Ice, Ice Baby…… my love of the game and meeting Gareth

Adam Harris

Whilst many were watching England fail to ‘bring it home’ I was on my own adventure as I was climbing an Ice Glacier. I first did it 20+ years ago when I was travelling NZ with my brother. Back then we started at the bottom and climbed up during a full day but global warming has meant the Glacier has retreated so much, that it is now not possible to do it from the bottom. This means that the only way to do the climb is to get up via helicopter. Now, I have never been on a helicopter before as my relationship with heights is not the best, but I have been challenging myself over the years to put myself in situations where I am comfortably uncomfortable, knowing that I had to challenge my mental model around heights. So, I decided to push myself so that I could let my girls experience something magical.

Now anyone that knows me, knows how much I love my football. I’m a die-hard Forest Fan and England supporter that rarely misses any match of either, even waking at between 2 and 4am depending on when the games are now that I live in New Zealand. However, our trip to climb Franz Josef Ice Glacier had been in the diary for ages. I don’t think I thought that England would make the final but changing this trip would never have been an option anyway. I was able to watch the first half of the match against Italy before we started our adventure. This meant that I left for the climb knowing that England were in the lead but of course I knew that things could change significantly across the course of a match! Only watching the first half meant I spent the morning wondering who had won. It was strange not to be able to keep up with the progress of the match, but I was soon distracted and engaged in the incredible climb we had embarked upon. Watching my children focus, challenge themselves, have fun and enjoy the opportunity was awesome as well as my own experience of the climb. Whilst I was disappointed when I finally heard the result, challenging my own fears as well as the fun we had as a family and each pushing our boundaries meant the loss didn’t seem to matter as much.

A few years ago, I ran a number of retreats at St Georges Park, home of the England team, as I took my CEO’s and senior Leaders to focus on their health – both physical and mental. We had the full experience of physiological tests and assessments to see our response times, oxygen level and the art of recovery with heat and cold. It was such a good experience. The facilities are world class and are designed to create the right environment for success. When the complex was first built the plan was for the England Men’s team to win a major championship by 2022. Well, we were close but no cigar at this one, but I think we have a real chance next year in Qatar.

I remember during one of my visits to St Georges Park I found myself sitting with Mr Southgate over a drink when we both ended up being in the bar. I have strong memories of him being humble, articulate, and open to observations. We got onto the subject of NFL (American football) and talked about strategy and our mutual love for the physical game of chess. It was a memorable and enjoyable evening.

A few things have stood out to me from these experiences over the past few days. Firstly, I am reminded of the importance of having the right team around you. I work with organisations all the time to help them ensure they have the right people in the right place – it is vital for success. Despite not bringing home the cup this time, it was clear that so much work had been done within the England team to ensure that they had the right people in the right roles – from on the pitch to the backroom staff, support team and facilities at St Georges Park. For my own personal challenge this week, I had the best team around me too – my gorgeous family who encourage and inspire me to be better and challenge myself on a regular basis, as well as the climb organisers who made the trip safe and possible for us. In any situation having a team that supports each other and has each other’s back is essential – even when things don’t go their way. We learn so much from failure as well as from success.

Secondly, remembering to take the opportunity to face fears, go outside our comfort zone or embark on challenges when we could say no instead. I could have made an excuse to not climb Franz Josef Ice Glacier – I’ve done it before, my children are still young – any number of excuses would be possible to avoid the challenge and not face my fear of heights. Likewise, the brave young England players stepping forward to take penalties could have shied away from stepping up. There were other players who could have done the task. But they faced the challenge. Yes, it didn’t pay off this time, but this is football, and you win some you lose some. But they are skilled, will learn from this and will come back stronger. And importantly the team around them will support and encourage them to learn from this and to try again. As the saying goes “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” We should all be putting ourselves in situations where we are taking the shot sometimes.

And finally, the importance of strategy and decision making. My conversations with Mr Southgate in the bar all those years ago showed me that even then he was very much focused on the strategy behind the game and the complexities involved in making the right decision. He had a strategy for this tournament and made decisions based on it. In business and in life strategy is important and gives us the best chance of making the most from the situations we are in.

Are you taking the opportunities presented to you? Are you facing your fears and stepping outside your comfort zone? And importantly – are you surrounded by the right people in the right place who can provide the right support as you do so? I’d love to know your thoughts. Add a comment below or to discuss how I can help you with this please do get in touch via messages. If you’d like to stay up-to-date with my reflections please do join my newsletter here:

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