Category Archives: Management

Is Anyone Not Ready? Wilderness Trip Leading Tip

Outdoor Guide Tip of the Day

As Chris Ducker would say “no one has a monopoly on good ideas,” and that holds true among outdoor trip leaders.

Very early on in my backpacking guide career, or trip leading, as it is most often called in the industry, I stumbled across a little soft skills tip that has proven useful and I have passed on many times to new leaders.

“Is anyone not ready?”

It’s such a small little phrase but it makes a huge difference and here’s why and when to use it:

When preparing the group, as a leader, to move again be it on trail or water many new trip leaders will ask “Is everybody ready?”.

The usual response to this question is a bunch of mumbling, a few “yeses”, and maybe a really quiet and faint “no”. It can be really hard to tell who is ready and who isn’t, then you’ve got to ask again, or go through each person individually to find out who is and isn’t ready to move.

Instead simply rephrase the question: “Is anyone not ready?”

If your students respond “nope, I’m ready,” then begin to kindly remind them they need not answer unless they’re saying the affirmative. It may take a few tries before some of your students learn not to respond to the question unless they’re unprepared to move.

This alleviates confusion and allows outdoor trip leaders to know for sure, with only one question and one response, whether or not the group is ready.

The ideal response, as your group learns this question and how to answer it, is that the entire group will say nothing at all and then you know you’re ready to go.

No news is good news for a trip leader and while I encourage my trip leaders only to call back to base camp if it’s an emergency, I also encourage my participants to answer this question only if they’re unprepared to move.

What simple trip leading tips do you have for other adventure educators? Leave us a comment to start the discussion!

 

Lead and Sweep Hikers: What are Their Roles?

As I prepare the BMW for a long ride north this weekend I figured I’d get one last piece out to you all.

Let’s keep it quick and explore the roles of lead and sweep hikers for group backpacking.

lead hiker

Lead hiker’s have many tasks and you’ll want to rotate your group participants through this role. Among others their duties include:

  • Pace setting and checking for group pace
  • Checking for group hydration and ensuring water breaks
  • Initiating hiking games and group chat
  • Greeting oncoming trail traffic and alerting the group to move aside
  • Navigation
  • Getting the group ready after breaks and ensuring all are present

Any hiker in your group should be doing most of these tasks, don’t leave it solely up to your lead hiker. However, the lead hiker bears the primary responsibility for oversight.

You’ll find that as more of your group gets a chance to lead hike for a day or half a day, they’ll start to check in on the group even when they’re not in the lead. By the end of your trip you’ll have a whole group of lead hikers.

When you’re first starting out you’ll want to hike as the lead hiker and demonstrate to your group what the behaviors are of good lead hiking.

Sweep Hiker

Hiking sweep means you’re traveling very last in the group no matter what.

Normally you’ll want to make sure that you can still see your lead hiker and, if you can’t, call out for a slowing of pace. Sweep hikers are often the first to notice a pace that’s not correct.

As the sweep hiker it’s your job to mop up all the little details.

You should be:

  • Keeping an eye on pace
  • Watching the group carefully for signs of developing injury
  • Making sure no one drops gear on the trail (fuel bottles come to mind)
  • Leaving all break sites last and double checking for stragglers and trash
  • Triple checking the navigation and make sure your group hasn’t missed something
  • Keeping an eye on the weather; it’s often overlooked

When I hike sweep I try to focus on things I know my lead hiker might be too busy to notice.

As a good trip leading team, however, your job is always to predict what your co-leader needs support with and get that done before they even know it.

A great trip leading team works together always in harmony and creates a safe, meaningful environment for their group. This ensures maximum impact on students and best outcome of course goals.

Make no mistake, your students will notice when you are working as a well oiled machine with your co-leaeder and the group will strive to meet your level of excellence.

student participation and L.O.D.

Make sure you’re giving all your students a chance to rotate in to the lead and sweep hiking positions.

Usually this is done by creating a Leader of the Day structure in your adventure trips. We’ll talk about that in more detail later in another article.

Nurture your students as the learn to perform these roles and make sure you’ve already set a good example for them.

Debriefing at the end of each day with your entire group in a safe, positive learning environment, is critical to improving your LOD (leader of the day) effectiveness and smoothing out the operations of the lead and sweep hikers.

Don’t forget; it’s critical to also privately debrief the day with you LODs each day so that you and your co-leader can give them private and direct timely feedback about their performance.

Conclusion

You’ll find that your students’ ability to lead and sweep hike well is a direct result of your mentor ship and your own ability to lead and sweep hike well with your co-leader as you demonstrate and provide feedback.

If your adventure program doesn’t already have a Leader of the Day system and lead and sweep hikers in place as common practice, just contact me and we will work together to develop that content for your course.

Got great lead and sweep hiker ideas? Leave me a comment with the best games to play, common mistakes, or things you’ve learned as a lead and sweep hiker in a group!

One Fatal Mistake of Team Leaders and Managers

Hey there, fans and followers. After a long hiatus, I am back on the scene.

Let’s get right down to it: here’s one of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen managers and team leaders make over the years.

Not taking advantage of a team member’s passion and skills.

I know, it seems so obvious. And you might be saying “who is this kid to be telling me what mistakes my managers are making (or me)”?

Well you’d be right to question me up until recently: I’ve spent the last few summers running or managing (both maybe?) wilderness and adventure based trips programs.

Sure some of you have more years in the saddle than me but, as Frank Turner would say, “I’m the one who’s got the microphone here, so just remember this”.

Time and again I go into seasonal work and, either as an employee, or as a team leader I find that potential is lost because people in positions of leadership do not take the time to ask what their team is good at and passionate about.

Don’t just assume that you know everything about your employees.

Let’s use me as an example:

Just because I got on-boarded as a backpacking instructor doesn’t mean that I don’t have other skills. So many trip leading organizations are micro companies, often desperate for tangible skills.

I’ve been recruited to fix networking and WordPress issues for a company that hired and employed me as a Wilderness Programs Supervisor.

I’ve done mechanical work for nature education programs while technically working as a naturalist.

When you take the time to get to know your team (and I mean really know them) you’ll be better able to bring their skills and passions to bear in helpful ways.

So many times I have been asked by an employer to do X task when really my skills and passions are much more aligned with Y task. And there are many times when, no matter your job title, you have to put on whatever hat your employer asks of you and get the job done.

But I’m not talking about that. Let’s say you’re developing summer curriculum with a team of a dozen people. Find out what they’re all knowledgeable and passionate about and help guide them in ways to bring those skills in line with your program so that both your employee and you can benefit.

Got someone with wild edible plant creds and passion? No wild edible plants class in your lesson book? Well then sit down with them and build a new class for them to teach!

The level of investment from your instructors and return from your students will go through the roof when you empower your leaders to teach skills and information that’s already waiting to burst out of them!

I think you’ll be amazed the next time you’re leading a team and you take the time to truly get to know them. Find ways to let their passions merge with their position in your team or company.

Don’t forget; this works wonders when you’re leading trips on trail, too. Get to know your students and give them opportunities to merge their passions with your course so that their impact on the trip and other students (and yourself) can be exponentially magnified.

You’ll be happy you took the time.

 

If you’re still with me after my hiatus and still reading, PLEASE leave a comment. I really want to get to know those of you I’ve been able to help and to bring you better content personally.

Happy Trails, friends.