11 Business Lessons Learned From Climbing Kilimanjaro!

I have recently returned from the adventure of a lifetime ….. a climb to “The roof of Africa– Kilimanjaro” with a 100% success rate for the entire team! The trip has got me asking some questions… what made it such a success and how can this success be transferred to the business environment… and I have noted 11 simple but very key learning points from my adventure.

  1. Surround yourself with a competent team and have clear reporting structures: Everyone needs to know their allocated role & have the knowledge and skills to do their job – we were surrounded by a highly competent team each with a clear role/daily tasks to achieve, this resulted in things happening like clock work
  2. Have a common goal that all the team know and are committed to and believe in success: All of our team were fully committed to the goal …to get us to the summit of the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world….Urhuru Peak on Saturday 16th August at sunset.  This was our constant focus and discussion point throughout the week with failure never being an option! Once our end goal was achieved congratulations was  extended to ALL of the team as EVERYONE was responsible for this success.
  3. Clear and open communication: At the end of every day a conversation took place reflecting on the day and planning for the next with ample opportunity to ask questions, be honest with our leader and colleagues, clear our minds of distractions/concerns and get clarity
  4. Find an expert and listen to them and trust in their experience: Our chief guide Freddy had in excess of 300 successful summit trips under his belt in his 17 years as a guide.  We listened to his advice and followed it and this was vital to our success …he is the expert and has the experience – it’s a NO BRAINER!
  5. Things will not go as planned: Nothing is so bad; I lost my luggage and survived for 5 days without it, having spent 6 months planning every detail of it, not to mention the cost! You will be able to deal with and overcome any crisis, rationalise it and trust in your expert who has the experience.
  6. Planning is vital: Plan each day, allocate timelines, consider contingencies – our expert did this flawlessly, prepare for the unexpected,  there will be bad days that don’t go to plan, when this happens you will need to Dig Deep & turn to your colleagues and team for support to push through these hard times
  7. Pace & Practice: Practice makes perfect, pace change in the organisation, do not rush and jump too soon to the detriment of your business, its’ reputation and success. Acclimatisation was our pace & practice; every evening we climbed a few more hundred metres and then came down, this was to help our bodies to adjust to the reduced oxygen levels.
  8. Have one solitary focus: Clear your head, reduce the distractions and focus on what you are doing; otherwise you will struggle to succeed.  On several occasions we walked in silence, totally focusing on the challenge at that point of the adventure
  9. One step at a time: Break your goal into clearly defined manageable chunks. Each day we concentrated on getting to the next camp. Celebrate each of these milestones particularly the trickier ones…as the days progressed we celebrated even more as we were getting closer to our end goal. The excitement within the team was palpable as the days progressed and achievement of the end goal became closer.
  10. Take care of yourself…. eat, sleep (take rest periods) and drink (water!) adequately, don’t let this slip, if we didn’t rest, eat properly and/or drink water we suffered and would not have succeeded.
  11. Push beyond your comfort zone: Don’t be afraid to push beyond your comfort zone and it will be necessary at times to do this in your business in order to survive, But prepare yourself for this and don’t leave it to chance. I spent many months preparing both physically and mentally and believe me many times prior to the trip I thought – are you mad, whose idea was this; climbing Croagh Patrick is one thing but the highest free-standing mountain in the world? These moments of doubt didn’t change my mind or impact on my success !

It’s certainly not rocket science but sometimes in business we complicate things and miss the basics, get them right and the rest will follow…

Orla Leydon orla@ots.ie

September 2014