What dream did you have as a child? Perhaps to ride your very own bike like the big kids in the neighborhood?  What if the now adult you had an opportunity to participate in building bikes for 113 students where owning a bike is more a fantasy than a real dream? 

I’m proud to say, I had this amazing opportunity – check out this brief video – you might even spot me talking with my teammates. 

Participation in this unique opportunity brought a wealth of experiences including mass teamwork and collaboration within an internationally diverse group of adults.  In addition to coming away with a great feeling of doing something good for a child, I learned a few lessons.

I entered the large ballroom to find a sea of small tables with a gift bag on each table and piles and piles and piles of large cardboard boxes spaced between sections of tables. I was both excited and apprehensive about actually building a bike. Will I have to assemble the chain to the bike or some other mechanically challenging similar task? My fears were relieved when I saw the bikes were partially assembled and the chains were nicely in place looking shiny and ready for action. 

Everyone received a table number assignment. While I waited patiently and alone, I noticed other tables filling up rapidly with their randomly assigned participants. I was beginning to become concerned I would have to build a bike myself when two other attendees individually found their way to the table. Admittedly, I found myself first noticing they are millennials or potentially of the “Z” generation. I was actually looking forward to having their fresh outlook and energy added to our teamwork assignment. I initiated introductions finding out each of my new teammates are compensation professionals (they  deal with number crunching for salary surveys and compensation plans) and a little small talk. 

The lovely lady introducing the event and the instructions explained we had clues in an envelope that we needed to answer. Then we learned that, as a team, we had to earn the tools to build the bike. This could be a game changer in how we work together. Each correct answer would earn us one of seven tools needed to build the bike. Judges placed around the room would tell us whether or not our answer was correct. This was not a building race to win anything other than the joy of the child receiving the bike. 

I hustled over to the judge’s table and pick up our envelope of clues. One of the first clues is a logic quiz with a question like there are 20 apples on the tree, Johnny lives on the road next to the river, Betsy eats 2 apples every day for breakfast, so by Friday how many apples are left on the tree for Kevin? I figure my new compensation friends can handle that one, after all number crunching is their game.  Well, number crunching is their game, but not this game. I made an incorrect assumption. This clue was the one clue that stumped us the most. Reminder to self, don’t rush to judgement by knowing just one piece about a person.

Another clue asked “Who won the 2019 Super Bowl?”  My colleagues looked like deer in headlights. Of course they would not know this answer and likely felt out of place. One was from Canada and one was from England. This is an international organization and people come from as far away as Australia. Not a fair question for this I group, I thought to myself.  Another reminder to self, remember the audience. Always do my best to make them feel welcome and included. Awkward moment!

Eventually we made our way through answering all the clues, gaining all the tools, and assembling the bike. We looked in the gift bag and found paper, markers and glue so we could make a sign for the recipient of the bike wishing him or her happiness in their riding and we signed our first names. The helmet went into the bag, the bag hung on a handlebar and we pushed the completed bike to the front of the room into the lineup of all the assembled bikes. The three of us stood back and took in the view of all these bikes. I imagined we all thought about the children receiving these bikes in the next few days. There was a glow of satisfaction in the room.

After high-fiving and wishing each other well, we went our separate ways back to the schedule of workshop lectures and the business of learning at the conference. There was a noticeable lightness in the step of those walking out of the ballroom.

Takeaway Lessons Learned:

  1. This experience was a good reminder that inclusiveness means more than simply inviting people of diverse backgrounds to the table. It means thinking through the words we use and allow that others may not have the context necessary for understanding unless we think to provide it. 
  2. Teamwork for something outside of ourselves betters ourselves.
  3. We raise our own bar of honoring others and respecting others when we think of others. Misses and mistakes will happen even with good intentions in place. That’s ok, especially if we step up and captain the conversation to bring the team to the final goal. 

Build a bike, build a relationship. What a gift!

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