New Team Development Program – Engineered Strong

engineeredstrongSummit Team Building is excited to announce our newest Team Development program; Engineered Strong. Over the years we have heard from many project teams telling us about all the challenges they face regarding communication, decision making, accountability, conflict and more. Well, we listened and have developed a program specifically to help project teams form and to avoid many of the common challenges associated with partners from multiple teams, departments, and companies working together. This team development workshop is specifically designed to get project teams started on the right foot.

Most project teams are a diverse assembly of people from various departments and, frequently, different organizations. There is potential strength in this diversity of skills and perspectives if the team can tap into their members’ differences in a constructive way. However, there are great challenges in doing so. Stakeholders may have unclear roles and competing agendas and priorities. Leadership, accountability, meeting processes and communications are often unclear. Constructive differences can spiral into destructive conflicts and decisions can be painful or impossible. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Your project may have a small budget or one in the multi-millions. It may have a 3-month or 3-year timeline. However, if you invest in a solid team foundation with “Engineered Strong”, you will see the return when you need it most.

How it Works

At Summit we are team development specialists and have been helping teams form and perform for almost 20 years. We have engineered this workshop specifically for the complexity of diverse project teams.

The overall goal of the workshop is to help your project team develop and agree upon a common destination and a clear path forward. Throughout the workshop, team members develop patterns of successful interactions as they face challenges together. The fun and engaging challenges build relationships and highlight different team skills, such as trust-building, communications, decision-making, conflict management and change management. Mental models and tools are presented for each topic area. The group’s learning is carried forward as the workshop progresses so that they finish with a group charter and set of behavioral norms that are based on common experience and consensus.

Although there are common elements to each workshop, yours will be customized to meet the needs of your project team. The end product of the workshop is to have a team charter that defines the expectations and interaction norms for the team. Each team member will sign this document and it will be used throughout the project to guide all interactions throughout the project. Woven throughout the session will be various learning modules and experiential activities that make the session fun, engaging, insightful and educational for the participants.

The Results

By the end of the workshop, stakeholders will:

  • Have strong interpersonal relationships based on mutual trust
  • Be committed to the same goals
  • Share common expectations around leadership, roles, meetings, communication, decision making and conflict resolution.
  • Have tools, such as a Team Charter and a set of Norms, to hold one another accountable for their behaviours and actions.

Summit Team Building Interview

My name is Carrie Jones and I’d like to introduce you to my colleague Dave Gibson. Dave has worked with us here at Summit Team Building for many years as a Program Director. Dave works out of our Muskoka office and I work out of our St. Catharines office. Because I am the newest member to the team here at Summit Team Building and because Dave has been a part of the team much longer than I have, I thought that interviewing Dave was the perfect way for me to glean from his experience and wisdom. As you read on, you will discover like I did that this interview is worth pure gold. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

For those of you who haven’t met Dave Gibson, let me introduce you to Dave…

Hi Dave. Tell us about your journey. How did you find your way into Team Development?

One of my first jobs out of University was as an instructor with the Outward bound Wilderness School. The opportunity to explore the outdoors was the attraction. Those wilderness courses brought together 8-10 people from different walks of life for 25 days. Working together on an expedition took teamwork. It ended up being a recurring theme in different jobs ever since.

 How long have your worked for Summit? How did you and Scott Kress first meet?

Scott and I first met in the late 1990’s when we were both working corporate programs on an intermittent basis for outward bound. We both had more hair then. I had my own company at the time and did occasional work for Scott when he started Summit. I joined full time in 2003.

 Do you have a favourite or memorable experience working with Summit that you would be willing to share?

Not a specific one. I’ve always enjoyed facilitating high ropes courses because it’s a return to the idea of adventure as personal growth. I think they can be significant personal growth experiences for people and I like to be a part of that.  They also give a team a shared peak experience that brings them together forever, really.

Do you have a funny story from all of your years with Summit?

It was pretty funny when Claudia was wrapping up a session with an executive team and told them they were all “tools” for high performance. They all thought it was hilarious too.

What have you most enjoyed and appreciated about working with Summit?

Opportunities to work with some excellent people; both my colleagues and many of the clients.

 Do you have a favourite quote or axiom that you live by?

