There’s still no mountain in sight, but the tension in the air is undeniable. At the bottom of what these people are about to do – what we’re all about to do – there is something incredible.
It doesn’t happen often that a whole organization, all the employees of a leading business management company, find themselves in a room talking about how to reach the top of the Mont Blanc. It’s neither what one would define as a normal working day in Milan, nor a typical business goal.
But it makes perfect sense, because Methodos does exactly that: Change Management. It teaches companies to change. It teaches people in organisations not to feat change, challenges, and the difficulties of a long and uncertain journey. And this time it’s putting it in practice - on itself.
There are about thirty people in the room, and while Filippo, the CEO of the group speaks, there is a solemn silence, interrupted only by the occasional nervous laugh. He’s explaining what this project means for him, for the company, for all those present: a challenge, a way to change their own attitudes and mindset, but above all, a stimulus to discover something new. About themselves, their colleagues, and about their own potential. It’s a great opportunity for all to do something that most people don’t even think about doing in a lifetime. And everyone in the room knows it. But it doesn’t make them any less worried.
Then he passes the word to the doctor, an athletic trainer specialised in high mountains, who is used to managing high level athletes. It must be strange for him to find himself in this very different context! His words make his work clear, but we can also feel his effort to instil his love for the mountains - and the will to do this - in all the participants.
I like his approach, because he understands immediately who he has in front of him: the varying ages of the participants, from their 20s to their 60s. Greying hair is not a rare sight in his audience, but they are all in great shape. It’s clear that there are no objective impediments to the success of the expedition. It’s only a question of preparation and process: from now until 2020 these people will have to train, to try, and to believe.
The only real impediment is the mental one. Mindset, to be precise. Very few know, even at a basic level, what mountain climbing is about. Some have done some mountain trips, but most are probably more sea types than mountain types. Nevertheless, over the next year and a half, they will engage in this adventure, in a challenge against themselves and their own comfort zone. They’re afraid, naturally. I am too, even as someone being called to witness and recount this extraordinary project from the outside. I have to do it living this journey with them step by step, outing after outing.
And so, the doctor immediately opens Pandora’s box. “What scares you?” he asks. After a few seconds of silence, hands start to timidly go up. The cold, the hygiene, the diet, the altitude, the fatigue, the sense of inadequacy in comparison to colleagues, the feeling of being pushed against the wall… one after the next, their fears come out. Gradually the tension melts, probably because they can recognise in the words of their companions their own anxieties. But also the will to do it, the awareness of being a team, and how extraordinary the experience that awaits them really is.
The team calms them down and informs them, staying calm as only someone who really knows the mountains can be. They’re all things that they probably already know: that no one gets left behind, that it’s always the slowest that sets the pace, that this is a team building occasion and an opportunity to find their own roles in this great machine that is moving towards a goal. But hearing them said in an explicit way makes them all more at ease. Then he moves on to the more technical aspects: long-term athletic preparation, nutrition, the gradual steps to take in order to arrive, a step at a time, at the top. More and more smiles, laughs, sarcastic comments and jokes. I can see the harmony in this group, maybe exactly because I’m not one of them I can feel it even more. And I feel like they’ll be able to do it exactly for this reason.
Maybe not all of them - maybe someone that was sure they’d do it won’t feel up to it anymore… but maybe others, that were sure they would never see the top, will find themselves up there, at 4810 metres, to plant the flag – also for the colleagues that supported them along the way.
That’s what beautiful about this journey, and about being here to recount it. That we’ll discover what is going to happen, a step at a time.