Experience of Leadership during an endurance event and achieving targets!

Looking for a challenge earlier this year, I committed to attempt to complete Trailwalker which is a Gurkha challenge - four people, one team leader, 100km nonstop, completed in 30 hours or less.

What this event taught me was that you need everyone in a team to be bought into achieving a goal. There was no point agreeing a strategy and then “rolling it out” to everybody, each and every member of the ‘team’ needed to believe in the strategy that would help us all reach the end goal.

Our “support team” throughout was made up of three ex-colleagues and two wonderful friends. They were most definitely our rocks when times got tough.

At the start of the journey it was pleasant, we were all talking and enjoying ourselves. It was an initial challenge for me, as I wasn't very well, but, as a team, we worked our way through it.

Then like every plan in business, we hit the rocky stuff, I had a real upset stomach, it was 30 degree heat, no shade and another of our team members, Kate was really struggling with her knee. It became obvious what needed to happen, tough conversations were had and it was with great sadness that Kate couldn't continue for fear of damaging her knee further and she moved on to become another valued member of our support team!

After 12 hours of hiking we had the dawning realisation of what we had signed up for!

It was early Saturday evening, in 25 degree heat, we had covered 26 miles and so still had another marathon to walk, along with the Ben Nevis elevation to climb.

The night hike provided different challenges, everyone was using head torches but I was determined that we didn’t. This way you could see the surroundings, moon and stunning location we were in.

Dark moments, not just conditions, my mind was completely focused on where we were going and what we were doing. Before long, the sun started to come up, I could see the team, what everyone had in them and how everyone was doing.

Two of our support team members, Hannah and Nick, supported by Kate, were absolutely fabulous, despite having little sleep, they always greeted us with big smiles and accommodated our demands as quickly as possible, keeping an eye on how long we were stopping and trying to second guess what each of us would need at each checkpoint.

This did prove an area of challenge at times when some people were stopping with sore feet as the distance was racking up, attending to blisters was taking time, which  we were rapidly running out of!

We pushed on, well aware that things were getting tight, the sun was out and it was getting hotter again, we could see the hills which you couldn't see at night and you could see people struggling.

The zombie apocalypse which was witnessed during the night, turned into a lot of people who were in severe pain, most of whom were continuing nonetheless. Their motivation was inspiring us to carry on too.

The support from fellow walkers, Gurkhas and Oxfam proved everyone had one single goal and if there was anything they could do to help you achieve it, they would. Fruit pastilles at the bottom of hills, volunteers walking up the last few big hills helping the weary and sending them off to the finish line.

If you could finish you would, and I gather people are still, losing toenails five months later! Participants were dropping at an alarming rate; 90 km was having an effect.

One goal.

We reached the last checkpoint and were getting ready for the last 9 km. We had slowed up, our checkpoints had slowed a lot and we were tight on time. As team leader I knew I needed to do something.

I had got us into this and as team leader; I needed to make some decisions. I chose to do something on my own; the team needed something to help them through this last hard spell. I felt I needed to lead by example, so I set off first. They needed to know we were going to finish and banish the talk of a “little sleep”…and the negative impact it was having.

We all agreed and got underway. I popped in my ear phones, turning the volume right up on the most motivational song I could find and I absolutely trounced up the MASSIVE final proper hill, passing lots of people on the way up, every single step was painful but I didn’t look back once.

I knew the team was coming as fast as they could, following, with their blisters, bruised ankles and aching calves in tow. I knew that if one of us started to waiver then the whole vision and plan could fall apart so leading by example was important. I was in agony after 55 miles but I had to keep going.

We eventually completed in 29 1/2 hours, crossing the finishing line, arms around each other in solidarity,

The positivity was amazing!

On reflection, we all took a lot from the event and I know that it will massively help me in my delivery with clients, helping them understanding what leadership is and the impact of leaders’ actions on their teams.

Although this was my idea, our shared vision and the plans were all agreed together got us to the end as a strong team. However, I know that as team leader, if my actions had been different, then the result may have been too.

If you wish to find out more about Leadership support I offer, please contact me on tony.mattravers@exelin.co.uk or consider attending one of Exelin's Leadership Development courses - https://www.exelin.co.uk/courses