Building a successful expedition team

Welcome to the next post in this series, all about giving you practical advice to help you achieve your adventure goals. If you have been following the blog series you are likely to be well on your way to making your adventure a reality. If you are new to the blog, first of all welcome. I hope you will find it really useful. Secondly you might want to check back through some of the previous posts to find lots more tools to help you bring your adventure to life. This post talks about how to build a successful team.


Group Dynamics


There are benefits and disadvantages of undertaking an expedition as a group. You will have a ready made group of people going through the same thing to share your experiences with. There are others who can share their skills, you can help motivate each other and there are other people there should you get into trouble. The group its self provides an extra challenge; managing the group dynamics, finding a shared goal that provides the right level of challenge for everyone, synchronising free time to undertake the expedition. Under the umbrella of group expeditions there are a number of different types of groups, each with their own dynamics:

  • Groups of friends
  • Club groups
  • A guided party - the group may be friends or strangers before the trip
  • Commercial expedition - you can sign up alone, in a pair or as a group, but won’t usually know other party members before the trip
  • Word of mouth / internet formed groups - a group that has come together via word of mouth or through one of the expedition buddy websites. These groups are likely to be strangers at the start but may do some of their training together.

Whatever type of group you join it is important that you feel comfortable with the other members of the group and confident in their skills to deal with any situations that you might encounter. You should never feel pressured by any members of the group to undertake something that you are not comfortable with. If this is the case you should look for a more supportive group.


Building a successful team

Regardless of the composition of your group, how well you work together as a team will have a huge impact on your enjoyment of the adventure, your likelihood of success and indeed your safety. Team working is a huge topic, here are a few pointers to help your team to perform:

Shared goals - A team will work best when everyone has the same goal. If half of the team are simply out to finish the race while the other half are dead set on winning, this is likely to generate conflict. Talk about and share each team member’s aspirations at the planning stage and re-visit them after some of your training sessions together. The same also goes for levels of difficulty that each member is prepared to undertake. No one should feel that they are being pushed into something beyond their skill level.

Mutual support and respect - The best teams work on mutual support and respect. Each member of the team is an individual and brings their own strengths to the group, it is important to recognise this and show respect to each member for their contributions.

Have a leader - Even democratic teams need a leader. It is helpful to have someone who takes overall charge and responsibility. This is especially important should anything go wrong. 

Practice as a group - Training together, ideally undertaking some shorter expeditions together in the build up to your challenge is helpful. It will help you to get to know how each member of the team operates, their strengths, anxieties, how to help each other through the tough times as well as bonding you as a team.

Discuss strategy before - It is good to talk through how you would handle different situations, from emergencies to race tactics. This way you all feel more prepared, more confident in how the group will handle any situation and give you a chance to debate different opinions while you are in a safe environment.

Don’t ‘drop cans’ - This is a piece of advice that I heard from an adventure racer. Adventure racers take on multi sport endurance challenges often lasting multiple days as a team. The idea is that saying something negative to someone in your team is like dropping an aluminium can in the environment. Once it is out there it won’t ever go away, it will just sit there festering and making things less pleasant. Their mantra was not to ‘drop cans’. Ie not to say negative things about other members of the team during the race. If someone was going slow, instead of criticising them for going slow, instead turn it around to something supportive and offer encouragement.


Team Goals

Discuss your goals as a team. What does success mean for you? Does everyone feel the same way? It is important to agree goals before you set out. It can also be helpful to have more than one goal or more than one definition of success. The following is a useful exercise to help you discuss and align your team's goals. You can either have each member of the team answer the following questions and compare notes. Alternatively you can discuss each one as a team.

  • The most important thing for our team is: (Eg Everyone to come back safely and uninjured)
  • Second to that we want to: (Eg Have an amazing experience and enjoy the journey)
  • It would be awesome if we: (Eg Get to the summit)
  • In our wildest dreams it would be amazing if: (Eg Get to the summit in a time of less than 15hr)


Thanks for reading. I hope that you are well on the way to making your adventure a reality. In the next post we will look at how to develop the hard skills required for your expedition.

This is part of a new series of blog posts that I am trying out for 2018. They are all about sharing our expedition and adventure planning experience to help you achieve your own goals and dreams. The aim isn't just to talk advice but to give you tools that you can actually use to make success happen. I would really love to hear how you are making use of it, what adventures you are planning and what you would like to learn more about. If you have found this helpful, please click on the share button below and spread the joy of adventuring :)


For lots more information on making your adventure dreams a reality, check out Katherine's book How to have an Adventure.