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I would like to raise a couple of questions related to a recent experience. How does our leadership & behaviour change under unusual circumstances?

Our behaviors do tend to change or adapt between a usual context and extreme events. However, what is the correlation between this transformational style and a team performance? To what extent is the change in our leadership style related to the team performance across a normal or extreme context?

But first let focus on the extreme context. What is extreme for me may be perfectly normal for somebody else however let’s agree that change in behavior is inducted by the amount of stress, danger, pressure of time we as a person are exposed to.

A couple of days ago I was in middle of the Moroccan desert with 3 female colleagues doing a walking trail of around 30 kms per day during 4 days. Awkward or unusual context indeed! No connection to the outside word, no phone, TV or internet, no GPS, half a bucket of cold water to shower, 200 other female participants you do not know to cohabit with for several days. The external environment? Morocco’s climate is very diverse, varying with the season and region. In general we are talking of a tropical climate, with temperatures reaching as high as 35°C and as low as 5°C in the Sahara. You may be exposed and not be able to avoid setting out on a trek with a really huge sandstorm coming your way. If you travel by car or bus, sandstorms will not be overly noticeable although you will have a lack of visibility and lose your visual referrals. Even if sandstorms are usually not extreme in a hurricane kind of way, doing a desert trek during a sandstorm can indeed feel quite intense. When you walk the sand being blown up from the dunes or plains will get into your eyes, ears, nose but you still need to find your way back to the Bivouac.

Two people can look at the same thing or be exposed to the same situation and yet both see or feel something different. Our unique view is formed by our own individual perceptions and beliefs. We say that if we can understand where these perceptions and beliefs come from we can then begin to understand why other people see things differently. By understanding your team and observing your trek team in that case, you can begin to appreciate who they are and improve your relationships with each one of them.

It is on the extensive work of Swiss psychologist Dr. Carl G. Jung (1875-1961) that the Insights Discovery® learning system has been built. This system explains your inner four distinct color energies (Red, Blue, Yellow and Green) which you can use in your daily life to understand why you behave in the way you do and why other people might behave differently. When confronted with extreme or unusual situations, different energies come out stronger, often unexpectedly. That’s exactly what happened during our Moroccan trek of 100 kms.

Although I am supposed to be an extrovert with a fiery red energy, always in motion, I found myself calmer than usual during the trek and with a huge need to be on my own. Maybe less excitement to be more in harmony with what was going on with myself and focusing on the internal pep talk: you can do it, you will do it and you are actually doing it. I found myself more connected to my values and making sure the rest of the team could rely on me.

You could easily understand in this kind of situation how important knowing yourself is and understanding your team and its motivation to bring out the right energy  that will allow the group to go much further. In one of the teams we could see an extremely competitive spirit and strong personalities, so 3 of the team members wanted to do more kilometers to gain additional points, however the 4th team member completely shut down to this strong competitive energy. The more the 3 team members insisted the more the 4th team member was shutting down until she sat down and said she will not walk any more that day and just wanted to go back to the bivouac. Maybe she was exhausted and felt terrible that nobody was acknowledging the great effort she was already doing. Maybe it was just a rebellion to the pushy attitude, the lack of understanding and consideration?

How to avoid frustration for some members because progress is not being achieved as rapidly as wish and how to make sure you do not demotivate the others by making them keep a rhythm that will clearly not be sustainable on the long run. In both case you don’t want any team member to break down or explode. You need the 4 team members to make this happen, to achieve the objective and to finalize the adventure.

We also saw some teams that simply stopped or could not go further for a while because one of the team member was in pain or simply feeling dizzy. What do you do? Do you abandon behind the team member and keep going? Would you simply decide to stop everything for the day and go back all together at the bivouac? Then, will the sick team member be ok knowing the objective have been abandoned because of her state? Do you recognize when it is simply too much or do you just push your mind to anesthetize the pain and keep going? How much are you willing to keep going? Is it as important for you as it is for the others? There is probably no right and wrong but it is still interesting to take some perspective and talk to each other’s to understand better each motivations and internal fights during this specific situation.

On one of the last very steep sand dune we had to climb to take a picture of the team with the trek organizers. I had to pause in the middle of the dune to catch my breath and two trek organizers came to assist me to climb up. Probably a generous and benevolent gesture but for me that exactly when the red energy kicked in. Did I ask for help? Was I not able to do it by myself? I just needed to do it my way, at my speed and recover a couple of times my breath but I certainly did not need others to rescue me because I did not need to be rescued. What at the end was extremely pleasant was that one of my team member understood what I felt at that moment and we laughed about it! Why? Simply because you know that she understands and she knows what was going on at that moment. This kind of understanding in a team is the one that allows the team to go further and perform to its best. No words needed just one look because what you live in those extreme context is so intimate and strong that it makes everything more intense, even your behaviors.

Understanding that each team member is unique and being able to describe that uniqueness and tap into its full potential is role of a leader. All colours have equal value and everyone will use all four colour energies to varying degrees. However it is the unique ordering and degree of energies which will shape our personal style.

My can do attitude never abandoned me and I realized I lead by fighting alongside the troops in the trenches encouraging myself and others to go for more and compete. At the end of this great adventure I realized that more than an exceptional physical fitness (which certainly helps!), having an iron will is essential to go beyond expectations. Alone you can certainly go faster but together we push on to go ever further.

I invite you to discover your own energies (Red, Blue, Yellow and Green) and learn to use them in all circumstances to go beyond expectations. If you want to know more on this email lhcconsulting@ehl.ch



Catherine Rey-Torres Sales & Marketing Manager

Catherine joined LHC as Sales & Marketing Manager in December 2015. Her role involves developing and implementing the LHC’s Sales & Marketing plan and promote the Executive Education career development programmes around the globe.

Prior to LHC, she worked in the International Education industry for over 5 years both in Mexico and Switzerland, where she moved with her family in 2013. She represented in Latin America prestigious wine and spirit brands within the Hospitality industry for over 10 years. She worked closely with International Hotels, government institutions and corporate executives and multinationals and had to support them in the international implementation of their educational projects.

She is a graduate in International Business from the University of Blaise-Pascal in Clermont-Ferrand France and spent her last year of study in the University of Oklahoma Price College of Business USA. She followed several wine and spirit training both in France and Mexico. She lived in 5 different countries and enjoy multicultural environments where relationships, new ideas, innovation and original concepts are valued. She appreciates being challenged and strongly believe in enhancing the customer experience to growing the business.

While not at work, she enjoys spending time with her daughter and husband and go for long walks by the lake. She is passionate about wine and like to organize tastings of wines from different regions and countries for her family and friends.