Elite climber Andy Cave’s story of overcoming adversity and rising above expectations has inspired audiences the world over. His recent talk on mountaineering drew many powerful parallels with business.
Andy’s story began 3000 feet underground in the Yorkshire coalmines. After four years as a miner, he quit his job and pursued his passion for climbing. From the Himalayas to the North Face of Mount Kennedy in the Yukon, for over 30 years, he and his teams succeeded time after time where many others had failed.
He has written two award winning books, ‘Learning to Breathe’ and ‘Thin White Line’, appeared on radio and TV, as both presenter and subject, and has inspired many with his journey of an ordinary boy growing up to achieve extra-ordinary things. We've picked out some nugget's from his work that relate to teams, identity and work place cultures.
Clarity of goal
You would be forgiven for thinking that a climber’s goal is to get to the top, but Andy has a different take: Reaching the summit is only half the journey – the important thing is to ensure that everyone gets home safely and goes on to tackle further challenges. Clarity around this goal is crucial as most climbing accidents happen on the descent as people assume they have achieved their goal and switch off.
A successful business, like a successful mountaineering team, cannot rest on its laurels: it must continue to grow and develop, seeking out new challenges and clarifying new goals. Once safely back at basecamp, Andy and his team will refocus their sights and start identifying their next objective.
Adapting to change
In the mountains and in business, you must adapt to change. Andy spoke of the need for an ideal plan and a best plan. An ideal plan is developed in the confines of the office or basecamp – it’s what you aim to achieve in ideal conditions, but these rarely exist, so leaders must have the humility to adapt and come up with a best plan based on the environment they find themselves in.
Asking tough questions
Building the right team, with the right balance of skills, is imperative, but if individuals are not able to express their views openly, the results can be catastrophic. Andy stressed the importance of developing a culture where team members can be frank and honest with their feedback without fear of reprisals.
“If you have a good idea and a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will fix it or throw it away and come back with something better.” Ed Catmull (CEO of Pixar and author of Creativity Inc.)
Andy’s talk highlighted three key components of enduring success:
• Vision – clarity of and commitment to goals
• Strategy – an understanding that plans need to adapt to changing circumstances
• People – the right people and a culture of openness that leads to trust.
If you would like to book Andy Cave for your event, and we strongly recommend that you do, click here.