. Instruct the sighted group to walk their charges up and down steps, through the shrubs, up to light poles, fire hydrants, and other objects, where they may have the blinded partner touch the objects around them. Remind the sighted team that this is a trust building exercise. All communications are to be non-verbal. Explain that you will visually signal them to rally at a shaded spot in about 8 to 10 minutes, and to keep an eye out for your signal, and that they are to remain within eyesight of a facilitator at all times-don't wander off. Have the sighted group return to their partners and begin. As the pairs move about. The facilitator moves among the pairs making strange noises-stamping feet, whistling, jangling keys, clapping, or brushing the blinded participants with a scarf. If you are in or near a parking area and a car drives by, signal the driver to honk. Encourage teams to walk, CAREFULLY, near or across a drive lane where cars are occasionally moving. The idea is to create some level of concern on the part of blinded participant, but avoiding real danger and avoiding pushing the blinded partner into a zone of terror.

After 8 - 10 minutes, signal the sighted team members to assemble in a shaded area or out of the wind on a cool day. Tell the blinded participants that we are going to remove their blindfolds and that they should open their eyes slowly to allow time to adjust to the light. Sighted team members are encouraged to support their partners. Once everyone has adjusted to the light, have the recently blinded participants blindfold their previously sighted partners. Signal the newly sighted team members to follow you to a spot away from the hearing of the blinded participants. Make sure you leave a second facilitator with the blinded group, in the event the blinded ones decide to empower themselves and remove the blindfolds or start marching off on their own. The second facilitator intervenes if necessary and encourages the blinded folks to remain where they are. They may talk amongst themselves.

The facilitator who has the newly sighted team members aside, explains that they will be non-verbally leading their partners around the local terrain, having them touch various objects and walk safely over and around obstacles. Tell the sighted ones that after about 5 minutes they should switch lead with another pair. It's all right to switch more than once so that everyone has the opportunity to lead at least two different people. Explain that when you give the non-verbal signal they are to lead the team member back into the meeting area and seat them in a chair. If its hot, they may want to lead the blinded person to a water cooler and have them drink. Once everyone is seated, have the blinded folks remove their blindfolds.

Processing the Exercise:

The facilitator asks the participants to arrange their chairs in a circle and asks what did you think or feel during this exercise? I like to use a little rubber ball which participants toss to one another when someone wants to speak. If you need to brake the ice, ask whether it was easier to lead or be led? Many people will conclude that they are not as trusting as they thought. Others will observe that they become anxious when they are not in control. Did anyone in the second group of blindfolded folks notice that their partner changed. What did that do to the non-verbal communication rapport that you had established as a pair? What were the insights or "Ah-Ha's" of this exercise.

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