Team Building on the Roof of Africa

Kilimanjaro Kilimanjaro teamFrom the arid plains of Tanzania Mount Kilimanjaro rises majestically to 5895m. Soaring above the clouds, Kilimanjaro dominates the landscape and has become a huge tourism drawing card for Tanzania. Often referred to as a long hike, don’t be fooled by those that tell you it is a walk in the park. Kilimanjaro extracts a price from all those that attempt to stand upon her glaciated summit.

This was my third time to climb Kilimanjaro and as always teamwork was required for success. Being an expedition leader it is my responsibility to keep my team safe and to give them the best possible chance at success, but I am also responsible for team building.

Beginning as a group of strangers I must help them bond into a high performance team that is ready to support one another to achieve their collective goal. All teams will form a culture, and it will form unbelievably fast. As a leader I can either sit back, let it happen and hope for the best, or I can guide it towards a vision.

Utilizing Summit’s Deliberate Success model THE DELIBERATE SUCCESS MODEL I set out to deliberately build a high performance team. The Deliberate Success model tells us to start with Vision; begin with the end in mind as Stephen Covey taught us. Starting day one I shared my vision of high performance with the team. Expectations must be set and defined as no leader can expect their team members to live up to their expectations of they do not know what they are.

Open and honest communication and support and trust were the driving values behind my vision of high performance. Relationship was at the very core. I always say we do not do things for one another because we HAVE to, but we do things for one another because we WANT to.

Once the vision has been established action is required to bring it to life. It is time to walk the talk. As a leader I must demonstrate complete conviction to the vision and values and acknowledge team members when they actively live the vision and values as well.

The third phase in building deliberate success is to build in time for reflections to analyse what is working and what needs to be modified.

As we started out trek through the rainforest the team was living the vision and values and bonding together well. After a couple of days we were hitting our stride as a team. As we passed 4800m the rarified air of high altitude got the better of some of the team members and it was through teamwork and support that we go through these trials.

While building the team I was also integrating myself as a leader into an already established team. When one climbs Kilimanjaro it is required by the park service to utilize a local guide. Not only is this a great local employment program, but it has greatly increased safety on the mountain over the years. These highly experienced guides have a crew of assistant guides, cooks, camp managers and porters that they have worked with for countless trips.

When integrating a new leader (me) into this existing team I had to tread lightly. Regardless of my skills and experience, if I pushed too hard and too fast I knew I would not be accepted as a leader. I could tell Charlie, our local guide and trip leader was weary of me. He had been here many times before. The Western know it all trip leader bursts in and tries to run the show. I could see this in his eyes and set out to earn his respect and that of the crew before asserting myself as a leader in any way.

As the days progressed I became the co-leader with Charlie in a seemingly natural way and we worked brilliantly together. We turned to one another for advice and support and consulted each other on all logistical and team decisions. We were both leading our team of climbers to the roof of Africa.

After several days of steady progress up the mountain we were ready to make out shot at the summit. Departing at midnights we marched through the frigid night higher and ever higher. At 5400m the altitude claimed a victim from our team. Buckled over with a blinding headache, vomiting and dizzy we knew she could not progress further up the mountain without possible dire consequences. Moses, one of our assistant guides, quickly volunteered to take our climber back to the safety of camp so the rest of the team could keep moving towards the heavens.

image1At 7:10am we crested the volcanic rim of Kilimanjaro and then made our way around the cone to the true summit of Kilimanjaro; the roof of Africa.

All in all, it was an amazing trip and one that will be permanently etched into the minds of all team members. Success did not come from luck, but from deliberate planning, team building and leadership.

Building a high performance team in an office environment is no different from what we did on Kilimanjaro. At Summit Team building we do this every day. It is who we are and what we do.

Give us a call to learn how we can add value to your next meeting with our team building programs, to design a training workshop for high performance, or to book a motivational/educational keynote from Scott Kress to kick off or close out your meeting.

If you are really ambitious, talk to us about taking your team to Kilimanjaro. A team building program unlike anything you have ever experienced and one guaranteed to change your life.