Leadership Development Expeditions

Pursuing Difficult Objectives

Leadership Development Wilderness Backpacking Expedition

A Program Developed and text written by Neil McCarthy of McCarthy Consulting Group www.mccarthyconsulting.net: All questions should be direct to Neil McCarthy:

Wilderness Backpacking Itinerary
For those that want an adventurous mountain experience without the technical climbing and additional weight on their backs.  Leaving the trail, traveling cross country, and camping where the terrain allows, is something the overwhelming majority of back country travelers never experience, but it is exactly what we will be doing in the mountains of the Cascades or Olympics.  This liberating experience requires  keen awareness, creativity, and focus.

Course Objectives

  • Develop self-aware individuals who lead with confidence.
  • Decision-making approaches and traps
  • Collaboration in teams
  • Performance evaluation and feedback
  • Communication in difficult situations
  • Leading change and dealing with resistance
  • Conflict styles and conflict resolution approaches
  • Situational analysis methodologies
  • The importance and power of leadership stories
  • Increasing knowledge/skills of wilderness travel and camping including:
    • Use of map and compass
    • Route finding and navigation
    • "Leave No Trace" camping philosophy
    • Risk mitigation skills

Pre-expedition Preparation:
A few weeks prior to the course we will schedule a conference call with each participant to discuss their leadership development objectives.  Each participant will be asked to provide examples from their organizational experience that illustrate their leadership strengths and challenges.   During the expedition, we will use the examples you share with us to help connect your objectives to specific learning and development opportunities.       

Day 1: 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm orientation.    Our first meeting is intended to prepare us for our two objectives:  successfully complete our mountaineering route and learn as much as we can about leadership that the mountains have to teach us over the next 5 days.  In addition to the basics of getting to know one another, checking equipment, and examining our wilderness route, we will discuss the critical importance that an inspiring vision and mission has on the success of any organization.  Moving from theory to action we will examine the skills and behaviors leaders must develop to meet this need, especially the importance of balancing and incorporating individual goals with group goals. 

Because decision making is often a key element of leadership, we will present a model for decision making at this first meeting.  Our intention is to practice and test this model throughout the expedition.  Immediately following the discussion, we will have our first opportunity to test the model.   The expedition members will have to make some decisions about the resources’ we will carry in our packs which will directly determine the objectives, style, and approach of our 5 days in the mountains.  And finally, because leaders must be constantly seeking to learn more about their environment and to understand their impact on their organization, we will begin a debrief and feedback process  intended to draw out key learning’s from the day and give each participant insight into how they impacted the experience. 

Day 2: Meet at 6:00am at Alpine Ascents for our drive to the trail head.  As a leader it is important to create vivid images of the future, short term goals that are demanding enough to create momentum but attainable enough to inspire confidence.  We will be trying to strike that balance as we make our way into the mountains and leave the trail to find our first camp.  With the moderately heavy packs and entering unfamiliar terrain, this experience can be stressful.  We encounter a very similar experience in our consulting work with leaders and teams when quick response to organizational changes are required.  We will examine the importance of recognizing the effects of stress on oneself and the group and discuss strategies to manage the impacts. 

To meet our basic need for water, our options of where we will camp are limited.  Our ability to negotiate the day’s challenges will determine how far we can travel and may determine how comfortable our camp will be.  Negotiating the balance between necessity and comfort and its effects on morale is a constant challenge for leaders trying to create the future. After establishing camp, we will continue the debrief and feedback process and evaluate how well we did on our first day in the mountains.

Day 3: Off trail travel and camp.  We expect the intersection of personal motivation, interpersonal communication, and team goals to challenge us today.  While our general direction may be predetermined, the path we take to get there is typically debatable.  Do we take the most direct route or do we choose a route to manage energy output, ease of travel, aesthetics, or access to water.  Off trail travel can be full of surprises and it can be very challenging to know exactly where you are on the map.  Leadership discussion related to this experience will be the benefits “quick wins” for organization initiatives, the risks of not being successful in a “quick wins” scenario, and how individuals respond to conflict both intra-personally and interpersonally.

Once we have established a camp, we continue the debrief and feedback process, discuss the leadership challenges of leading groups of diverse interests and skill levels, and prepare for our next objective.

Day 4:  Participant leadership and routefinding.  When leading in organizations we need to be capable and confident to self correct in the moment if we make bad route finding choices.  We also need to be willing to return to the basics of role and goal clarity, process definition, and communication to work through challenging situations.  To make these competencies more tangible you will have the opportunity to lead the group through the mountains during the day. Depending on how much progress we have made toward completing our route, we may have a long and adventurous day.  With ample route finding challenges and a necessity to put us in position to return to the trailhead the following day, our ability to work together will be critical.

Day 5: This will be a full day of wilderness travel.  After a couple days off – trail travel, when we regain the trail you will feel like you are almost out of the mountains, but there is still work to be done and things to observe.   It is not uncommon that the final steps in route to our goals are some of the most challenging.  Our objectives are in sight and what would be a relatively small obstacle under normal circumstances suddenly takes more focus and engagement to be safe and thorough.  During rest breaks on our hike out of the back country we will discuss strategies to increase resiliency in yourself and the organization you lead when the excitement of pursuing the objective wears off and the difficult work of maintaining momentum begins. 

Post expedition: Follow up is a critical component of the learning experience.  You will receive 2 coaching sessions over the following month to help you connect your expedition experience to the unique leadership opportunities or challenges you are facing.  We will discuss specific behaviors and strategies to support application of what you learned in the mountains.

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