Tune in to the History Channel at 9:00 pm to watch the new documentary based on this expedition.
Recently I skied to the North Pole. It was cold, it was windy, it was beautiful, and it was educational.
For the past two years I have been acting as the Civilian Team Captain for the True Patriot Love expedition series. The True Patriot Love Foundation seeks to raise awareness and funds for ill and injured Canadian military veterans and their families.
The wilderness has long been used as a therapeutic tool to help develop self-confidence and overcome personal challenge. True Patriot Love uses this environment to help our military veterans as they retire from service with various physical injuries and mental illnesses.
After a successful expedition that took us to Everest Base Camp and to the top of Island Peak, we chose the North Pole as our next destination. Our team of military veterans and business leaders would ski more than 125km in a span of five days. The experience was truly wonderful in so many ways, and we all took much away from it.
As a team building and leadership trainer my eye was tuned into the team-oriented learning. These are my take-aways.
You Succeed as a Team: The soldiers reinforced this lesson on day one. With a mix of fitness levels and abilities our large team became strung out over quite a distance. The military value of “leave no one behind” caused several soldiers to become anxious as the slower skiers fell further and further behind. When we get focused on personal success, it is easy to forget the well-being of the team in our haste. Here, we were reminded in vivid terms that, in a true team environment, you succeed or fail as a team. No one is left behind in the process.
Personal Performance is Critical: Although teamwork is critical, each individual must do their part. Some days are better than others for all of us, but the truly strong team members persevere in the face of challenges and hardship. On our way to the pole we encountered blistering cold, fierce wind and long distances. Everyone had to dig deep personally. It was one of those things that you had to do yourself, but you couldn’t do it alone.
Team Culture Forms Fast: We were far too big a group to travel as one so we divided into multiple, smaller pods. It was amazing how fast each pod developed its own distinct culture. We had the loud, the quiet, the crazy, the reserved, the structured and the free flowing, and this all happened within 24-48 hours of being on the ice together. Much of the culture was initiated by the pod leader, but all team members added their own little bits.
Team Building is Critical: Before we hit the ice we gathered for skills training to learn the travel and survival skills that would be necessary for success. I also knew the importance of teamwork and included a team building component in our training. This was designed to build relationships based on trust and respect and to set an expectation of team interactions. The benefit of this team building was evident within the first day as we skied towards the pole.
Share your Success with Others: Not only was this expedition designed to help these soldiers on their personal road to recovery, but it served a much bigger purpose: it raised funds for the larger community of veterans in Canada. Together the team raised close to two million dollars. That will go a long way in helping our veterans deal with the sacrifices they made in the service of our country.