Tag: Teamwork


Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Kim, Purpose, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

Team unity strips fear of its power

Part 3: Business lessons from Mount Cook

By Kim Goodhart

Little did I know (that’s me, the weakest link in our team) that the Mount Cook Range trail – a demanding 3 day alpine trek through the Ball Pass Crossing, would test us all, even the strongest in unexpected ways and only unity would pull us through.

After the glacier we had to climb up an exposed section of rock. Steve is incredibly strong and fit and leaves me for dust in every physical activity, but he hates extreme exposure and heights.

It is the only place where our roles get reversed. For a brief moment I’m able to be the person that supports him and it feels good. I’m not afraid of heights if I’m climbing because rightly or wrongly I feel that I am in control. I also knew that without a shadow of doubt that I could trust my team with the rope and that should I fall they would have me.

But that’s’ the funny thing about fear. It isn’t rational. What terrifies one person is simple to another. We all have our fears and they hold us back. Each and every person needs help – no matter how strong they are – when they encounter their fear.

Most people will do everything to avoid fear, but the really courageous go in there anyway. The best teams are the ones that know and understand each other’s fears and support each other through to the end. This is the beauty of a team over an individual. Strengths and fears blend together to make the team stronger.

But even though I know all this it was an eye opening experience for me to see the team move to reassure Steve and help him through the extreme heights. No one tried to urge him to go faster. No one was concerned. It was simply about making sure we all supported each other through every section. It’s a group effort and, when the team come together to support each other, they actually reach the goal faster and enjoy the journey.

Lessons from a slippery slope

On day 3 it was the loose rocks and scree slopes that got the other two team members.

Perhaps my naivety kept me from fear, but they knew all too well that we were surrounded by loose rocks. Any one of which could fall down the slopes at any moment and that we would have to move quickly if it did.

What I learned is that when a team is united with a common objective to reach a specific end goal, then everyone has to take into account the various team members and we have to help everyone get to the end.

To achieve this means listening to each other’s fears and anxieties, taking the time to understand them and give them what they need to get though. It takes knowing each other’s strengths and being able to rely on the stronger people – in that moment – to support you.

Looking back over the three days (see blog parts 1 and 2) I was happy on the exposed cliffs and crossing the glacial crevasses because I could trust my team. I knew that they would do whatever it took to keep each of us safe along the way. All  I had to do was play my role and keep putting one foot in front of the other to maintain the pace that our guide set.

And the result was that we achieved each section of the pass in record times. Our guide referred to our group as honed athletes. It is not something I’ve ever been described as but, thanks to the support of my amazing team, they brought me up to their level and this for me is what teams should be about.

What did I learn from the 3 day crossing?

* Choose your group carefully. You will only be as strong as the weakest link.

* Know your goal.  We all knew exactly what we’d set out to achieve and were committed to it.

* Know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. You need to be open enough to let each other in and rely on each other for support. Openness about your strengths and weaknesses builds trust – it is the power of vulnerability.

Do all that, and not only will you achieve what you set out to achieve, you will do it faster and more efficiently then you ever thought possible.

 

 

Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Kim, Purpose, Strategy - Vision

On thin ice – discovering the power of vulnerability

Part 2: Business lessons from Mount Cook

By Kim Goodhart

It was day two of the trail across the Mount Cook Range – a demanding 3 day alpine trek through the Ball Pass Crossing – and the icy glacier beckoned.

I was helped into a pair of crampons, attached to a rope and given an ice axe. I’m still not entirely sure what I would have done with my ice axe but, in theory, had I found myself sliding down the ice my job was to slam my full body weight onto the axe and into the ice so that I could stop myself. I think to be honest it was at that point that I knew my life was in the hands of my group.

It’s a humbling feeling to know that you are now dependent on everyone around you –  acknowledge that you don’t have the skills to save yourself.

I also didn’t have the skills to save anyone else should something go wrong. The only thing I could do was sit. And, fortunately, that was all I was instructed to do.

If one of the group fell into a crevasse, I was told to immediately sit down and dig my crampons into the ground so the other 4 of us would hold the poor person who fell into the crevasse while our guide would pull them out to safety.

I was desperately hoping that that person would not be me, but the reality is that my falling into a crevasse would be best case scenario because the others were better equipped to pull me out than I was them – I realised, with mixed feelings, that I was not only the safest person in my group, but that my greatest risk was myself.

The only real thing I could see going wrong was the danger of me impaling myself with my ice axe in a fall. Other than that I was totally safe. If I fell my team would easily pull me out.

This was a foreign sensation for me.

I’m someone who generally feels pretty capable. I know how to look after myself. I’m pretty resilient and more often than not I think I tend to look after the people around me. However here on the glacier, I had to acknowledge a different position.

I had to put all my faith in everyone around me. I had to believe that if something went wrong, they would save me. If there was a real risk when would I be left behind? If this was a business team in what situation would I be dumped from the group? Was my position as the weakest link a real risk?

But the difference between a business team and the team crossing a mountain is that losing someone isn’t an option. No one was going to leave me there. We’d picked our team and now we were in this through thick and thin. No one gets left behind. At any point the group dynamic can change and a new person could become the weakest link. We all know that.

In life the unexpected might be a chronic illness, a divorce or a new baby. All of which may change the dynamic of your team, reducing someone else to the role of the weakest link. Do the team drop them? Or do they support them? Do they surround them to make sure they feel safe in their vulnerability, knowing that they will bring other strengths to the table at a later time? How often do we drop people for not being at the top all the time and how much do we lose as a result?

How satisfying is it to make it to the end knowing you left people behind along the way? What kind of a person would that make you? Isn’t the real goal to all make it to the end?

Business moral: I would argue that the strength of our team came from the loyalty and patience of each of us to the others. I was faster crossing the terrain than I otherwise would have been because I knew I could trust those around me. I could be open about my fears, and know that I wasn’t being judged. This brought out a strength in me – the power of vulnerability – to go further and faster than I ever would have believed possible.