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it; boldness has genius, power and magic in it. (often attributed to Goethe)


Dave, how would you describe your leadership style?

Facilitative, democratic.

 What are the top five books you have read on leadership?

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey is a classic

The 5 Dysfunctions of Team and others by Patrick Lencioni

Anything Daniel Goleman especially Primal Leadership

Anything by Dan Pink, Jim Collins, Markus Buckingham


Because I am new to  the Summit team, what advice do you have have for me as a lead facilitator?

  • One: If you can, spend time before each session speaking to each person in the group in a friendly way. I do this instead of worrying about the content of my session. I get their names, learn their names and use their names. I chat a bit informally and connect with them. This does two things: it makes them feel comfortable and at ease in the session and it makes me feel comfortable with the group and the space.
  • Two: Have fun. This includes not taking myself too seriously. I try to get people laugh and I tell myself before each session  to “go in there and have fun.”

  In your opinion, how can leaders build stronger teams?

  • Be genuine. Be yourself 
  • Get to know enough about people to connect with them personally and care about them.
  • Think about your role on the team as one of supporter, enabler. What can you do to help them do their job better.

 Well, that’s a wrap. Wasn’t that fantastic? Don’t you just love Dave’s humility and his approach to leadership and facilitation? His humour and his genuine care for people stood out strong to me in this interview. Thanks so much Dave for taking the time to share your journey and life lessons with us.

Flying to Antarctica

ilyusin_blue_ice_runway_union_glacierThis will be my last blog posted from Punta Arenas. The next updates will likely be much shorter as I will be sending them via my inReach satellite device.

After our meeting with the flight provider last night we were told to be by the phone at our hotel between 8:00 and 8:30 am this morning to receive a call updating us on our departure time.

All our bags are packed and my long underwear are on.

The call has just come and we will be picked up from our hotel at 9:45am to be transported to the airport. We would still get turned around at any time and sent back, but they have been doing this for a while now and there are a lot of costs involved in turning around so they want to be pretty sure before they give the go ahead.


Bonus Blog: The Question of Why

South Pole Expedition

South Pole Expedition

I wrote this yesterday after a discussion with my team. We have all had similar experienced with people not really understanding what we are doing and why. Paul was asked if there was a golf course where he was going and if there would be a pool. When told more details about what we are doing, people just seem to stare for a moment and then say “I think my friend did that the other week”. There seems to be little comprehension as to what is really involved in this trip and how unique it is.


This is a question that is always asked about a trip like this. Everyone will have a different answer and the answer must be, in my opinion, that you are doing it for yourself. There is little praise and accolades for a South Pole trip because most people do not really understand what it is we are doing and the South Pole is not really of much interest to society and the media.

When I tell people I am skiing to the South Pole most people think of the Antarctica Cruise or a penguin viewing trip. They think, “ya whatever, not a big deal”. In reality, it is a pretty big deal and something few people have every accomplished. More than 10 times the people have climbed Everest compared to those that have skied to the South Pole. When you then look at the style we are doing it, unassisted and unsupported this cuts the number by more than half (about 123 people in history).

It is hard to comprehend just how difficult what we are doing is. Basically, we are skiing a half-marathon (or more) every day for 45-50 days while pulling a 200lb + sled, up hill, into the wind, in -35 temperatures. It is a little intimidating just thinking about it.

So back to the question of why. Once you truly understand the suffering that will be required to accomplish this trip, the question of why becomes even more in baffling.

I can only speak for myself, but I think my answer would resonate with many people who live a similar lifestyle. It is not about ego because nobody cares, it is not about money and fame, because once again nobody cares. For me I do it for the love of extreme personal challenge in the wild places on our planet. Although ego is not really involved, I would say there is a big connection to self-actualization, and self-esteem. I believe I am a better person for doing things like this.

For me the question is not why, but why not!

To book Scott as a keynote speaker for your next event click here.

Click here to check out our team building and team development programs.

Heading South

So many ways to start this blog

And so it begins…

The longest journey begins with the first step…

Once upon a time in a land far far away…

South Pole Team

South Pole Team

I am on my way. I am heading south and will not stop until I start going north again. The departure day has finally arrived. I committed to this expedition in June and it seemed a long time off. Enough time to train and to gather gear, but it has snuck up on me like always.

