Today (Dec 14th 2015) will mark the first journey by a British astronaut (Tim Peake) to the international space station as a member of the European Space agency, beating over 8,000 other elite applicants from across Europe for one of the six places on the ESA’s astronaut training programme. The selection process included academic tests, fitness assessments and interviews and since his selection in 2009, he has undergone intensive training on all aspects of his role in preparation for today’s lift off on a Russian Soyuz rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Peake’s initial military training for this role began in 1990 when he left school in order to attend the Military academy at Sandhurst leaving the army in 2009 to become a test helicopter pilot before his selection on the ESA programme.
25 years of intensive preparation is not unusual for individuals like Peake who are part of a very small elite group that will have the opportunity to view this earth from outside our atmosphere in their lifetime, and yet there are similarly challenging activities that are attracting an ever increasing group of individuals. In 2013, 658 climbers made the summit of Mount Everest, bringing the total summits to 6,871, while 248 climbers have died since the initial attempts in 1921. The period 2006 to 2013 saw 6.6 annual deaths as the mountain attracts more climbers each year, many unprepared.
Preparation for any extreme activity requires intensive preparation and attention to detail and yet why limited that level of preparation to the field of extreme sports. The world of business can be no less challenging at times as managers and business leaders are faced with making decisions that can have a significant impact on the lives of those who work with and under their direction. While there are enlightened organisations that invest in the preparation of their future leaders and managers for the ‘extreme challenges’ that lie ahead it is also the responsibility of the individual to ‘take charge’ of their own professional development and ensure that they are as well prepared as possible for the challenges that will present themselves in their current and future roles.
There is concern that the expectations of demographic group known as Generation Y or Millennials regarding their rise up the corporate ladder to senior roles in management and leadership does not fully take into consideration the intensive preparation that needs to be in place, not just to survive in the good times, but to help organisations thrive when the next economic storms pass over our business shores.
Empowering employees to take responsibility for their professional development and yet supporting them in their development journey will be one of the key factors that will differentiate those organisations that will thrive in the future from those who survive or perhaps lose their lives on the slopes of the summit. When the time for performance arrives, the time for preparation is past. Each of us has the responsibility and opportunity to ensure that our preparation is proportionate to the challenges that lie ahead.