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The Leader Makes the Weather

We were on Day Two of a six-day escape-cation and were excited to have a day full of escape rooms (nine total!). The first three escapes were quite fun – locked in yet another serial killer’s lair, trapped on yet another cursed pirate ship, and locked in yet another jail. For the fourth escape we got caught in another spaceship, attempting to break free of our captivity before the aliens made their way into the ship. This escape was fun… until it wasn’t. As our group gathered to focus on one puzzle, one of our team members flipped a switch, and a door opened up. This gave us access to another part of the puzzle.

We continued on our way and noticed that there were only a few minutes left on the timer. We had three minutes to decipher a control panel map and put the right colored electrical cords into their respective places on the panel. We got to the last wire and the buzzer went off – aliens began to invade the ship, and we didn’t escape on time. When the game master came in (our leader helping us through the process), we found out that he had taken six minutes away from our time because we “cheated” by flipping the switch to have the last room’s door open. The entire team was livid that our leader (1) thought we were cheating when that was not the intention at all, and (2) punished us without any discussion (not to mention we paid $30 a ticket to play the game). Emotions were high, and even though we had three previous great escapes with the company, we vowed never to go back and leave an unfavorable review.

After a lunch break giving us an opportunity to relax and recover from the incident, we found ourselves on our fifth escape that day – in a bargain basement. The idea was so novel; we don’t remember what the mission was – we were simply having fun solving all the puzzles. At one point, we thought we were supposed to use an object to get into the manager’s business office, and it worked, so we kept going. The game master later explained that was not what the tool was supposed to be used for but that he was “not going to discipline innovative ideas” so he let us keep going. We left this location feeling very satisfied that we were able to accomplish our mission and motivated to get to the next site for our remaining escape attempts.

The leaders (game masters) in both of these situations behaved quite differently from each other, which had a tremendous effect on each of their team’s motivation. The leader “makes the weather” for the team – as a leader, is it sunny and productive in your neck of the woods, or is it stormy and demotivating?

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