We talked to ‘The Arctic Tractor’ (Alan Chambers) and ‘The World’s Great Living Explorer’ (Sir Ranulph Fiennes), to find out whether working in extreme conditions can teach us anything about the everyday business world…
What motivates you?
Alan: Passing knowledge to the next generation. I now work on educational base expeditions – it’s not just about personal dreams any more.
Can managers really learn from explorers?
Alan: Most companies want to encourage leadership in the workplace, and there are great parallels with the Arctic. It’s about project leadership through adversity.
What’s your attitude to risk?
Ran: You need to balance short-term caution against long-term dangers. It might be better to press on today even if the conditions are risky, to avoid delay causing even greater hazards tomorrow.
What’s the secret to building a strong team?
Alan: Honesty and 100% trust. As a leader you need to make decisions based on fact, and you can only do that when there is honesty in the team. Then you lead from the back, getting the team to take responsibility for their actions.
How do you help your teams adapt to change?
Ran: Be flexible most of the time, but remember that one option is to be inflexible some of the time. Trust your instinct and experience.
How do you define team members’ roles?
Alan: Where practical, people should be able to do each other’s jobs. Most start off not having a clue what their colleagues do. It boils down to communication.
How do you maintain confidence?
Ran: There’s never any point crying over spilt milk. In order to win big goals you are bound to lose others along the way. The key is to learn from failures and keep going.
What’s your formula for beating the competition?
Ran: It’s bad practice to allow your chief rival a clear run at the main prize without even mounting a challenge. Beware of putting successful rivals on a pedestal, feeling inferior and believing them to be invincible. This will only lead to a loss of the very self-confidence you will need to battle on.
How do you ensure your message has lasting impact?
Alan: I leave delegates with five key things that I do on expeditions. People don’t want an MBA lecture – they want to hear from someone who’s been there and done it.