The Power of Leeches

Anyone who has ever been bitten by a leech knows the strength of these blood-sucking creatures. It is almost impossible to kill one and when it attaches itself, it doesn’t let go before it has sucked enough blood, which can last from anything between 20 minutes and 2 hours!

We encountered plenty of leeches last week in Sri Lanka. It was pouring for most of the day and night and of course leeches love their wet, hot and sticky climate. So within hours, numerous of the participants from the outbreak were covered in them. Have you ever seen a Pakistani man, who has never spent a night in a tent or seen so much rain, come across (let alone be bitten by) a leech? I can tell you, it is a spectacle. These small creatures somehow caused fear and havoc amongst these high performing business executives. And the funny part is these little guys managed to play an important part in the team coming together.

An outbreak is designed to create as many ‘first-time-ever-experiences’ as possible and to create surprises and memories. It is designed to take people out of their comfort zone; not by doing things that they don’t want to do, but by taking away their control over the event. Outbreak participants do not know what they will do, where they will sleep, when they will eat and what is going to happen next. They are told they must learn to let things go and go with the flow. This loss of control seems to create the biggest level of discomfort for executives.

Giving up control along with physical tiredness and discomfort, creates the ideal circumstance to have conversations about things that matter, to disagree and be feisty, to air out frustrations and talk about issues that normally remain hidden under the carpet of civility and business etiquette. This is what these creepy crawlies did – they removed restraints and allowed participant to open up and discuss issues that would usually have been bypassed.

So sitting in a rain soaked tent, after a day full of exiting first ever experiences, created the ideal moment for the team to come together in an amazing way. And the leeches made it perfect! They created the right level of discomfort and surprise, and ever since we have been back this has been the most talked about experience, creating a shared memory that will last for years.

I will always remember my leech; it was stuck to my groin. How it got there I will probably never know.

– Paul Keijzer


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