Leadership Development Expeditions

Pursuing Difficult Objectives

Leadership Development Expedition

What Leaders Have to Say About Leadership and Mountaineering

"Climbing on a team gives you the all important aspect of being a follower, of being out of your traditional role and gaining invaluable perspective. I believe it is good for a business leader to have a visceral experience of being a follower, to experience how good leadership and bad leadership impacts people.

Climbing expeditions also teach a significant amount about group dynamics. Being in close quarters in unfamiliar circumstances heightens ones understanding of what it means to be interdependent. There are situations where relationships between individuals with strong personalities and egos have to be managed and conflicts have to be resolved for the expedition to be successful.

Ultimately, mountaineering teaches you the importance of putting yourself in the path of opportunity and being ready to take advantage of that opportunity. Summiting involves being in position and being ready to act when the environment is favorable. "

Jean Michele Valette
Chairman
Peet's Coffee & Tea


"Climbing has reinforced to me that leadership is about being prepared. You have to be vigilant with the basic things; good camping skills, taking care of your gear, being efficient at packing, staying hydrated. When the slack needs to be picked up for a teammate, or when people are tired and hungry, a leader needs to be willing and able to step up and do what it takes to care for the team. If youre not doing the basics well, if youre not prepared, the team may not even get to leave camp for the walk to the summit."

Todd Baumeister
General Manager
Microsoft Corporation


"On guided expeditions you are typically with a bunch of individuals you have never met before. One take-away from that experience is that you learn to quickly develop relationships in a way that you become comfortable sharing a rope with these people. How this applies to leadership is that many of the projects I have to lead are with people that don't report to me or people in other groups and I have to quickly develop some level of rapport and bonding with them to develop trust quickly. That is the key, developing trust. Developing trust is usually something that takes a lot of time. Learning to do this more quickly is critical for success as a leader.

On a more personal level, part of the reason I like mountaineering is because it puts me in positions where I am uncomfortable. I don't mean just physically uncomfortable with the cold or weight of a pack, but situations where I am forced to face my fear, for example my fear of exposure to heights. What I have learned through mountaineering is that most of the fear is the anticipation of a particular event and not actually the event. In fact usually once you get through the place where you are uncomfortable you realize, okay that actually wasn't that bad, I made it, I didn't get hurt, and I didn't freak out. At work, especially at Microsoft, you have to be willing to take risks. You have to willing to do things that seem to be outside of your abilities, which may make you feel uncomfortable. But what I have learned is that when I have been willing to take those chances the anticipation is far more difficult than the actual event. I find that I am capable and then next time through I am able to observe more and do more.

Working with Neil has improved my effectiveness and the effectiveness of my team. He has helped me be more effective in dealing with tense situations involving big personalities. While I might not have said anything previously, now Im more likely to try and bridge communication gaps between other leaders I work with. Additionally, Neil has done a great job helping my team transition from a collection of individuals to a real team where we spend more time relying on each other and helping each other."

Keith Beeman
General Manager
Microsoft Corporation


"Climbing has supported my leadership by teaching and reinforcing the power of systems thinking. In climbing I have to be thinking about my internal system, my gear system, my clothing system, the weather system, and the relationship of these systems. I have to rely on the systems I have established and know how those systems interact. Similarly leadership requires you to step back and see the big picture. When an issue arises in the organization, before the issue becomes about a person, I have learned to step back, to look at the effects of the communication system, the technical system, the decision making system in place, to better understand how to respond.

Through my climbing experiences I have learned much about myself and pushing my limits. As a woman it has definitely supported my confidence in the work place. I have gained a lot of knowledge and wisdom about being more efficient and effective, being proactive and thinking through problems not just try and muscle through them. "

Kasandra VerBrugghen,
Managing Director
SpyHop Productions

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