As a way of helping my students learn each other’s name I often use an activity I know as the Haka. Have you ever seen the New Zealand Rugby team (the All Blacks) at the beginning of a match? They perform a Maori dance that certainly makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end and probably scares the living daylights out of their opponents. I usually show the students a couple of short videos to mentally prepare them for the experience, the first is a performance of a Haka, the second is of a Maori explaining the words and describing its significance. What I love about the second clip is that the Haka is explained as “a collective frenzy”, “a unified front”. As my students shout their name accompanied by an aggressive gesture their call is followed by the refrain of all their peers. We go round in a circle and an intimacy is created by sharing something that may be a little uncomfortable to some.
Last night I witnessed the same zeal; I currently work for a company that creates and harnesses this energy. The good news is that they choose to invest in their people’s development and the room was filled with more than 120 people all there on the company’s dime. For two hours we investigated our strengths and weaknesses using a framework of competencies. We were encouraged to take these findings and contemplate them in relation to where we wanted to go in the company, and we were shown and practiced how to give and receive feedback. All this was interspersed with a “collective frenzy”, clapping and hollering creating a “unified front”.
It is exciting to work / study somewhere that invests in ramping up the energy and helping their people to feel a group bonding experience. Are there times when you have felt this kind of frenzy and connection? What do you currently do to create unity?