Consultant and climber Valentí Giró talks to us about management and team development using the ascent of the K2 as an example
Of the 14 eight-thousanders that exist in the world, the Everest is 8,848 meters high, the highest of all. But 2,249 climbers have made it to the roof of the world since the first ascension in 1953. The K2, the second highest mountain on the planet, has seen just 249 of them. A 2.000 climber difference.
This summit of the Karakoram mountain range, located on the border between Pakistan and China, and the ascension of five Spanish climbers that took place in August 2004 by way of the Magic Line is the best example that Valenti Giró, a member of the expedition, tells us the points of union between a sport such as climbing and his profession as a trainer specializing in leadership, team development and executive coaching.
“Everyone has a K2 in their life, a clear objective they’d like to reach,” Giró said. The way to achieve it , a well thought out plan, the values that take him to fight for it and the people that you surround yourself with are key. He talks about all this and more in this interview, about strategic management and leadership in the business world.
What has the mountain taught you in your work as a trainer in Strategic Management and Leadership in teams?
The mountain is a very rich learning classroom. In my case, it has taught me how to work better as a team and connect better with what I care about: with purpose, with sense, with what’s important to me. Team work is to understand that each person must contribute the best they’ve got to a project and do it with full commitment. These are the two things that the mountain has helped me live out and know. It also makes you keep the challenge alive, to reach the goals that are challenging and reach them in a way that is akin to the principles that one chooses, to those values.
What is the point of union between undertaking and climbing?
An entrepreneur in a business project, of any social type, is someone who is faithful to his values and believes tremendously in what he does, it motivates him, he makes sense out of things that other people don’t see, and it’s what he’s passionate about. This is very clear in the mountain: passion, understanding that that’s part of your life. The entrepreneur is also a catalyst. A real entrepreneur does not guard his project from others, but shares it, makes it grow, and recognizes other people that can help him on the journey he wants to embark on. On an expedition it’s the same: people join us who will help carry out the project; we must be generous in extending invitations to participate in it. Ultimately, the goal is the same for an entrepreneur who wants to achieve results. The result is the oxygen, blood and veins that flow through the company. Without results the project does not live, but for the entrepreneur it’s a journey where that isn’t important; what’s important is the road taken, the process, just like on the mountain. I think they’re twin worlds.
How can security in a good layout plan help make the right decisions?
Having a plan is essential; a plan that is well drawn out, built with consensus and collecting the views of the team is basic. But I would say that the plan is something that’s alive, something that has to be done, undone and redone, that’s the only way it makes sense. In addition, the mountain changes what we plan every day, but it’s true that even if one has a plan, one has to make decisions in solitude and those are difficult moments, where one can feel insecurity, doubt. And how does one recover security and the ability to make a decision? By going back to the basics: why am I in this project, why is it important for me, what am I doing on my part to make this come out as best as possible, who am I with, how we are moving forward, how can we advance faithfully or not towards those values. That’s what makes you say: whatever the decision I’m going to make, I’ll do my best if I’m true to that.
Is the motivation a leader transmits to the rest of the team vital in any project?
Motivation is something everyone brings, which is very clear and settled, it’s motivation that comes from within each one of us. The leader catalyzes those which are individual, which may initially be a little different, and constructs an amalgamation, he unites them, ties them together, because although the motives are different, they have many things in common. That’s what the leader has to do, but the motivation and commitment are things that each person should take with him.
What does your work as a trainer consist of?
I work with teams who somehow see that they have the potential to go further or they’ve identified problems, or see that there are things that just don’t give any results, that there are some frictions that are undesirable, so what I do is an intervention in which each person on that team passes a 360-degree psychometric diagnosis before working in the classroom, to see how they are seen by their partners, their peers and by their superiors. With this information, we start to cook ideas for those two or three days that we’re together and based on a few conceptual models of technical and theoretical tools, we take advantage of this diagnosis so that the person, at the end of those three days, must have opened his/her eyes and gained consciousness in saying: there are things that are working very well for me and I’m going to protect them and others which I perhaps did not see and are not working as well for me and which I should perhaps change because they have a very clear transition, not only in the field of my organization, but also in the more personal and family environments. And then we accompany this training process with coaching sessions.
What aspects are key in a person who leads work groups?
Going back a bit to what the mountain has taught me, for me there are two key features: a person who leads must be someone who is generous, who is able to get behind the team, not in front, who is able to make others to grow and become even better than him, who doesn’t put others at the service of his agenda, but quite the opposite. And the most exciting thing for the person who leads is to see that he has managed to make others better, has managed to make people feel more secure, more confident in what they do. Fortunately, in the world of organizations many times I see people with this profile, people who are young and not so young who have their reason of being increasingly clearer. That’s something that has changed. We come from an environment, at least in Spain, which is fairly hierarchical, very based on fear and certain codes of discipline, and we’re in a very attractive time with all those changes that are taking place at the enterprise level.