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Rick Rochelle

Rick Rochelle

For the past 22 years, Rick Rochelle has taught leadership skills on remote wilderness expeditions around the world for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). Currently he directs the school's custom course division, NOLS Professional Training.

Wilderness Mission Statement

Expectations on staying plugged in on vacation should support an organization's mission and values.

Those of us who teach leadership in wilderness settings have wrestled with the communication question for decades. Twenty years ago, "We must carry ground-to-air radios to facilitate emergency care," won out over, "Traveling in the wilderness will never be the same if we carry communication devices." Both were correct. The same debate repeated itself when satellite phones became available. Now the use of satellite-based personal locator beacons is debated.

With each technological advance, the industry adapted to societal demands, relinquished a little expeditionary independence, but always relied on mission and values to define which situations called for which technology. Now, managing emergencies -- such as, "patient has a fractured tibia" -- is faster and the wilderness feels smaller. Disallowing communication for minor logistics -- "we broke a snowshoe" -- encourages self-reliance. Communicating clear expectations for the area between is important cultural work.

On vacations, as on wilderness expeditions, one should consciously choose the optimal level of interaction for mission attainment. Organizational success calls for a balance among having a) the most informed, experienced person (often the leader) making the most critical decisions, b) a well-rested leader (and followers) and c) empowered followers.

Among other benefits of alignment on mission and values is the reduced need to consult the leader on the vast majority of questions. Crystal clear expectations benefit everyone involved and should include which situations demand which level of interaction--text, email, phone, in-person. These expectations are a cousin of the crisis-management plan every organization ought to have.

The benefits of remaining unplugged include increased trust, improved decision-making skills, and empowered employees. Healthy organizational culture will encourage personal-work life balance for increased longevity and thus organizational efficiency. A leader should role model how to vacation. We are bathed in electromagnetic waves from radio to Wi-Fi. We ought not always tune in.

By Rick Rochelle

 |  August 12, 2009; 10:55 AM ET
Category:  Leadership personalities Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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