The “Endurance” to see the big picture.
You’re back in time, the world is on the cusp of war and you’re tasked with recruiting and hiring for the Antarctic expedition with Ernest Shackleton. The goal is to establish a base on Antarctica’s Weddell Sea coast. These are the job criteria you’ve been given:
· Hazardous journey
· Small wages
· Bitter cold
· Long months of complete darkness
· Constant danger
· Safe return doubtful
· Honour & Recognition in the event of success
How do you prioritize the skillset?
· Technical Skills
· Prior Experience
The 28 men (there were no women on this journey), 69 dogs and one cat were on board and they’re off on the adventure. Now is the management, retention, and engagement to have everyone stay the course. But trouble befalls the voyage within a day of their expected landing on the continent. Suddenly they are locked by the ice, which continuously pushes them farther from their destination, taking them off their goal.
As Shackleton famously said, “what the ice gets, the ice keeps”. True enough, after 10-months, the Endurance is destroyed and the ship slips beneath the ice forever.
“A man must shape himself to a new mark, the minute the old one goes aground” Sir Ernest Shackleton.
With the drastic change in the mission, it was no longer a matter of setting up a base, but surviving. As a leader, what Shackleton did next, in the name of “mental medicine”, are lessons which stand the test of time in any organization.
· Open communication. He took full responsibility and continually tried to improve the situation. With confidence he explained the state of affairs to his team simply and without drama, outlining the dangers but never losing sight of optimism.
· Engaged. The crew were tasked nightly with socializing with one another. Sharing in games, stories, theatrics, fun and laughter. The protection of the banjo being as important as their food stuffs.
· Teamwork. Positive re-enforcement of working together for the great good of the whole. The retention of “hope” foremost and top of mind.
· Constant adaptation to the inevitable changes with suppleness, improvisation to manage the energy of the crew. He constantly assessed and reassessed what worked and what didn’t. He didn’t look back to dwell on what didn’t work, but continually moved forward in his approach.
· There was a relentless commitment to the primary objective of survival. This involved maintain his credibility and the preservation of trust from his men. Re-enforcement of the mission, vision, goals of the expedition based on the combined abilities.
· Caring. Shackleton was a visionary in the humanity of leadership. His men cared because he lead with caring. They never doubted his commitment to getting them home alive. This was born out when most volunteered to go with him again.
“For scientific discovery give me Scott; for speed and efficiency of travel give me Amundsen; but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton.” Sir Raymond Priestley, Antarctic Explorer and Geologist.
It is said, had Shackleton not prioritized “attitude”, managing the energy, engagement and cohesion of the team may have proved impossible in the twenty months until every man was returned safely from the expedition
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