Stuck In an Elevator and Other Adventures in Team Building

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It goes from zero to hot as hell when the elevator halts suddenly at the fourth floor.

Networking chatter dwindles. Wes, closest to the control panel, pushes the 4th floor button twice. “Nothings happening. Should I hit emergency?”

“Yes” a chorus of ten voices replies, nerves rising to varying levels of unexpressed frantic.

The SEMpdx Rooftop Networking Party is a beloved event where local businesses involved in online marketing get together on a hotel roof in Portland for drinks, discussion, and dj’d tunes under the setting sun. After a fun few hours of meeting, greeting and enjoying the always top-notch company of our officemates, we Webforians are heading out when the unexpected occurs.

The floor level light goes black. My nerves twist at the thought of slowly but surely suffocating in a tin can suspended by wire.

“Hey, are you guys stopped? What floor?” a man’s voice echoes back at us through the console.

“Yes! Fourth!” everyone shouts. Sweat beads on several foreheads, the air shifting from stale to oppressively muggy.

Over the next 15 minutes, personality strengths emerge that provide much-needed support in an unsure situation. As we stand tightly packed and hopeful, all of our efforts transform a potentially triggering conundrum into a great lesson in effective group dynamics.

Why Being Trapped in an Elevator is a Great Test

We were rescued, in case you were wondering. Two hotel staff members eventually pried open the door and helped us hop out of the small space left between floors.

However, it’s situations like these- cramped into a 5 by 7 space without promise of rescue- that have the power to reveal what you, and in this case, your teammates, are made of.  While I, and a few others, imagined ourselves in a dangerously airtight space (which is not true about elevators, JSYK), our most resourceful selves had no choice but to come to the forefront for the good of everyone.

There is a T in Team

There’s also an E, an A, and an M. What am I getting at? We’re all different, with individual strengths and weaknesses.  So while yes, each of us is a unique, special snowflake, our differences matter very little when compared with our abilities to serve a larger objective without advance planning.

Wes, our talented graphic designer, regularly regails us with hilarious anecdotes. By making the best of the cards he was dealt- standing closest to the console- he lead the elevator-wide movement to stay calm, despite our strange and increasingly worrisome circumstances.

Sara and Jason, our in-house wordsmiths, both reduced the group’s level of anxiety by keeping their cool despite the rising tension. Kevin, Webfor’s brave leader, alternately buoyed the mood with jokes and provided instruction where necessary. Jo Lynn, a consistent pillar of strength for the office, maintained her composure and interjected helpful advice when needed. Ed, expert networker and our newest addition, swiftly called a friend who had taken the stairs, a move that expedited our escape.

In the face of what felt like high stakes, members of our team, as well as the three individuals we did not know (one of whom admitted, with delightful deadpan, that she had not showered that day), engaged in the sanity-preserving laughter and expert self-calming techniques that made what could have been a distressing experience just another funny story in Webfor history.

Take That, Meyers Briggs!

You never know what can happen in life or in business, so why not surround yourself with trustworthy, resourceful people? At your company, that means hiring the right employees. I’m not suggesting you that you purposefully get stuck in an elevator during an interview. However, unexpected challenges can show you something about your prospective colleague that his resume, or even a personality test, might not.

If only Michael had been there to tell us about the time he built an elevator-like shuttlepod for the Star Trek Convention. That would have really been something.