Adventure Kokoda

Corporate Groups

Our Corporate Trek Leaders have been led by great men - and have led great men. Their leadership experience comes from real-time command environments:

Commodore Simon Hart CSC MSc MA was Captain of two of our frontline battleships (HMAS Brisbane and HMAS Hobart) during his distinguished career in the Royal Australian Navy.  Both ships were awarded ‘ship of the year’ under his command and he was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross for his outstanding leadership.

Major Chad Sherrin MM was decorated for his combat leadership as a Sergeant during the Vietnam War. 

Lieutenant-Colonel Rowan Tracey LLB BA commanded a unit of 1000 men during his tour of duty in Papua New Guinea – he is fluent in 'Tok Pisin' and regarded as Australia’s most authoritative historian on the Kokoda campaign.

Major Charlie Lynn MLC psc is a Vietnam Veteran, graduate of the Army Command and Staff College and former instructor in outback survival.


Our corporate treks expose young managers to the environment where examples of Australian leadership and teamwork are the stuff of legend. We tailor each one to meet the needs of endividual trek groups.

Some may want to use the physical challenge of Kokoda to get to know each other better and improve their team esprit de corps. Others may wish to draw upon the lessons to be learned from our battlefield leadership during the Kokoda campaign – and there are lessons aplenty at all levels in this regard.

Participants learn about themselves in a way that is only possible when they are tested to their limits in a challenging and unfamiliar environment – and they learn more about their colleagues than they would after a lifetime association within their normal corporate environment.

Team bonds established last well beyond the memory of the hardships shared during the program. Witness Australian Diggers who sometimes only knew each other for a short time on the Kokoda Trail in 1942 – but who meet annually ever since to commemorate that experience.

As a group we have led more than 100 expeditions safely across the Kokoda Trail over the past 20 years.

We have watched with wry amusement as some past trekkers have ‘borrowed’ our material, mixed it with some well-worn leadership clichés, met an old digger or two and sought to establish themselves as ‘experts’ on the Kokoda campaign. They seem to operate on the old adage that you can ‘bullshit some of the people some of the time’.

We work on the adage that you don’t have to work on Kokoda – Kokoda works on you. For some the impact of their trek will be immediate. For others it will be longer term as they digest the experience.  The only certainty is that the outcome will be positive.

Our corporate trek leaders have spent more than 100 years in the military – they are experienced in the ‘military appreciation’ process for the formulation of battle plans; they understand the phases of warfare and the principles of each phase; and they know how to relate this information at each of the various battlesites along the way. They didn't read about it in books - they helped write the books!

Their command experience allows them to facilitate dialogue in their ‘leadership reflections’ around the campfire at the end of each day. Their leadership is based on reality – not theory.

That is our major point of difference.

Our corporate trek leaders are experienced in real-time emergency management.  They are qualified in remote area first-aid and have a 24/7 rear link in Port Moresby.  The rear-link is managed by Warren Bartlett, a former PNG Patrol Officer who has been in PNG for more than 40 years. He is fluent in ‘tok pisin’; is equipped with VHF radios; satphones and emergency power back-up. He has a close and respectful relationship with the PNG emergency services.

“We have no doubt we are now invincible. We have plummeted to our worst lows and soared to our greatest heights. there is nothing physically or emotionally we cannot endure. We had set off as 34 individuals, half of us Australians and half of us Papuan villagers. when we part we are friends – an inadvisable and strong unit for whom farewells come hard. If the spirit of Kokoda is strength in adversity, courage and mateship, that spirit has been seeded in us all.”

Marian Frith
The Canberra Times

 

Testimonials

Andrew Rosengren, Rhodes Scholar, Manager, CRA Gold Development:

 ‘How often in life do we really enjoy success of achieving a goal when we have done it entirely on our own?  Who do we share the success with?  Who appreciates the hardship that has gone into achieving the success?  Who understands the depth of the emotions that we feel?  To me, the Kokoda experience really highlighted the power of teams and the richness of the feeling of team success.’

