Notes from Everest, Ep. 1: How to Build a Team

This article is part of a five-article series, inspired by my trip to the Mt. Everest Base Camp. This episode explores our team – how it was formed, the dynamics within it, and why it’s a model case on how to build a team.

How to build a team.

At first glance, our team seemed to be a haphazard collection of casual hikers and seasoned outdoors enthusiasts. We were a big team, fourteen in all. Among us were certified mountain guides and weekend athletes – but there was also a lawyer, an artist, a marketing consultant, and a couple married for nearly thirty years, among others.

Some were highly competitive in nature. A few have neither hiked nor travelled together before.

What connected us all, however, was that our team leader knew us all. He knew our characters. And he vouched for each and every member.

“Hire character, train skill.”

In many leadership articles on hiring talents, the oft-used phrase “hire character, train skill” pops up frequently. And for good reason; it’s nearly impossible to train someone with a bad attitude, but someone with a good attitude is likely to be a lot more teachable.

Our team leader thought the same for hiking. In his quest to build his company’s first team to do the Mt. Everest Base Camp trek, he didn’t simply want a group of the strongest and fastest hikers he could find. He wanted a group of people who would like each other – respect one another.

He was absolutely spot on.

Some of us were stronger physically, while others were brilliant at organisation. Some could keep a good pace, while others could keep spirits up. Together – because we liked and respected each other – we helped each other, and thus we made the team stronger as a whole.

We didn’t just want to reach Base Camp. We wanted to reach it together.

And this is probably the reason that thirteen of us made it.

An American team we met lost seven members (out of nine) to altitude sickness by the time Base Camp Day rolled in; an Irish team lost four (out of seven). While the trek looked easy on paper, altitude sickness, food- and water poisoning, conflict, and sheer physical and mental exhaustion whittled other teams down.

I can say without a doubt that without the genuine care we showed each other, a lot less than thirteen would have made it.

We made sure each one was hydrating throughout the trek. We shared medicines to battle headaches and nausea. We shared tips on reducing the likelihood of altitude sickness. We even shared gear, when the weather would turn for the worse.

“A team is only as strong as its weakest link”, they say.

I say, a team is only as strong as its capacity to work together.

My hiking team is Trail Adventours, and our team members are: Guido Sarreal (leader), Angie Tan, Benedict Bautista, Eirene Bautista, Cathy Hermogenes (assistant leader), EJ Angeles, Geru Gotico, Isaac de Leon, Joaquin Laurel, JP Yu, Jun Diaz, Katho Calma, Serge Divino, and myself.

Featured image: our team trekking across the valley on the way to Gorak Shep.

For photos and other stories of the trip, please visit my Instagram account, jsncruz.

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