This is not a paid or sponsored blog post. Max Levi/Lawless Forge did not pay or even ask me to write this post. I didn’t attend this event with the thought of writing a blog post. It was just such a cool experience. I felt compelled to share it.
Corporate Team Building
We have all been to corporate team building events. Trust falls, Kum Bah Yah, and sharing personal stories. Yuck! Bah Humbug and bullshit. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for team building activities and work on employee engagement like a mother f@#$%er every day within our company. I blogged about employee engagement and how an office space can help build a team here.
When it comes to corporate team building, I have planned and participated in many. From entire companies attending professional baseball games in nosebleed seats to overnight camping trips to boat cruises. Whiffle ball in bumper cars and Go Cart racing come up time and time again. The real challenge is to come up with something unique and fun.
Building support and camaraderie
At a prior company, anytime someone was having a tough day, I would treat the team to a Dove Bar break. This wasn’t necessarily corporate team building as much as it was team supporting. Five colleagues taking a walk around campus eating Dove bars to provide a distraction and a “reset.” It was a way the entire team could support an individual. When we finished up a larger project, we would share a couple of desserts at a local high-end restaurant, emphasizing “shared plates.” There is something about doing the same, small thing with the same team that builds camaraderie and cohesiveness. We all had shared these unique experiences, and we were the only ones participating.
Some of the most memorable events were an off-site with the team on the cheap $$ CHEAP I blogged about here. Another memorable team building event was an overnight whitewater rafting with a prior HR team. We all paddled our asses off together to keep the boat in the right direction and then relived the story around a campfire with s’mores that night. We bonded at a richer level.
Team Building Parameters
Corporate team building events usually have a couple of conditions that can make them tricky. The team-building events need to be something all genders, all age groups, and all levels of skepticism can appreciate. Of course, the team building event needs to fit a specific budget, and transportation needs to be considered. Most of all, you want the event to be memorable and unique. One thing most team building events miss is adding a dimension of providing a personal challenge. (Nothing a couple signed waivers won’t take care of.) That is why I liked the river rafting. It was something not many of us had done, and most of us were scared to do.
The other memorable team-building event I participated in was getting mani’s and pedi’s with a prior HR team. I am not going to say it was my favorite activity. I did have a lot of fun because of the team I was with. It was new to me, and I am pretty sure the team bonded at my expense. When you work with high maintenance, all-woman HR team, think twice before you say, “Hey ladies, let’s figure out a team building event you would like, and I will make it happen.” Afterward, we bonded over chocolate truffles. I am glad I put a time limit on it because we would have probably ended up at a Target White Sale pushing a red shopping cart comparing shams and thread count.
Mother of All Team Building Events
This past week, I participated in the Mother of All Corporate Team Building events. This event fits all the parameters: Affordable, challenging, and unique. This was a completely new experience for everyone and pushed us mentally and physically. But on top of all that, we walked away from this event with great memories, stronger connections, and a souvenir—the physical reminder of the event and proof that we experienced something completely new.
Last week I went to Lawless Forge to forge a knife from a hunk of metal with a couple of great friends, and we all had a blast. Even as friends, we bonded over this experience. Before any skeptics wonder about female participation, the group just before us consisted of 7 women. (I know this sounds super sexist in a #MeToo time. One of the first challenges that HR needs to overcome when planning events is considering all demographics) In addition to knives, you can forge bottle openers, wine bottle holders, and numerous other goodies, which insinuates less Game of Thrones. Max Levi, the owner, says if someone gets tired, he has smaller / lighter hammers. If you are skeptical about female participation, does that make you a sexist?
Lawless Forge: A unique experience
Lawless Forge is a blacksmith shop focused on corporate team building/bonding. Having chosen to locate his business in the industrial neighborhood of Seattle. Max Levi (owner and operator) has really come up with something exciting and unique. I have never been to a forge and didn’t know what to expect. It was in a VERY industrial part of the city. The part of town that gets noisy with trains passing by and highways overhead adds to the gritty feel of the experience. Max’s place is super clean and tidy and shows an eye for design. If yuppies and hipsters are going to get dirty in style, they want to do it here. I went with a bunch of successful CEO buddies who can literally buy anything they want. These are the kinds of guys who are very hard to shop for because they have multiples of everything and hit multiple home runs. (I am just trying to score a few singles) I don’t say this to brag, but to emphasize the point that this was a brand-new experience to them. I was excited to be able to connect them to something new.
Max worked in two of the largest tech companies in the world so he gets corporate life. He is a good-looking guy who’s passion for his craft is infectious. You can tell from the workspace that he is a purposeful individual. He has antique anvil stations set up from different eras and different countries. This gives the space a very hipster and industrial look. Think Game of Thrones meets AIA. These qualities make a great recipe for the role he plays. He is the host, instructor, and mentor through the 4-hour session. Think of him as a golf caddie or a fishing guide. He is there to motivate and inspire. I doubted myself before I arrived, but as soon as the session started, all fears faded away. He instilled confidence.
Worried about injuries
For those HR folks that are thinking about the dangers, liability, injuries, and employees out of control, don’t. Max runs a safe place. He discussed safety before and throughout the afternoon. An HRNasty favorite, he had us sign easy to read waivers. If you are still worried about your employees, maybe you have the wrong employees. DOHHHH!!!!!
Before the event, Lawless Forge sent out a set of notes explaining what we should expect and what to wear. Max provided eye protection, gloves, aprons, and had extra jeans and shirts for those that didn’t read the pre-work. (Wrong employees)
The session started with each of us receiving half a horseshoe. Over the course of 4 hours, we heated that metal to cherry red, pounded, hammered, ground metal, and sanded. Max walked us through each step prior with a verbal explanation. This was followed up with a chalkboard demo, and then he demoed the procedure. In corporate-speak, we heard each step three times, three different ways before handling the hot metal.
Not just all hard work
Graciously, Lawless Forge provided snacks and beers as well. Halfway through the process, we took a break with cold beer and cigars. I could picture other groups having lunch at this time. For our group, it was the perfect way to take a break. We all come from progressive/tech companies so beers were welcome. Max has worked with Fortune 100 companies, understands corporate guidelines, and customizes each session to the group.
4 hours later, we all had knives of our own design, pounded from raw steel. Sweaty and tired, but feeling accomplished, we compared blades like prison Shot Callers admiring shivs. We couldn’t wait for the next riot.
From an HR perspective, the last comparison probably isn’t funny, but the experience puts you in a very different mindset. We all felt very accomplished. With our 4 inch blades in hand, we were ready to go into battle with John Snow and The Knights Watch. We probably looked more like the Monty Pythons Knights of Ni but you get the idea. We were jacked. I know this is an experience we will talk about. One of the CEO’s has already planned an event with his group that would include a diverse group.
If you are in charge of putting together a corporate event, check out Lawless Forge. He handles groups from 1 to 20 and I am confident that unless you have a bunch of Vikings in your department, this will be a new experience.
Max, thank you for a great afternoon, Brother.
See you at the after-party,
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, ridiculously good, tricky, and manipulative, but with the result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone good at something. “He has a nasty forkball.”
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