Antarctic Mountaineering Expedition, 2011

2011
“Men Wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success”

As the story is told, this was a employment advertisement put into the London newspaper looking for members for Ernest Shackelton’s Nimrod expedition to Antarctica. Apparently thousands of applications were received for what in print seems to be a rather bleak job. However, the enormous enthusiasm surrounding this ad reflected the human desire to explore, to adventure, and to push personal boundaries.

People often ask me why I climb. Why I spend my free time in cold and inhospitable locations. Why I put my life at risk. This is a difficult question to answer, but the basic response is because I love it. It makes me feel alive.

 

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In mid November of this year I will join two friends in an attempt to climb Mt. Vinson, the tallest mountain in Antarctica. To date I have successfully summited the tallest mountain in 6 of our 7 continents. Climbing Mt. Vinson, providing that I make it to the top, will be my final summit of the “7 Summits.”

Before my departure, my blog’s will focus on my daily preparations, my gear, my thoughts, my family’s thoughts, my drivers, and much more. Once on the expedition I will do my best to send back daily blogs reporting on our progress and my personal thoughts and insights.

As a leadership and high performance team specialist I will also share my insights into this world and how some of my personal experiences can be used to better understand how to lead and build high performance teams.

My good friends at Adult Essentials www.adultgummies.com will be supporting me on this journey. Daily exercise and nutrition are a critical factor in success. The stronger I am the greater chance of success I have and the more I will enjoy the experience.

My challenge however, is that like many of you, I Iead a very busy life. Between business and family commitments it is difficult to find time to train and I do not always eat as well as I should. This is where nutritional supplements come into play to help me balance my dietary needs while finding time to train physically for this trip.

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Team Assessment: Shared ‘wants’

This is Number Four in a series about what behaviours to assess, monitor and develop with respect to high team performance. It gets to the heart of becoming a team and overcoming fractious behaviours. The key behaviour is finding our shared interests. By shared interests, I also mean shared ‘wants’.

In our training workshops, we sometimes use an icebreaker that we call the “common ground” activity. I like to use it if I am facilitating a planning session where there is potential for conflict or disagreement about which direction the group will be heading at the end of the day. I start off asking people to stand up, mingle and find a partner. I give them 2 minutes to find as many things as possible that they have in common (besides the obvious things that come with being human and working with the same company). When two minutes is up, this pair finds another pair and repeats the process to find things the four of them have in common. I have continued the process until I’ve had the final group of 30 or more finding those things they have in common. Finding common ground and things we agree upon in this way sets a positive tone for the day. And while disagreement is very valuable at times, we generally try to start the day appreciating simple things we have in common so that, at the end of the day, we can also share a desire for outcomes that meet everyone’s personal needs and wants.

Conflict between team members or between a team and other groups is often based on conflicting interests of this type: I might feel that outcomes that satisfy your needs can’t meet mine. Furthermore, If I don’t have a good relationship with you, I might have no interest in meeting your needs. A team that has the ability to find the commonality in their ‘interests’ and ‘wants’ as a starting point will likely have a better chance to care about one another and find ‘win-win’ solutions in the end.

To what extent do your team members enjoy common ground with other team members? To what extent do they care about meeting the needs of team mates, clients and partners? To what extent do they strive for ‘win-win’ solutions with others?

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Team Behaviours: Inclusion

Appropriately Including Others

I’ve been writing about Charles J. Pellerin’s book, “How NASA Builds Teams”, and measureable team behaviours he identifies as important to effectiveness. This behaviour that Pellerin describes is also related to how much people are made to feel that they “belong”. Though many people, particularly technical people, like to think they are independent, they need to feel appropriately included in the important workings of the organization and team.

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What is appropriate inclusion? It is far more than sending out information willy-nilly. We all have in-boxes stuffed with information that should not concern us. Ideally, people feel they get the important information they need to do their jobs and to remain tuned into the big picture, but not so much that they are overwhelmed by incidental detail.

One of the best ways to gage if a person feels included is to find out if they feel heard, and if they believe their opinion matters to their team and to their leader. On high performance teams, people do feel their opinion matters, and so they will go to great lengths to put their best ideas forward. Imagine what great creativity, not to mention critical thinking, can be contributed from all those brilliant people you hire when everyone believes their ideas matter.

Appropriate inclusion should also be considered in your decision making, and this can go beyond simply soliciting input. Are there situations when your team can make meaningful consensus-based decisions?

Thoughtful inclusion is also important when it comes to celebration, reward and other forms of recognition. It is often difficult to remember all the people who may have contributed in some way to the success of a particular project but if someone feels overlooked they can become demoralized and hesitate to put that same effort forward the next time.

At this moment and on your team, can you determine to what extent do people feel included in the important affairs of the team? To what extent do they make the effort to appropriately include other team mates, clients, partners and customers?

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Team Assessment: What behaviours to assess

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A key behaviour relates to “Expressing Authentic Appreciation”. As Pellerin points out, this behaviour helps to address our emotional need of belonging, something that Abraham Maslow identified as fundamental to human motivation. When we feel we belong, we are happier and free to focus more fully on the tasks at hand. One of the important aspects of appreciation is that it must be felt and offered genuinely. Another is that we are appreciated for the things that we ourselves value. I will get less satisfaction from your appreciation of my coffee-making ability that from your appreciation for my leadership ability. (Well that’s only partly true.) Also important to note, High performing teams exercise authentic appreciation for others, such as clients, partners and customers. They do this even in high stress situations, framing negative events and perceptions in constructive, appreciative terms.

So, at this moment and on your team, to what extent do people feel appreciated for the contributions that they feel are important? To what extent do they express the positive aspects of a situation or relationship?

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Expressing Appreciation: A Key Team Behaviour

flowers

A high performance team has a culture that meets the emotional and intellectual needs of all the team members. People are inspired to do their very best every day while caring deeply about the welfare of their colleagues. They also feel that their colleagues and the organization itself care about them. People know what to do, they are equipped to do it and they feel they have the power and support to move forward. So what does this culture look like in terms of measurable behaviours?

In How NASA Builds Teams, Charles J. Pellerin describes a number of team behaviours that he has determined are key to creating the type of culture where people can be most effective. (Pellerin has developed this into his 4-D Assessment Process.) The descriptions alone are very insightful.

A key behaviour relates to “Expressing Authentic Appreciation”. As Pellerin points out, this behaviour helps to address our emotional need of belonging, something that Abraham Maslow identified as fundamental to human motivation in his famous “hierarchy of needs”. When we feel we belong, we are happier and free to focus more fully on the tasks at hand. One of the important aspects of appreciation is that it must be felt and offered genuinely. Another is that we are appreciated for the things that we ourselves value. I will get less satisfaction from your appreciation of my coffee-making ability that from your appreciation for my leadership ability. (Well that’s only partly true.) Also important to note, High performing teams exercise authentic appreciation for others, such as clients, partners and customers. They do this even in high stress situations, framing negative events and perceptions in constructive, appreciative terms.

So, at this moment and on your team, to what extent do people feel appreciated for the contributions that they feel are important? To what extent do they express the positive aspects of a situation or relationship?