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10 May

Mark Carr - Lessons From the Climb - Part 2/4

Welcome back everyone. Today I would like to continue on my lessons that I have gleaned from climbing series. Specifically around leadership.
The thing that I have enjoyed the most about climbing is meeting the new people who I will be climbing with on an expedition as I have climbed with people from a variety of countries, with varying skill sets, mental fortitude, self-discipline, communication styles, relational styles, and determination. One of the challenging things about leading an expedition on a mountain is to bring together a diverse group of people who have paid large sums of money to do a climb, and quickly form them into a well performing team, knowing that this is a matter of life and death on a high mountain.

On Everest, we had a group of 8 climbers from Europe, Asia and the US with a range of ages from 26 to 52 and a varied climbing skillset. The challenge our guides had was taking this diverse group of people who had just become acquainted and quickly form us into a highly functioning team where everyone could trust their teammates in life and death situations. Our guides were awesome and I was able to take away from them some lessons that leaders can apply in any team forming situation.

First, they started with the assumption that people want to do the very best job the can. Having that confidence and trust in people is important, because assuming that people will do a poor job undermines their self-confidence. Very few people come to work every day saying that “I plan on doing a poor job today”. People want to succeed, and as a leader it is critical that your give them the resources, encouragement and latitude to succeed. Give them clear goals and expectations, and then get out of their way and watch them climb to the top!

Second, never expect your team to endure something that you are not willing to endure. Our guides and Sherpas were with us every step of the way, enduring the high altitude, the bone chilling cold and the isolation from family and friends. The same thing applies to the corporate world. Can your teams count on you as a leader to be with them every step of the way, to make the sacrifices and put in the same hard work that you are expecting from your team? Remember, as a leader all eyes are on you. What exactly will they see?

Third, it is critical as a leader to understand your team’s limitations. This gets magnified on a high mountain like Everest as it was imperative for the guides to quickly ascertain the team’s strengths and limitations in order to plan the strategy on the mountain. This includes deciding who would attempt the summit and in what order as soon as we had a clear weather window. As leader’s you must realize that sometimes people really don’t have the skills, time or budget to do what is asked of them. Sometimes unrealistic demands have been placed on them. Because of this, it is important to create an environment where people can be free to ask for help without fear of recrimination.

Finally, besides trust and respect, being friendly and fun is important. What thing that I really appreciated about our guides on Everest was that they had wonderful senses of humor, and they used it whenever they could to help lighten the mood when everyone was suffering. I also noticed that they were very careful to use appropriate humor, meaning that they never were sarcastic, or denigrated anyone with their humor. They did tease each other, but did it in a playful and witty manner that was entertaining and appreciated. As a leader, being “terminally professional” undermines creativity. Humor is important in making an enjoyable and productive work environment.

That’s all for this installment. Until next time….whatever you do, do with passion!