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Trailblazing Leadership: Adventure-Inspired Strategies for High Performance Teams


About this Episode

In this engaging episode of the Rural Entrepreneur Podcast, host Chris Herbert sits down with Scott Kress, an accomplished adventurer, leadership expert, and the founder of Summit Team Building.


They explore Scott's dual journey of conquering extreme environments and leveraging those experiences to enhance team dynamics and leadership in the corporate world.


From discussing the adventurer's mindset in entrepreneurship to delving into the intricacies of team building in both rural and urban settings, the episode offers a comprehensive look at the parallels between navigating the wilderness and steering a successful business.


Key Themes and Takeaways

  • Adventurer's Mindset in Business: Scott's experiences in extreme expeditions serve as a metaphor for entrepreneurship, illustrating the importance of resilience, risk management, and goal setting in both realms. This comparison highlights the adventurer's mindset as a valuable asset in navigating business challenges.

  • Enhancing Team Dynamics: The conversation sheds light on the significance of team building for improving performance and fostering a positive work culture, emphasizing the role of leadership in adapting to team needs and promoting a culture of collaboration and trust.

  • Creativity and Innovation in Leadership: Scott discusses the importance of creativity and innovation in keeping a business relevant and forward-moving. By integrating personal passions with professional objectives, entrepreneurs can create a fulfilling and successful business journey.

  • Urban vs. Rural Entrepreneurship: The dialogue offers insights into the unique experiences of rural entrepreneurs compared to their urban counterparts, including the challenges of a smaller talent pool and the potential for broader market reach.

  • Key Advice for New Entrepreneurs: Reflecting on his entrepreneurial journey, Scott advises new entrepreneurs to pursue their passions wholeheartedly. He emphasizes that passion is a key driver of success, visible to employees and customers alike, and attracts like-minded individuals to your business.

This episode provides invaluable lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs, underlining the power of passion, the necessity of continuous team development, and the benefits of drawing parallels between adventurous experiences and business leadership.


Interview with adventurer, keynote speaker and team building expert Scott Kress


00:00 - 15:02: Scott Kress' Adventurous Leadership and Entrepreneurial Spirit

In this segment, we explore Scott’s remarkable journey from leading expeditions across the globe’s most daunting terrains to harnessing these experiences to foster leadership and teamwork in the corporate world.


Key Points:

  • Foundation of Summit Team Building: Scott shares the inception of his company in 1997, highlighting its growth into one of Canada’s premier leadership development and team-building organizations, with clientele including Ferrari North America and Google.

  • Overcoming Challenges on Expeditions and in Business: Scott delves into the parallels between navigating the perils of extreme environments and the entrepreneurial landscape. He discusses the importance of managing stress, anxiety, and unforeseen challenges through rational thinking and focusing on the circle of influence and circle of control —a concept borrowed from Stephen Covey.

  • Risk Management in Adventure and Entrepreneurship: Kress provides insight into assessing and mitigating risks in both mountaineering and business. He emphasizes the role of preparation, leadership, and teamwork in minimizing risks and making informed decisions based on experience.

  • Goal Setting and Motivation: The conversation shifts to setting achievable goals to maintain motivation over time. Scott illustrates this through his expedition training practices, such as pulling a tire in preparation for the South Pole, drawing a metaphor for business strategies during challenging periods like the COVID-19 pandemic.


The segment offers a profound look into how Scott Kress’s adventurous spirit and leadership expertise translate into valuable lessons for entrepreneurs, focusing on resilience, strategic planning, and the importance of setting and pursuing incremental goals.


15:02 - 33:28: Enhancing Team Dynamics in Extreme Conditions and Everyday Business

We shift focus to discuss the crucial role of team dynamics in both extreme environments and typical business settings with Scott. Drawing from his extensive experience in leading teams under harsh conditions, Scott illustrates the importance of preparation, trust, communication, and culture in achieving high team performance, particularly when faced with challenges.


Key Points:

  • Importance of Preparedness and Culture: Scott emphasizes that while most teams function well during favorable conditions, true team strength is revealed under pressure. He advocates for constant team building and fostering a culture of trust and collaboration to ensure efficiency during tough times. He highlights the significance of creating a high-performance team culture deliberately, rather than leaving it to chance.

  • Team Size and Dynamics: Addressing the optimal team size, Scott refers to studies suggesting seven as the ideal number for maintaining diversity without compromising complexity. However, he notes that effective leadership can manage larger teams by setting clear visions, goals, and roles. He introduces the concept of team culture as a subset of organizational culture, significantly influenced by leadership.

  • Building a Team Charter: Scott discusses the benefit of establishing a team charter to outline communication strategies, conflict resolution, and collaboration methods before challenges arise. This proactive approach aids in navigating difficulties more efficiently, contributing to overall team performance.

  • The Necessity of Team Building: Despite the scale of the operation, from large corporations to small entrepreneurial ventures, Scott stresses the universal need for team building. He suggests integrating team development practices into the business’s DNA to enhance relationships, communication, and understanding among team members, thereby laying the foundation for a high-performance team.


This segment offers valuable insights into the parallels between managing teams in extreme expeditions and in business environments, underscoring the critical role of leadership, culture, and proactive planning in fostering cohesive and resilient teams.


33:28 - 43:04: Fostering Creativity and Innovation in Leadership

Scott and Chris cover the realms of creativity, innovation, and their critical roles in entrepreneurship. They explore how these elements are essential for keeping a business like Summit Team Building relevant and ahead, paralleled with the challenges and triumphs in mountaineering expeditions.