‘The Kokoda experience provided an ideal environment to understand team dynamics.  A group of people of diverse interests and backgrounds are thrown together to face adversity together.  The success of the individual is very closely linked to the success of the team.  The success of the team is dependent upon accepting individuality and difference.  It is also dependent on exploiting strengths and managing the weakest link.  Having clear objectives and working towards a common goal was a key element in our team’s success.’

‘I found the Kokoda experience very useful in helping me to understand my own personal strengths and weaknesses.  I am a highly competitive person who places very high expectations on myself and to a certain extent on other people.  Whilst I believe that I am understanding of peoples differences and their relative strengths and weaknesses, I have great difficulty coping with people who do not appear to want to realise their potential.  Motivating and exciting people to realise their fullest peotential is one of my greates challenges of leadership.’

Susie Cresswell, B Com, Accountant, Hammersley Iron, WA:

‘To say I gained a sense of achievement from completing the Kokoda Trail would be an enormous understatement.  I have not only learnt important life skills, I have also had an opportunity to identify my weaknesses and establish in my own mind what qualities I value in a leader.  In the process I have made some life long friends.  Regardless of what I write in this report, it will never truly capture this experience.’

Michael Cox, B Eng, Engineer, Minenco Pty Limited:

‘To say that this was the hardest, most prolonged physical and mental challenge I have ever undertaken is a bit of an understatement.

‘As for lessons in leadership .....I was dubious that evening, and through much of the program as to what exactly we CRA people were learning that might help us in our day to day work.  However, as the journey was completed, the many small pieces that had been put in front of us came together to complete a picture of team membership, team leadership and self leadership that is simple, infallible and universal.

‘Simply put, the Kokoda experience is one I will never forget and which has truly enlightened me in many ways.  I believe I am a stronger and more determined person as a result.’

Xiaoling Liu, Comalco Research & Tehnology:

“The trek provided an excellent opportunity for me to learn more about Australian culture.  I was not particularly interested in the military significance of the Kokoda Trail before the departure.  However, Charlie’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the Kokoda campaign and actual experience of the hardships have changed me.  The heroic history should be more publicised and the Kokoda spirit widely promoted.  The Diggers fought inch by inch to fulfil their duty as soldiers.  How much of this spirit is still alive in modern society?  What is the main personal drive for good performance, promotion or fulfilling one’s professional duty?  Where is the balance between contribution and reward?  I will certainly remind myself of these questions more frequently and strive to fulfil my duty as an ordinary citizen.

“I feel the barriers between different cultures and races were insignificant in the bush and in the face of adversity.  However, I did observe a difference between myself and some other team members.  I had a more serious approach to the trek (Re my argument that we came to train and test ourselves, not for a holiday).  It was interesting to analyse my own thinking process.  Initially, I was frustrated with others’ relaxed approach to the trek, gradually, as I focused on the outcome of the team and outstanding performance of others, my thinking changed:

“In the end, it is the outcome not the attitude that counts.  I should examine my own approach.  If it does not fit into the style of most staff members, or respected by them, then I have to change my approach to get the best team results.  Having fun may be an important part of daily work which I must respect.”

Karen Dunshea, B Psych, Comalco:

I think the following excerpt from my diary conveys some of the difficulties I experienced and the manner in which I dealt with them.  It was the walk from Isurava, up to find the crashed Japanese Zero:

