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Leadership lessons learned climbing K2: “Getting there requires resilience; getting back requires much more…”

Joanne Walsh
Joanne Walsh
Managing Director, IDG-SA
Leadership lessons learned climbing K2: “Getting there requires resilience; getting back requires much more…”


The IDG Blog

Leadership lessons learned climbing K2: “Getting there requires resilience; getting back requires much more…”

To paraphrase Churchill. “Success is not final. It is the courage to continue that counts.”

Just as you experience the euphoria of accomplishing a “bold audacious” goal in your organisation, getting back to “business as usual” presents its’ own challenges. Despite the euphoria, you probably find yourself in a hollow space saying, “And now what?”

This is why, I ask the question. What does it take to return to business as usual? So often we deplete all of our resources in the quest to achieve the goal, with little lean pickings to make it back to “base camp” or the ordinary, even mundane, day-to-day activities that become essential to sustain our ambitious goals.

Recently Jake Meyer, our UK colleague, summitted K2. We are mostly familiar with stories that focus on the resilience required to summit K2. Getting there requires extraordinary resilience. According to Jake, getting back, requires that much more. Often achieving a milestone is euphoric and, in most cases, short lived. As was the case for Jake. The euphoria lasted 45 minutes and then it was time to get back to reality, swiftly.

“Whilst going up can be physically demanding, the descent can feel worse. Things seem to take so much more time and effort”

Whilst keen to make it back to Base Camp, as quickly as possible, Jake realised the need to pace himself. Getting rest, nourishment and anticipating the long haul ahead, to return to civilisation, became as important now as it was on the journey there.

We acknowledge Jake is an admired adventurer and climber, but also know that he is an accomplished business colleague, with an extraordinary day job. Jake travels extensively with IDG to work with clients around the globe, especially in the USA, India, Middle East and Hong Kong and China. He seamlessly blends his climbing experience with his military experience (he’s also a serving British Army Reservist Officer) and his personal and theory-based business management experience.

“Ultimately it doesn’t matter if you’re in a warzone, up a mountain or in the boardroom – whilst your day to day focus and output may be slightly different, if you are a member of a team, and/or leading others, the opportunities and challenges are exactly the same – it all becomes about human behaviours, motivations and values”. Jake Meyer

It is for this reason, I asked Jake how his experience (and lessons learned from descending) climbing K2, can assist people in organisations who find themselves saying, “And now what?

So how do you sustain your resilience and the resilience of your people in your organisation on their return journey to “base camp”?

  1. Acknowledge that the descent is going to be as demanding, if not more.
  2. Pace yourself.
  3. Get ready for change. Realise that the journey back is going to be different to the journey there.
  4. Appreciate you are not going to be the same person after achieving a bold and ambitious goal.
  5. Just as you prepared and gathered resources to achieve your goal, so too should you ensure you have resilience and resources thereafter.
  6. Set yourself another goal to give meaning and purpose to your more mundane efforts.
  7. Embark on a regime for post traumatic growth. Even positive stress can be traumatic.

Joanne Walsh is the Managing Director of Inspirational Development Group South Africa. (IDG-SA).
Joanne’s extensive global experience, her intimate understanding of shareholder value and investor confidence in the world of capital markets, along with her passion to raise the bar for individuals, teams and organisations ensures that IDG’s business performance engagements deliver ROI.

“IDG-SA is a business performance company with access to truly extraordinary client interventions across the globe. Our global faculty of subject matter experts ensures that our leadership, followership and partnership model fully serves the cross-functional business processes, leveraging functional competencies and fulfilling behavioural change required to raise the commercial excellence bar.”

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