Rare Disease Day - 28th February 2015

Testimonial from Rick Parry (former CEO at Liverpool Football Club and CMN Kilimanjaro Trekker)

The whole focus of our work at Liverpool FC was to build high performing teams. The most notable example was the team that defied all the odds by winning the UEFA Champions League in Istanbul in 2005. I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve asked what made it possible. I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside some of football’s greatest coaches and seen some fantastic examples of leadership.

Since leaving Liverpool in 2009 I’ve enjoyed talking to diverse groups of people about team building and leadership and about the lessons that can be learnt from professional sport. But I’ve added a new slide to the presentation after climbing Kilimanjaro in support of Caring Matters Now. Building a great team is not about assembling a group of superstars, it is about creating an environment where ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

It has long been recognised that taking people away from the office and out of their comfort zone is a good first step in team building. Over the years I’ve been on many such exercises. The challenge is in making the change permanent.

There are two big pluses in taking on a CMN Challenge; The first is that raising money for a charity is a concrete objective. This isn’t an abstract exercise. There is a great sense of satisfaction in achieving a goal and in seeing the real impact that it is possible to make on people’s lives. The second is that taking on a challenge like Kilimanjaro is tough. It is a real test of individuals and the team. Ascending a slippery slope in darkness and at -20 degrees with frozen water bottles is not a simulation. Some people will probably not reach the top so coping with failure is part of the learning. The lessons learned on a challenge like this will sink in permanently. There is every chance that team behaviours will change permanently as a result.

Our group decided that we wanted to reach the summit together. That was very important to us. The guides and the experts told us it was impossible. They said that on summit night everyone would inevitably move at a different pace and there would be a big gap between the front of the group at the back. But we did reach the top together. And the reason is that from day one the group philosophy, our core value, was always to support the weakest member of the group. Not to be frustrated, not to become impatient but to show real support. And the very nature of the challenge was that the weakest member was never the same person two days running. Everyone experienced highs and lows and struggled at different times.

I’ve read all the theory about tension and negativity leading to energy being consumed far faster than normal. And how negative energy has a corrosive impact on the performance of a team. And how important it is to turn this around and eradicate the negatives. Easier said than done. But in climbing Kilimanjaro I saw a great example of how to put this into practice. An example I will never forget.