Key trading tips Korn Ferry’s Esther Colwil learned while climbing Mount Everest

park your ego

It is perhaps understandable that many climbers have an ego. They may have a personal dream of climbing Mount Everest, they’ve spent years training, putting their life savings on the line and talking to friends and family about their next adventure. As Colwill says, “They have a real interest in succeeding.”

As a result, they are sometimes unwilling to back down or re-evaluate when things get too tough – and sometimes they die.

Esther Colwill summited Mount Everest in 2006.

Colwill makes a conscious effort to check his ego and know when it’s time to change course or admit failure. The Korn Ferry executive recalls a time when she worked on the West Coast of the United States, where big tech companies were highly sought-after clients because of their “cool kid” status. But Colwill could tell that chasing the contracts was draining the team’s energy and it was time to stop.

“It’s not good for you. It’s not good for [the team]. It’s not good for business. You go somewhere else,” she said.


Sherpas, says Colwill, are good observers. At high altitude, Colwill struggled in the morning, so the Sherpas paid him special attention during the early hours of the day.

“They really knew me and my patterns, and when I needed help and when I was okay,” Colwill says.

She makes a concerted effort to do the same at work and makes sure she has frequent contact with team members and that conversations are as meaningful as possible, giving her the best chance to realize when something is wrong. do not go.

Colwill, who is based in Jakarta, hosts many Zoom meetings and pays attention to people’s body language, including how people sit in their chairs and whether they lean forward or back. She will adjust conversations accordingly.

She is also on the lookout for staff members who do not speak.

“Sometimes it’s the quiet ones who won’t tell you when something’s wrong. You need to make sure to be proactive because they won’t call you. Women leaders in particular may fall into this category. They don’t want to be high maintenance, so they don’t always call when they need help. »

Treat your colleagues like family

Colwill’s other climbers on Mount Everest were between 23 and 65 years old. The older climbers were very experienced, but they couldn’t recover with the speed of the younger team members.

As a result, at the end of the day, when a camp had to be built and other chores done, the Sherpas would ask the young climbers to carry more of the burden – in the same way that they could ask the members youngest in their own families to help.

Colwill is ready to push the younger members of her team in the same way.

“I’ll say, ‘You’re really good at this. The team is going to need you to do this, so go for it.

Have a plan B

In the mountains, you quickly learn that changes in the weather can interrupt the most solid plans. Many parts of the business are also unpredictable, which means leaders need to accept that they don’t have full control – and make sure they have options.

“I can say, ‘This is where we want to go.’ But the type of scenarios you have to prepare for is the only thing you can control.

“I’m looking at different options to get there. I know where I think my biggest bets are, based on history. And I know I need certain types of leaders to get me there, but I don’t know if supply chain issues will suddenly wipe out a market, or if suddenly an industry will falter because a competitor appears.

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