Mount Everest is the tallest mountain on the planet at 29,029 feet. Only 4,500 people have reached the summit, and hundreds have died trying.
Scaling Mount Everest is one of the most challenging goals a human can embark upon. That's why when Erik Weihenmayer decided to climb it, people just shook their heads.
Why? ...Because Erik was blind.
Erik not only trained but also developed techniques and tools. He became singularly focused and put together an incredible team. And, in 2001, he achieved what people said was impossible -- he became the only blind person to make the summit of Mt. Everest. And, it was his team that put him there.
You Can Apply Erik’s Teamwork Principles
Erik says what he accomplished wasn’t a miracle. That even the ordinary can do the extraordinary!
His story demonstrates how any workplace team can apply the same principals to achieving its goals.
Team Erik: Any mistake during the assent or descent could mean certain death to Erik and his team. To prepare, Erik planned for years. He practiced, built his physical endurance and developed a solid team.
Lesson: Our projects may not need years of preparation, but thorough planning prepares us for the challenges that may occur. Successful planning allows a team to:
• prevent mistakes
• anticipate pitfalls
• determine success
Team Erik: Because Erik was blind, each member of the team had to perform flawlessly -- a huge responsibility. To make it happen, team members had to commit to doing everything they could to safely achieve the shared goal, and trust that others would do the same.
Lesson: For our teams to be successful, we must have a shared commitment to a common purpose. We sometimes have to put aside our individual ambitions to form a seamless, united team with one goal. When we do, trust follows.
Team Erik: Erik, along with this 18-person team had one, singular goal -- get Erik to the top. Although they all wanted to reach the summit, it was only if Erik was with them. They acheived that goal, one step at a time!
Lesson: We harness incredible power when an entire team focuses on a single purpose. And, many big goals are achieved by working together, leveraging small successes and moving ahead one step at a time!
Team Erik: While climbing, the team continually discussed the challenges in front of them. They never let up, and they each understood the value of their contributions.
Lesson: Open communication, where everyone contributes, is vital. It creates a non-adversarial environment for problem-solving. To do this requires creating a comfortable environment where all feel safe and valued.
Team Erik: What motivates a man to climb a mountain when he can’t see the view? Or, for that matter, what motivates others to help get him there? For Erik to succeed, every team member had to first envision the goal. Then, throughout the journey they continually reaffirmed their goal -- get Erik to the top.
Lesson: Every team needs a clear vision -- one they can behind. And that vision needs to continually be reinforced.
Team Erik: The original team leader had to return to base camp and didn't make it with the group to the summit. However, the leadership spirit remained. Each member of the team took over new responsibilities.
Lesson: Team leaders need to ensure that their members can "step up" when required, and mentor individuals to excel when the expected happens . . . which it always will.
Erik said, "I don’t think I’m very different from anyone else. I think everyone has a yearning for greatness inside them, an ability to reach out into uncertainty."
It's time. Take your team from ordinary to extraordinary, and capitalize on team strength!
The story of Erik and his amazing team can be seen in the powerful Everest training video. Click here to access a full-length preview.
Diane Mettler has been a manager for nearly 20 years. She's also a freelance writer and editor--with hundreds of her articles published in a variety of magazines—and teaches writing at the University of Washington.