Dragon boat racing is a great equalizer,” says Kathy Polonais-Britt, a medical social worker in Kaiser Permanente’s intensive care unit, matter-of-factly. “The hierarchy you face in the workplace is out the door when you are in the boat as the janitor on the team is just as valuable as the physician.”
The sport transcends class, educational levels and age, allowing individuals to learn the importance of being on a team.
“One of the great things that makes dragon boating so unique is that there are no prima donnas or stars,” said Polonais-Britt, captain of the KP Healers, San Francisco’s Kaiser team. “I am on a team with medical professionals, and none of us alone can save the patient. Dragon boating reinforces the importance of team work and teaches you to give up your ego…there is no I and me, it becomes we and us.”
*****More on Dragon Boat Festival:*****
For Davis Leong, Kaiser Permanente’s senior consultant for quality and utilization, participating on his hospital’s team has allowed him to develop interpersonal relationships and a level of trust he claims he would not have otherwise had with fellow employees. This trust has allowed him to complete is work more swiftly.
“In my job, I have to fill out a lot of surveys and instead of going through emails and the corporate hierarchy to complete them, I can pick up the phone and call one of my colleagues to help speed the process,” he said.
Polonais-Britt, who is also director of the California Dragon Boat Association’s Corporate Team Building Programs, has noticed an increase in interest in dragon boating as a company team-building activity.
Google’s Engineering Director Anthony Ha said dragon boat racing—which emphasizes unity, teamwork, timing, focus, discipline, camaraderie, positive communication and mutual respect—is a good team-building activity that helps improve the work environment as well as increase an individual’s efficiency level.
“I think dragon boating is a unique team building event because the activity is designed to bring individuals together to achieve a single goal, to have fun and while remaining competitive,” he said. “This is an exciting way of motivating and integrating staff from all areas of a company and develops a sense of pride and accomplishment among the participants.”
Ha said the most effective teamwork is produced when all the individuals harmonize their contributions and work towards a common goal. He added that he would suggest this activity to any organization looking to have fun, maintain team spirit and meet new friends.