Former Royal Marine turned extreme explorer Alan Chambers recently addressed a captivated audience at SIBEC Europe, held this year in Marrakech, Morocco.
His keynote presentation, which opened proceedings on day one of the event, detailed his polar expedition from Canada to the Geographic North Pole, leading the first British team to complete the journey without support services.
The 672 nautical mile walk on ice lasted a gruelling 70 days, during which time he lost three stone and was living on 300 calories a day, but burning 14,000.
Suffering near starvation, with a dwindling fuel supply and experiencing the worst polar weather conditions recorded in 100 years, Chambers' team achieved what many said was impossible. It demanded an extraordinary level of commitment, focus and teamwork, for which Alan was awarded an MBE.
Chambers said the emphasis was on travelling light and the team constantly worked to shed anything from their kit which could reduce its weight, including removing the toggles from the ends of their shoe laces!
Many SIBEC delegates reported that they took away many key learnings from Chambers' amazing account of his challenge.
PASSION AND ATTITUDE
• Attitude wins over experience. A member of your team may have all the right skills, but if they don’t have the right attitude or passion for the project, they’ll never achieve what they set out to do. The wrong mindset has the potential to break a team, not just the individual.
• The importance of meticulous planning should never be underestimated. Being aware of all the variables and scenario planning for every eventuality prepares your team’s mindset and empowers them to work with the unexpected.
• Break down one big project into several mini projects. This makes the challenge facing you both manageable and achievable, whilst maintaining your team’s motivation, as they succeed through the phases.
• Question conventional thinking. Don’t keep doing the same things in the same way and expect different results. It’s important to keep thinking, keep innovating and making changes, no matter how small, in order to get the desired result.
• Make the time to talk. Chambers coined this as "tent time", where he would get his team together to talk and work collaboratively through difficulties to find solutions. He also took the time to talk to everyone individually to increase his understanding, so he could effectively support them through the challenge.
Chambers left the audience thinking about his personal mantra, O.P.E.R.A, which stands for "Ordinary People, Extraordinary Results Achieved".
Since the completion of that expedition on 16 May 2000, Chambers has been back to the North Pole 15 times and has never failed. With meticulous preparation, a questioning mindset, constant adaption and innovation and a driven team, he always believed he would succeed.