For over a year now I have been planning and preparing for our April 2019 expedition to cross the Akshayuk Pass on Baffin Island as part of the first all-women’s True Patriot Love (TPL) expedition. The team of soldiers, veterans, civilians, doctor, photographer and guides are now all together. Most of the gear, clothing, supplies and food has been acquired. Physical and skills training has been on going for months. We are almost ready to go.
A huge part of any expedition’s success is connected to team. Teamwork helps to make a difficult task easier. Comradery helps one to overcome emotional and mental challenges. Experiencing adventure with others makes it more meaningful. Based on these undisputable facts, team building is critical to the success of this endeavor.
This is where the two parts of my world connect in perfect harmony. As a trainer, team builder, and leadership coach, I have a strong academic and theoretical background in team building. As an expedition leader I have seen first hand the amazing results of team work and what happens when teams fail to work together.
Therefore, over the course of several months we gathered the team together on several occasions. These team meetings were used for skill development and fitness training, but mostly for team building. We would talk about vision, goals and norms and how we would work together. This created a strong foundation from which we would grow as a team. One of the most important aspects of these gatherings was relationship development. I always say that relationship is the foundation of any high performance team.
My goal and my job as expedition leader is to take a group of strangers and to craft them into a high-performance team with the skills to complete the task within a culture where team members like and care about one another.
Our most recent team building day took place at a beautiful lakeside cottage in Muskoka. Many of the members had camped out the night before to become more comfortable with the equipment and to sleeping in the cold. They enjoyed some great snowshoe hikes on the snow-covered frozen lake and continued to bond.
We were also blessed with the opportunity to get to know Dr. Ken Hedges. Dr. Hedges is a former member of the British SAS and an honorary Honorary Colonel in Royal Canadian Medical Service. This is a great connection for the military members of our team, but Dr. Hedges also has insights and experiences in the Arctic that few in history have.
Dr. Hedges shared with us his story of completing a 6000km, 476-day journey to circumnavigate the Arctic Ocean. The 1968/69 British Trans Arctic Expedition set several records including; the first crossing of the Arctic Ocean, the longest dog-sled journey on sea ice in the history of polar exploration, and the first undisputed expedition to reach and return from the North Pole on foot.
A funny and soft-spoken gentleman with a charming British accent, Dr. Hedges spent the afternoon speaking with the team and inspiring them to take on this personal adventure they have chosen.
We are now less than a month from our departure and everyone is excited to put the first steps onto the ice for this once in a lifetime journey.