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.