Key Points:

  • Role of Creativity and Innovation: Scott emphasizes that creativity and innovation are not just about daily operations but are crucial for adapting to market and environmental changes, driving new business, and keeping the team engaged. By introducing fresh and unique programs annually, Summit maintains its competitive edge and internal team motivation.

  • Team Dynamics and Leadership Adaptability: Addressing team diversity in welcoming change, Scott highlights the importance of understanding team members' individual responses to innovation. He advocates for a leadership style that adapts to the team's needs, promoting a servant leadership approach focused on team success over personal accolades.

  • Entrepreneurial Integration of Passions and Business: The conversation shifts to how entrepreneurs can align their personal passions with their business models. Scott shares his journey of combining his love for outdoor adventures with his professional endeavors in team building, illustrating a seamless integration that benefits both his personal life and his company.

  • Expeditions as Learning Laboratories: Scott describes expeditions as immediate feedback environments, providing valuable lessons applicable to business leadership. This real-world testing ground for academic theories and strategies underscores the effectiveness of teamwork, leadership, and decision-making in high-stakes situations.


This segment offers profound insights into the synergy between creativity, innovation, and effective leadership. It underscores the importance of continually evolving business practices to meet changing demands and the potential of integrating personal passions with professional objectives to create a fulfilling entrepreneurial journey.


43:04 - 50:28: The Essential Value of Team Building in Business

In this segment, Chris and Scott drill into the significance of team building within both large corporations and small entrepreneurial ventures. Scott outlines the critical role of team building in enhancing team dynamics, improving performance, and fostering a positive work culture.


Key Points:

  • Cost of Inaction: Scott begins by addressing the potential costs associated with neglecting team building, highlighting a scenario where team dysfunction led to significant frustration for a leader unwilling to invest in team improvement. He poses the crucial question of what the lack of a cohesive team could be costing a company, from decreased productivity to increased conflict.

  • Benefits of Team Building: Shifting focus, Scott elaborates on the numerous advantages of team building, such as increased sales, enhanced collaboration, and higher employee engagement. He emphasizes that keeping employees engaged and valued through creative and innovative projects is vital for a company's growth and the personal satisfaction of its team members.

  • Team Dysfunction Post-Covid: The conversation turns to the unique challenges faced by teams in the post-Covid era, with remote work leading to reduced communication and trust. Scott illustrates how Summit Team Building addresses these issues by breaking down silos and fostering better teamwork, proving particularly beneficial in today’s complex work environment.

  • Practice and Repetition in Team Development: Drawing a parallel with sports training, Scott and Chris discuss the importance of regular practice and drilling in developing a high-performance team, much like athletes improve through continuous training. They advocate for regular team building activities, both formal and informal, to embed collaboration and effective communication into the team's culture.


This segment convincingly argues for the indispensable value of team building across all business sizes, demonstrating how regular, focused efforts to enhance team dynamics can lead to significant improvements in performance, employee satisfaction, and ultimately, business success.


50:28 - 55:27: Bridging Urban and Rural Entrepreneurship & Key Advice for New Entrepreneurs

In this concluding segment, Chris discusses with Scott the unique experiences of urban versus rural entrepreneurship and gathers pivotal advice for new entrepreneurs embarking on their journeys.


Key Points:

  • Urban vs. Rural Entrepreneurship: Scott touches on the distinction between urban and rural entrepreneurship, noting that rural entrepreneurs may need to seek out diversity and trends more actively than their urban counterparts. He emphasizes the importance of staying current and relevant, suggesting that rural entrepreneurs need to look beyond their immediate environment for inspiration and opportunities.

  • Talent Pool and Market Reach: The conversation highlights the challenges and opportunities in building a team in a rural setting, such as navigating a smaller local talent pool and the potential for remote team structures. Both encourage rural entrepreneurs not to limit their market to their immediate geographical area, underlining the potential for international reach regardless of a business's rural or urban location.

  • Influence of Municipal Politics: An observation is made on the potentially greater influence of municipal politics on small businesses in rural settings, suggesting that local governance might impact the operation and success of rural enterprises compared to urban businesses.

  • Key Advice for Entrepreneurs: Reflecting on his journey with Summit Team Building, Scott advises new entrepreneurs to pursue their passions. He asserts that passion is visible to both employees and customers, and that being passionate about one's work attracts people who value enthusiasm and commitment. He concludes by encouraging entrepreneurs to strive for excellence in their field, highlighting that passion and dedication are key drivers of success.


This segment provides valuable insights into the nuances of entrepreneurship across different settings and offers essential advice for new entrepreneurs, emphasizing the power of passion, the importance of looking outward for opportunities, and the potential benefits of considering remote and distributed team models.


About Scott Kress

Scott Kress is an accomplished climber and adventurer. He’s completed the 7 summits and skied to both the North and South Pole. His storytelling based on his adventures is captivating, but what sets Scott apart is his ability to weave his stories together with his 20+ years of leadership and team development education and experience. Scott is the president of Summit Team Building, and is passionate about helping teams grow and companies flourish.


About the Rural Entrepreneur Podcast Series

The Rural Entrepreneur Podcast Series delves into the stories of rural entrepreneurs, exploring their struggles, triumphs, and the driving force behind their perseverance. The conversations are profound and insightful. If you're interested in being a sponsor or guest, feel free to contact us or book some time with Chris. Now on Spotify.

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