I left Toronto Friday night on an Air Canada flight to Santiago. Saying goodbye to family is always tough and since I will miss Christmas and New Year on this trip it makes it even more difficult. My wife and kids are very supportive and without this support I could not do what I do.

The flight to Santiago is long at just over 10 hours, but the time flew by :). On my first trip to Antarctica in 2011 the Santiago airport was a hub of chaos. I had very little time to clear immigration and customs, pick up my bags, check into my domestic flight to Punta Arenas and pay the oversize bag fees. In 2011 Canadians were also required to pay a reciprocity fee for entry into Chile. Needless to say, it was stressful and I barely made my next flight.

In January of 2016 I repeated this, but this time we had a special escort at the airport and this made things go very smoothly. I was travelling with the True Patriot Love group and Air Canada had arranged for us to have an escort in the airport that shortcut most lines and got us to our connection very efficiently.

This time I was in no rush as my connecting flight was not until the next day. The lines at customs and immigration were short and efficient and before I knew it I had my bags and I was officially in Chile. I walked across the road (100-feet) to the Holiday Inn Airport Hotel and check in for the night. This hotel is convenient, well priced, and modern and clean.

The next day I continued my way south with a 3 hour flight to Punta Arenas. I grabbed a taxi at the airport and made my way to the Condor De Plata Hotel in town where I met up with the rest of the team. Then the work began…

South Pole Gear

South Pole Gear

Ryan, Paul and Katrina had been working hard the day before and packed our breakfast and dinner food. We will be taking approximately 1kg of food per person per day for 50 days. Ryan and I went to the supermarket and purchased 80 250g chocolate bars plus 18kg of cheese and salami. Back at the hotel we cut up the cheese and salami into 100g bundles which will be part of our lunch each day. We also have a bag of high calorie GORP and power bars to add to this. In all we are shooting to eat about 5000 calories per day.

We finished up around 10pm skipping dinner. After which I slept very well.

Today (November 14) we finished our packing and set up our tents to check over everything. In total we have about 75kg per person plus an additional 70kg of fuel that we will pick up in Antarctica. When loaded our sleds will weigh close to 100 kg per person. I hope we have Teflon spray for the bottom of our sleds to make them slide easier. They are going to be brutal to pull!

Weigh Out

Weigh Out

Our bags have just been weighed and loaded onto the truck to be taken to the airport. We have a flight meeting later tonight and then our scheduled departure is Nov 15 provided the weather is good for flying. We will find out tonight at our meeting. The flight before us was held up for 7 days due to poor flying conditions.

Wish us luck for an on-time departure. Let’s get this party started!

To book Scott as a keynote speaker for your next event click here.

Click here to check out our team building and team development programs.

Packing for a 2 Month South Pole Expedition

South Pole Gear

South Pole Gear

So what does one take for a 2-month, 1000km trek to the South Pole. Well, one packs very carefully as every item you pack is extra weight you need to pull that 1000km’s.

Since our expedition is unsupported we will not have any re-supply along the way and everything we will need for the entire journey we will start with. This means our sleds will weigh well over 200lbs at the start. The majority of that weight will be food and fuel so we need to minimize the additional weight added through our clothing, tents, sleeping system, cameras and other items.

In this post I will attempt to provide you with a relatively complete picture of what we will take with us. I will look at group gear first and then build on that with personal items and communications.

As a group we will each have a sled. Some groups use a large plastic children’s play sled and some use high tech Kevlar and fiberglass creations. We will be using a new sled design by Ice Trek sleds. This high tech plastic sled is designed to be strong, lightweight and to have low friction slide properties. All our gear will be placed inside this sled, hooked to a harness and pulled.Zima South Pole Sled

The basic group gear consists of food, fuel, tents, stoves, pots, safety gear, and communications equipment. We will be using tents specially designed to be strong and easy to erect and have lots of inside space. These will be our homes for 45-50 days. We will have 2 tents with 2 people per tent. When not skiing we will be inside the tents cooking or sleeping.

