Archive for March 2010
Today is the memorial of Anton Tuner, a friend from many years ago and a true conservationist, explorer and human being.
Anton’s website is at http://bit.ly/aFxI76
If you google his name you can learn a lot about him. His death was a tragic accident whilst filming a BBC Serious Explorers series. He was trampled by an elephant that was charging the group and he put himself between the youths and the elephant.
Tricia, Tim and Georgie, my thoughts are with you today but I know you will be celebrating his life which was so colourful in true Turner fashion.
Last year was a little exceptional and as its so close to departure I thought I would post a few images of the last two races during the first day in bivouac.
I look at building a team in much the same way as I approach any assignment. Or even something as simple as photographing a subject.
When I build a team I look at the task that needs to be completed, assess my own skill sets, look at what I can feasibly do alone and then look for those to help get the job done and equipment needed. I look for people I trust, have greater knowledge in their field with relevant skill sets, can accomplish tasks and importantly, I like and respect. But I also look around me. I search for the best possible and I do not stop at the first right answer as there maybe a better one for me.
It is also important that team members work together well and this is often the unknown and where my role would plays its part.
When I am on assignment I will look at the subject from many different angles. I will not stop at the first good shot but keep going, looking for the shot that is extraordinary. In the same way as I want the extraordinary team, not just a team. I will also look around me to make sure I am not missing anything. If I need other skill sets like lighting or set design I will look elsewhere as my skills are not best spent on this.
In some situations I believe that team roles evolve rather than being set from the beginning and this is from experience. A good example was on one of my youth expeditions and I approached an ex Marine who I knew had great qualities and skills, however I have not got a role in mind. I needed more support and he was truly solid. His first question to me was (typically ex military) “what is my role?” My reply was “I am sorry, I don’t know yet.” Which surprised him. I then said that he would find his role in the next few weeks which I was confident of but he was still uncomfortable. We continued to work together on stuff and the question came up again followed by “I really need a role.” My reply was the same and I encouraged his involvement in everything from the outset but assured him he would find a role. Finally we established that we needed the youths to undergo a fair amount of training and suddenly here was his role. One he created, took ownership of and had has executed with excellence ever since. I had much the same experience with a psychologist who I asked to join the same expedition. I knew why I wanted one there but she did not. I gave her a brief but really wanted her to find her place on the expedition. Again she did and was invaluable. She had complete ownership of her role on the team.
Once my team is complete this leaves me to do to what I do best and get the job accomplished.
Planning has started in earnest and my new expedition is set to depart in November. It will be the biggest I have undertaken in terms of time but I still wonder in terms of logistics and certainly responsibility.
Logistically I am not sure that taking 11 youths across the Sinai desert was not the most difficult and in terms of responsibility it was surely the biggest. The safe guards one needs to put in place have to be so tight when taking other peoples children on such a journey. The temperatures were in excess of 50 degrees each day and dehydration and exhaustion were a real daily threat.
November will be very different. Safeguards will be in place, training will be intense and obviously there is a huge responsibility to what I am embarking on, not least to my partner who will venturing into the real expedition world for the first time.
Our journey will be a first for him and his nation and a political one for me as well as the self challenge of course. We will also represent a fledgling company who are about encouraging change in attitudes.
I will update you more when I have finalised certain details but until then, keep thinking…
For all those of you running the MdS, I am in Morocco now and its HOT! Good luck. Mark.
I read with interest the press on Britain latest Davis Cup mess and having spent so many years in an industry that us rife with politics, committees and general unwillingness to change it really leaves me wondering why there is so much surprise.
I work with change. How to make it, when to make it, what sort of change and and how to get where you want to be. However, there has to be a deep seated want if change is really going to happen. The whole reason one goes to a coach at the outset is to initiate change. If they go for any other reason e.g. its fashionable, then they are in the wrong place.
Back to the LTA and British tennis. I don’t believe there to be any real desire to change. Gradually over the last 25 years maybe longer there has been a steady decline in our depth of good players. Our system is just not adequate and I know because I have been part of it. Other bodies laugh at us. Nick Bolletieri says we have no chance. And I agree with them wholeheartedly.
Roger Draper has now been at the helm for 5 years, I think its now CEO, lovely! He made sweeping changes that made everyone think that ‘change’ was about to happen. But these were merely cosmetic. He changed one group of individuals with another. All competent people; those going out as well as those coming in, but it does not matter the level of competence if the core system is broken. A bit like getting a new train driver to drive the same broken steam engine.
The LTA has to change completely. One way would be to start from zero. Currently it is the wealthiest sporting body in the country and one of the wealthiest in the world. But you cannot buy standards in any performance sport. The Argentinians have no money and hundreds of players….
Starting from zero would be to get rid of all the committees or at least have them all agree to dissolve themselves, but of course this takes courage and a real willingness to change! Take away all the funding from players who are propped up artificially and would probably not be there if it was not for the funding. Then disassociate from all of the traditional British tennis clubs. This is probably the biggest area and most difficult decision but has to be made. They are the achilles heel of British Tennis and stuck in the dark ages. Of the 2500, around 2000 still do not open their doors. Then let passion drive the sport and find out who really wants to play tennis for the right reasons and which clubs want to open their doors to public players as in other successful tennis nations. There is a role for the LTA to organise a tournament structure that allows competition but right now that is about it.
The LTA is a great place to build careers and move on but it is not a place to build tennis players. It never will be until they initiate real change and that has to come from the top. Perhaps the real top at government level where it is decided who the governing body is.
We need to let players find themselves instead of thinking that the LTA can find players. It does not work like that and never will. Andy Murray and TIm Henman were nothing to do with the LTA in their development years. They did it alone. It has to come from the person.
One day I am sure The LTA will have a leader strong enough to break the company up and let people go. Let the sport find itself again… But until then I am sure we are in for another change of make up fairly soon…
I often questioned myself as a team player. In sport I was a tennis player which many see as an individual sport but throughout my career I have played probably more team tennis than tournaments and when in tournaments I still travelled with other players that sort of formed a team of support.
Over time and with expeditions I began to question less and see how I am a team player. I see the necessity of teams and their function.
Back to tennis, the teams I played on were strong and depended on each other in many ways. To know your position in the team was essential and to understand the role. Knowing that you might lose to number 1 & 2 but your matches again 3 & 4 were vital. Respect for the team captain (leader) was essential but also needed to be earned by him. For latter years it was me but I learned a lot from team leaders in earlier years. I have also seen many bad leaders. Support was also a vital role in all my teams, tennis or expeditions and business too.
I am currently putting together a team of people to help with my next venture. I had forgotten how much I enjoy this at it was not that long ago I was doing the same.
Its important to pull a team together with the necessary joint skills to accomplish the task. Members you respect, have greater knowledge than yourself and that respect you. Members who become as important to the task as you in the leader role but also know that the final decision or responsibility is yours.
When I captained tennis teams I was often not the number 1 player. Too often for my liking but I had to respect that I was getting older and they were getting stronger. However, I new my place, my strengths and weaknesses and my number in the team. And that I was the captain!
My expeditions have been much the same. I have not always been the most experienced or knowledgeable. Often by a long way. But I know what I need to get the task done and achieve my goal. And I know I can achieve it with a great team around me. That benefits everyone as all are equal in the success.
Well, thats it for this morning, I am off to see some more possible team members to help me in may latest venture……
Oh, and families are teams too…