Leading for Success

    My last blog focused on the destructive effects that poor leadership can have on a team. This blog will look at how to achieve success through good leadership. There is more to team success than leadership … team members do play a critical role … however, great leadership can make even a dysfunctional team great. How? Great leaders are very conscious in their approach and use what we at Summit Training call the “Deliberate Success” approach“. Deliberate Success involves developing yourself into the great leader you want to become, while simultaneously helping those you lead develop into the great team you want them to become. In both cases it consists of three simple (and deliberate) steps: Vision, Action and Reflection. Create your VISION of success. This includes both the results you intend to get, and the values you intend to follow. Create a clear definition of success for your team and for yourself as a leader. It is not good enough to say you will be ‘high performing’ because that really has no meaning … or, rather, it can have any number of meanings. You need to be very specific as to the results and the culture that you want to have. After all, if you cannot define it, you cannot measure it. And, if you cannot measure it, you have no idea whether or not you are doing it. As Stephen Covey writes in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the end in mind”. Take ACTION. Make a deliberate, focused plan and implement it. These actions must be directly connected to your vision....

Special Announcement: Canada’s March to the Top

It is an honour to announce my participation in the True Patriot Love “March to the Top” expedition this October. True Patriot Love www.truepatriotlovefoundation.com was created to honour and support members of the Canadian military and their families. The March to the Top expedition will pair 15 wounded and ill Canadian soldiers with 15 civilian business leaders. Each civilian will be paying for the total cost of their partner soldier to participate in the expedition, and raising awareness and funds for the much needed work funded by True Patriot Love. These men and women have risked it all and sacrificed their chances for a “normal” quality of life, all in an attempt to defend democracy and pursue world peace. It is the least we can do to support them in their hour of need. This team of climbers will trek to Everest base camp and then embark on a summit attempt on Island Peak. Amputations, burns, gunshot wounds and post traumatic stress disorder that they have endured in battle will add to the grueling challenges that they will face on the mountain. My role will be as the Captain of the civilian team. Based on my previous mountaineering experience and my team building skills, I will endeavour to assist in the formation of this team, and to do my best to help each team member to stand on the summit of Island Peak. I will be blogging daily while on the expedition and you can follow along right here on this blog. Joining us will be a documentary team from the CBC who will be filming the expedition. The...

The Role of Leadership in Mountain Success

  Leadership plays a significant role in the overall team success for several reasons. Leaders, good ones at least, define the vision, mission, values, goals, roles, and expectations for the team. Referring to Tuckman’s stages of team development (Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing), these are all things that need to take place in the forming stage. This is the foundation from which all else will be built. Start with a shaky foundation and your team will crumble in the first storm. Build a solid base and your team can withstand great force. Leaders are coaches and mentors; they help keep teams on track, remove barriers and prepare the ground so the team can perform unhindered. Conversely, leaders can also create a toxic environment that leads to total team destruction and failure. Sometimes this is due to incompetence and sometimes leaders simply use bad tactics because they think they are right. In my soon to be released book, Learning In Thin Air (the same title as my keynote), I share stories of good and bad leaders and the impact they had on overall team success. On one of my first real big Himalayan expeditions I was unable to get any of my long-time climbing partners to join me. I was forced to sign on with a professionally led trip. This trip brought together a group of highly-experienced strangers with a common goal, and then added a team leader. We would not be using Sherpa support and our leader was not a guide, but someone there to coach and mentor us, and to help us navigate our way through the complex...

Does Inexperience Play a Role in Death on the Mountain?

This is a sensitive topic but, in my opinion, I would have to say yes. You may have noticed that this has been a common thread through all of my blog postings. I have told many stories of how inexperience creates issues on Everest. Inexperienced climbers have a very narrow working window. When situations crop up that are outside of this window they are at a loss as to what to do. They can experiment and try to figure it out. But is Everest really the place for experimentation? This often ends in disaster, or requires the assistance of others. In my opinion, relying on the assistance of others as a back-up plan amounts to recklessly endangering your life and the lives of others. Is it fair that one climber loses his or her life, becomes injured or misses a summit bid just to rescue an inexperienced climber who should not have been there in the first place? As I have stated many times, I feel that every person on Everest should be experienced enough that they can be self-reliant in all but the most extreme circumstances. Yes, people will always get into trouble for various reasons. But, if you are experienced, when you do need help, it is often as a last resort. The next question is what counts as experience for Everest. Once again, I can only state my opinion. Climbing Everest requires such a variety of skills that it is impossible to learn them all when you arrive at the mountain. There may be a few specialized things that are unique to Everest, but everything else...

Is Climate Change Impacting Safety on Everest?

I am not a scientist and I can only share my observations, insights and experiences on this topic. Based on what I have seen in the mountains, I would have to say yes, climate change is having a negative impact on safety in the mountains. After all, most mountains are simply large piles of rock held together by ice. When this ice melts, the force of gravity takes over and the mountain starts to shed its “skin”. This year on Everest was reported as a “crazy weather” year. Most years on Everest can be described as such, but this year seemed to be even crazier than usual. The winter of 2012 was a dry one for the Everest region and the mountain saw very little snow. The warm temperatures of spring arrived earlier than normal and as the first teams were arriving at base camp in early March they could tell this was going to be an odd year. Odd on Everest is usually not a good thing. “Dry” is how it was described. There was a lack of snow at base camp and this caused concern for what the conditions would be like higher on the mountain. The temperatures were also much warmer than usual, and this was causing a rapid melting of what snow and ice there was. The implications of this on Everest are many. For starters, climbers must negotiate their way through the Khumbu Ice Fall, a labyrinth of towering ice blocks, to make their way to Camp 1. This maze of broken ice is extremely unstable at the best of times and has claimed...