Cooking will be done on small light weight camp stoves. All our water is produced from melting snow and ice. When you combine drinking water, water for meals, and cleaning we will need to produce about 8-10 liters of water per person per day. This is 32-40 liters and will consume a huge amount of time.

Food will be mostly of the freeze dried and dehydrated type. We will supplement this with high caloric additions such as nuts, butter, olive oil and chocolate. We will burn around 9000 calories per day and our food plan will provide about 4000 calories per day. Although this deficit does not sound smart we need to calculate the balance point between food to bring and calories needed. If we bring more food, the pull weight is higher and we will burn more calories. The combination we are taking is the optimum balance that will allow us to make it to the Pole, albeit a little slimmer, without dragging excess weight and while having enough energy to accomplish the job.

Each person will then bring their own clothing and gear supplies that will keep them safe and comfortable for the duration of the trip.

Starting from the feet up; I will be using Fischer E99 Easy Skin skis. These are a very sturdy cross country ski design with a metal edge for added grip on hard pack surfaces. The Easy Skin ski has a removable grip skin in the kick area. This grip skin will allow me to have traction on the hard packed snow surfaces of Antarctica and yet still have some glide on the ski. However, early in the trip when the loads are heavy and we have more uphill ground to cover I will put on a full tip-to-tail skin that will provide maximum traction, but little glide.

My boots are a custom boot that I used on the North Pole expedition with True Patriot Love (TPL). These boots are basically like an average winter boot on steroids. The boot is very lightweight, with high insulation qualities. The sole is very thick and insulated as this is where the majority of the cold seeps into the foot.

These boots are paired with a special binding designed by Canadian Polar legend Richard Weber. Richard has used these bindings on many South and North pole expeditions and these are the same bindings I used when I was guiding the TPL group to the North Pole with Richard. These strong metal bindings have a long hinged foot plate and the boot is held in place with a custom binding similar to a snowboard binding. The binding is a little heavy, but it is virtually indestructible.

I will be using a carbon/kevlar fiber pole by Norwegian company Asnes. This pole is strong and light weight and will give me extra pulling power on the ice.

During the ski days I will wear one or two pair of long underwear bottoms and my Gore-Tex pants. There is a condition called “polar thigh” caused by the constant cold wind blowing on the thighs. This produces bruising and blisters that can develop into puss filled sores. To help avoid this I will have an additional long underwear layer that will come down to my knees providing greater protection on really cold and windy days. I will have 4 pair of underwear so that will give me a clean pair every 12-14 days.

On my upper body I will have a two layer long underwear system again with a vest to add when cold. On top of this I have a special jacket designed by Klattermusen that is a tight weave cotton. Cotton breathes better than Gore-Tex and I do not need to worry about rain on this trip. This jacket is designed to be long and comes down past mid-thigh. This is again to provide extra protection for my legs. It even has a crotch strap that can be put on in really extreme wind to prevent the jacket from blowing up in the wind.

I have several glove combinations depending upon the conditions, temperature, wind, and task at hand. I have really warm extreme mitts for the really cold times and thin gloves with good dexterity for tasks around camp.

On my head I have several neck gaiter, balaclava, hat and hood combinations again dependent upon the conditions. I will have a Cold Avenger face mask that is specially designed for extreme cold and provides a special breathing apparatus that warms the incoming air and that does not build ice across your face.

I will have glacier glasses and goggles and will select one over the other based on sun and wind conditions. On the goggles I will sew an additional fleece bib of sorts that will hang down over my face and provide additional protection from the wind. Frostbite is a very real and potentially trip ending injury so we must do everything we can to avoid it. Our faces, hands and feet are the most susceptible to frostbite.

For sleeping I have a full-length foam pad and a light weight therm-a-rest on top of that. I will use my Mountain Hardware -40 Ghost sleeping bag to keep me warm while I sleep. There will be no need for a headlamp as we will have 24 hours of sunlight. This does make it challenging to sleep however.

On top of this I will have various stuff sacks for storage and organization, my iPod, a camera, a GoPro camera, some tasty snacks, toiletries (only the basics), and a small first aid kit consisting mostly of anti-inflammatories, pain killers and sleeping pills.

All this will be placed in my sled and dragged for 8-10 hours each day until we reach the South Pole 1000km from our start point. Sound like fun?