Outward Bound to Succeed ; an MBA Graduate Brings Skills Honed in the Falklands Conflict to Management Training. by Julie McCord

Article excerpt

There were times on the four-day Leadership and Business Challenge course in Shropshire when every member of the team asked the same question - what am I doing here?

Peter Kennedy is the man who captured the last hill on Goose Green in the Falklands War and took the Argentinian flag. He was our guru on this journey of self-development and deeper understanding of the skills essential for effective leadership. The army officer turned company director set up his training business after running the army's instructor school.

"Studying for an MBA gave me a lot of confidence that my skills were transferable to the business world. And it helped me realise that the outside world has exactly the same problems as the army but just uses a different language," Mr Kennedy said.

He has been involved in selection and training for the Parachute Regiment and makes no apologies for drawing on his military expertise in planning the curriculum for his civilian courses. "I've done it for real and on this course I take people up their own personal hill and show them they can do anything. It may sound corny but it's true."

Initiation into this transformation, from doing the job as best you can to doing it to the very best of your ability, is a cold sharp shock. Delegates arrive at the exquisitely set Longmynd Hotel in picturesque Church Stretton in relaxed mode. Unsuspecting, they are flung straight onto the rollercoaster that Mr Kennedy and his team (all army colleagues) have painstakingly prepared.

"I couldn't believe it when I had to jump straight in and hit the ground running," said Steve Whizz, who works as a team leader for a pottery company in Stoke-on-Trent. "From the moment I got here it has been hectic with hardly a single minute to draw breath.

"There have been a few low points but some really great highs as well. This truly is a life-changing experience."

One of those low points came for Mr Whizz when he had a rare spare moment between one blind-folded exercise in freezing snow and another on a variety of assault courses. Enjoying the brief warmth of a short coach trip he accessed his mobile phone to find a text message from his workmates saying: "We're all here with our noses to the grindstone while you're out there enjoying yourself."

Others on the coach were also making calls home. But the conversations were brief and somewhat stilted. Everyday work and domestic problems pale into insignificance when facing this kind of adversity. Although there are both visible and hidden safety measures. Safety is the company's main priority and risk assessments are constantly carried out. Mr Kennedy calls it "a white knuckle ride with a safety net".

One of the main causes of anxiety among delegates is the fact no- one ever knows what is coming next - just like team managers and leaders in the workplace. Delegates could be disturbed at any time of the night, taken to strange places at a moment's notice with an overwhelming surfeit of instructions or, even worse, minimal details to help them achieve the task. Mr Kennedy explained: "We tell everyone from the off that this week we're taking them out of the comfort zone. …