I had read about them for months. Escape rooms. A creative business idea that allows teams of people to step into a simulated experience where time is of the essence, and escaping is critical to success. I decided to take my husband to one as part of his birthday weekend celebration since we had never done one before.
We were teamed up with nine or ten other people. Our situation was described as a “bank heist.” The goal was to find as much money as possible and escape before the police arrived in one hour. We were led into a small room and the door was locked behind us.
For a few moments, we all stood in mild confusion. Were we supposed to “go”? What were we supposed to do now? Then, people frantically started charging around the room, looking for clues and switches and keys and anything else that might help us complete our mission.
Our team included a young boy who confidently declared, “I’ve done one of these before!” and began voicing his opinion loudly about what the rest of us should be doing. One lady stood in the corner, seemingly frozen, as chaos ensued around her. Several people quietly and methodically began working through the room, finding answers and getting us closer to our goal. Occasionally, we would all cheer together as a portion of the puzzle was solved.
Without telling you all the details, we failed to escape. We were only one step away from locating the secret escape door, but it was too late.
The experience was a great testing ground for leadership, and reminded me of many leadership situations I’ve been in. Sometimes you’re thrown into a situation, given an end-goal, and simply told, “go!” There may be little or no help along the way. You may be given a team of people that you don’t know at all, and leading them seems eerily similar to herding cats… You may find your team or yourself duplicating efforts with little progress, the result of poor communication and leadership.
What would have made our experience in the escape room different?
Know your team.
Take the time to get to know your people. What experience do they have? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
A clear goal is important, but its difficult to achieve that goal without clear communication along the way. Communication can prevent duplication of efforts and keep everyone moving together.
Divide your goal into smaller goals, and ask specific people to work on a specific portion.
While the escape room experience wasn’t bad, it wasn’t all that fun, either. Have a good time with your team. Laugh. Smile. Enjoy the journey.
Next time I go to an escape room, I’ll be ready to conquer it like a leader!