Drag versus Momentum

During my polar journeys my teams have to sustain themselves for weeks on end – my South Pole and beyond journey was 71 days!

Isolated from the outside world we must take all the supplies we need; food, fuel, shelter, emergency equipment, spare clothing and much more. Once we load our sledges up with this mountain of supplies we then have to physically haul our loads.

Too much weight equals less glide for the sledge and we won’t complete our journey before the short polar season ends, or worse still we will move too slow to even reach our objective. Excess weight does not just drain energy, by slowing forward momentum it stifles motivation, eats away at self-belief and limits the ability to grasp opportunities.

How much excess weight are you carrying in your team or organisation?

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Teambuilding Tactics from Winning Polar Teams

TMS Development International Ltd have just released a Case Study on my leadership of the Polar Quest expeditions and how I used the Team Management Profile to create and sustain high performance. Here are some extracts...

Building an effective team

Regardless of each individual's skills, experience and character, to succeed, it was essential that we were committed to working together as a team. To do this we needed to understand and appreciate the value of each member's team role.

Taking the team forward

A key issue on the Arctic expedition was that the preferences of the inexperienced team seemed to come out more strongly as the journey unfolded, leading to tensions.

Better team outcomes

In Antarctica, the record-breaking team accomplished their goal as the first and longest unsupported services expedition to make the overland journey - 2,590 kms in 71 days.

Towards the end, the team had learnt to value each other's preferences and we all shared the leadership. After I injured my shoulder, my fellow team members took it in turns to look after the logistics of the kiting and route planning – although the Controller-Inspector was by far the best navigator!

Teamwork strategies

I believe that employee empowerment, and a teambuilding approach, enables people to make better decisions. Using the Team Management Profile, I will be able to build this into my expedition strategies.

Leadership at all levels

Through real experiences on these increasingly demanding journeys, I have realised that peak performance develops when the function of leadership exists throughout the team. The ability to know when to lead and when to follow, and generating the levels of trust within the team that allow leadership to shift from one person to another, are crucial ingredients for developing high performance.

Sean’s top 5 teambuilding tactics

1. Respect individual perspectives by sharing Profiles within the team
Before each expedition, I gave each team member an A4 photo sheet, with contact details and their team mates' major and related role Wheel 'segments'. This was a real prompt for effective communication. When contacting a Controller-Inspector, I would remember his preference for more detailed background and send an email. Likewise, I would give a Thruster-Organiser a brief summary, or a phone call.

2. Move from working groups to teams
Build ‘Tent-Time’ discussions into your project. Once our chores were done, we took 20 minutes to review progress and look ahead at our strategy and progress towards the next goal. This open and honest discussion ensured that everyone felt comfortable raising leadership or team issues. Any successful team should always ask, 'How can we improve?'

3. Avoid role gaps by compensating for missing team roles
The Margerison-McCann Types of Work Model is a useful project planning tool to ensure all work areas are covered. We set a 'green' or Reporter-Advisor agenda item so that we would cover our main role gap. After a while, it became natural to gather more information before making decisions.

4. Pace team members throughout the challenge
For the South Pole, I created a pacing profile for each team member, listing their likes and dislikes. I gave each of them a copy of these notes to look at after they had completed their daily journals. This was a useful mental reminder for the following day of how to communicate most effectively.

5. Use the Team Management Systems approach every day
Our jackets had the Team Management Wheel sewn onto them, so we had a constant visual reminder of the importance of good communication during our journey.

To read the full Case Study visit TMSDI