I gasp for breath, the 14th floor of Rigshospitalet seems to me right now like the death zone on Mount Everest. We have been training the stairs for several months to be in top shape for our winter trip: a small mountaineering, ice climbing and mountain hiking in Norway awaits ahead. A bunch of guys with the same goals and passion – outdoor life and camaraderie, just a little above average.
“Now something is happening!” laughs Gil, my good friend and climbing buddy, as I hyperventilatively struggle my way through the eighth round up to the 16th floor of the Kingdom on a Sunday morning. “Remember to breathe,” he says.
There are clear parallels between training and completing a trip like the one we face, to elements of team development and leadership training, both mentally and physically. Elements I use in my work: Active learning, perseverance, overview, teamwork, reflection, organization, collaboration, communication, trust, strategy, knowledge sharing and not least constant adaptation to change. And tools that are vital once we embark on this journey.
Adaptability is something that can be trained, and it’s interesting that we can all perform well when the back edge is fatal.
When you stand on the mountain in Norway in the winter and are about to climb a small mountain, you peel some layers of the needs pyramid, a natural simplification in relation to teams, environment and goals, where there is cash settlement. If your backpack is stuffed with an insignificant 10 kg, you will feel it if there is no plan with it, a strategy, a well-functioning team and an understanding of being adaptable every single moment. All in all, roughly the same complexity as in business, just with an extra twist… if it goes wrong here, it can go really wrong.
It’s what you have in your backpack both physically and mentally that counts.
It amazes me time and time again that change often meets with resistance, and yet not so. It is a form of basic fear that we all unfortunately biologically carry around to some degree, bestowed by our ancestors through our DNA. Changes mean uncertainty, greater energy consumption and danger – if you are a caveman. The problem is that these instincts are still valid in us today, and that we as humans still have a limited conscious, rational capacity, which in total is about ½ hours a day (Herbert Simon). The rest of the time we have to rely on our automatic behaviors bound in knowledge, experiences, instincts and habits. In other words: it is actually extremely resource-intensive to adapt.
German-American psychologist Kurt Lewin developed a 3-step tool for change management: Unfreeze – Change – Refreeze.
Change management is about making your team and / or employees understand why and how the change should take place:
- Specify specifically what needs to be changed.
- Create adequate awareness and need for change.
- Thaw them.
- Make sure that you as a leader have backup from the management, but also across the organization from other leaders and teams.
Take the time to deal with concerned team members, for coaching, collaboration, knowledge sharing and clear communication is the only way forward if it is to succeed.
We have reached a quarter up the mountain, as we experience that on our planned route there is avalanche danger, despite prior intensive data and weather search, We take a briefing, which is not easy in strong winds and winds, a place where you absolutely do not want to stand still extend due to the danger of cooling. We decide to change course and thus extend the ascent. We are already under time pressure, but right now and here it must be decided what the next steps are, as it is no longer an option to continue on the planned route. We have been training for a long time up to this ascent, and the goal is the top, so in this case it is pretty quickly clear to all of us that if we want to reach our goal, we must change course immediately.
This is, of course, a simplification of a complex process of change, but not really. Changes in organizations also happen for one reason or another, but most often to optimize the bottom line and thereby improve the organization’s survivability and ensure the employees’ jobs in the long run. Adapting to the conditions is therefore the first step.
The change phase is the development process that team members experience in response to the change. You can take advantage of these tools in this phase of change and in general:
- Support and support active initiatives.
- Provide ongoing concrete communication.
- Involve employees in the process.
- There are rumors and gossip in the ground.
The team is moving towards new ways of doing things. The phase is often seen as the most difficult of the three, as involuntary change means team members get out of their comfort zone, which can lead to insecurity, fear and in some cases conflicts. Your role as a leader is to support them during the process, for example in the form of coaching and by backing them up
One of the dangers of change processes in mountaineering is unknown steps. In an alpine team, it is typically the most experienced who takes the lead, leads the way and assesses the environment around the team and the unforeseen problems that may arise along the way. The same is true in an organization: it is you as a leader who must take the lead and pave the way for your team. The longer the change process is about to be implemented, the greater the risk of falling back into old routines and habits. The same goes for the mountain. It’s about minimizing the time you expose your team to danger. It is about taking action and solving the problems on an ongoing basis.
In the last phase, the change is re-frozen and stabilized. This phase reinforces the new behavior and the new realization. Once the change has taken shape and the team members have taken on the new workflow, the organization is ready to be stabilized again. Important points here are that:
- Anchor the changes into the culture.
- Provide ongoing support and training.
- Develop a way to sustain the new initiatives.
- Evaluate and reflect on an ongoing basis.
- Focus on and celebrate the goal when it is reached.
You need to make sure that the change is constantly followed up, that feedback is given and evaluated in everyday life, that all team members get the communication that is needed. All organizations are evolving all the time, but the sense of stability is important, for security and trust in teams are the cornerstones of top performance. So support and training is the alpha omega for maintaining the new initiatives, as is the recognition and reward of the team members, i.a. by using sub-goals as important benchmarks for all.
In the preparations for mountaineering and similar challenges, alignment of expectations, feedback and evaluation are vital factors. Because up on the mountain, the dialogue is short and precise, and you have to be able to tolerate that. Everyone has to park their star nods and just be a part of the team. In stressful situations, one cannot hold long meetings about what one feels or thinks about him or her saying that.
You have to trust the team. Feedback and evaluation therefore belong to both before and after the assignment. This is equivalent to defining some rules of the game in organizational teams from the beginning for how the tasks and collaboration should proceed and subsequently evaluating and giving feedback, so that you can focus on what worked well and improve what did not, until next time. . This also adjusts the new initiatives, while at the same time focusing on the victories and the goals achieved.
Well, but we reached the top and everyone came down full again. It was a pretty great experience that helped to mentally change my attitude towards the world and the understanding of myself and other people. It was also a confirmation of what a bunch of people with a common goal can accomplish together, so thanks to Gil, Kenneth and Dennis. The handling of changes is thus hidden somewhere in our DNA. The survival instinct its called.