“I was doing really well I thought.  Keeping up, close to the front.  No packs, so lighter work than normal.  The guide going ahead, then a couple of the “A team” (the others) then me.  Then we turned off the track and started to cut a path through the jungle.  Up up up.  Up up up.  Very steep.  Clawing at mud and tree roots.  Grabbing onto slender young tree trunks - their size belying their strength!  Up up up.  Puff puff puff.  Up up up.  God I was finding this increasingly difficult.  Keep going keep going.  Up up up.  Finally, I came across a solid tree perched at the edge of a small flat piece of ground about a metre square.  Exhausted and almost in tears, I leant my back against the tree.  Xiaoling stopped and I told her she could go on - I just needed to get my breath.  Then, so exhausted, I burst into tears.  Quiet tears.  Tired tears.  A couple of the others came along and I told them to keep going, that I was just getting my breath.  Terry stayed, so did Christine.  Charlie came along.  He checked under my hat to see if I was still awake!! (Hahaha - a remnant from me flaking out at every stop in the first two days).  “What’s wrong mate?” he asks.  Into tears again.  He gave me a quick hug and I explained that I was “still having fun”.  That must sound so funny burbling out through a teary voice!  I wasn’t upset or miserable.  I was just so tired.  Charlie said I didn’t have to continue on up, and I could wait there until the others returned.  What a silly idea!  I told him of course I would keep on going, otherwise I may as well have stayed in the village!  I soon found out that I was 7/8th of the way up when I stopped.  Still, I had desperately needed the rest.”

“As a team member, an individual needs to feel that they can contribute and that their contribution is meaningful and acknowledged.  Although I would see this encouragement as primarily a task of a leader, the individual is also responsible to some degree for their own involvement in a process.  The Kokoda experience helped to develop and reinforce the notion of individual responsibility in the team - even when I am tired and miserable (or there is some other constraint), I can still contribute and I can change the level of my involvement in what I am doing.  I thought that this trek, while developing teamwork and leadership skills, also helped to develop and reinforce the notion of individual responsibility for how you choose to act and what you choose to think.  Individual responsibility for one’s choices and actions is something often missing from today’s world.

“A thoroughly rich learning opportunity which I would grasp with both hands if it were presented to me again......The program ought to be continued .... The concept has enormous potential in developing people as individuals, as leaders, and as team members”.

David Mellows, Stratum 111, Mine Manager:

“The teamwork along the Track developed out of need and adversity.  Our team bonded and supported one another, we were dealing with reality, not some time limited task manufactured to put people under stress for training purposes.

“We formed our own team processes and debriefed our experiences in order to improve.  Charlie threw in a few curly tasks when we got our act together just to keep us on the boil, the stretcher exercise was one and carrying additional loads was another.

“The experience will have a lasting effect on me.  My understanding of adversity and view on values in life have changed.  I would hope this will have a positive effect on my performance as a team leader and member”.

Christine McKenna, Coal & Allied:

“I feel that our team has achieved a great deal in the journey along the track.  This journey included a lot of opportunities for personal growth and development through the stimulus of historical, cultural, physical and team/leadership understanding.  We have also formed a team that has characteristics of trust and respect in each others individual abilities at its core.  Teams like ours are not developed easily without the catalyst of real hardship.  We would assist each other quickly if required at any stage.  This may well benefit CRA in the future.

“The greatest benefit I received from this trip was an insight into myself.  When surrounded by people who have no preconceptions of who you are and what you are like, the reaction from them when you are required to achieve together under difficult circumstances provides a mirror on yourself.  Under these conditions you each see what is real and what is perceived about people.

“I have also found some weaknesses to be wary of.  I need to learn to draw on quieter people to gain their real views before I go ahead with anything and label it a team effort.  I also need to give greater consideration to the process of completing a task possible using a checklist type approach to ensure that every time, all required stages are completed.  Further I will not shortcut getting to know someone by categorising them again.  Categories don’t tell you what the persons attributes really are, they just tell you what your assumptions make them out to be.  Incorrect assumptions limits your ability to see the real person with all their quirky individuality.

“In conclusion, I am glad that I was included in this trek at age 25 as I now have the rest of my life to complete the trains of thought and achieve the goals that I have set myself as a result of this trip.  This ability of Kokoda and the team/leadership program to provide the conditions for people to question deeply, and the examples to go some way towards answering these questions, is very powerful.  If harnessed effectively CRA could benefit enormously from the personal development of its selected employees and from the growth of teams of people across the organisation who would ford rivers and climb mountains for each other.”

Peter Veitch, Argyle Diamonds, Kununurra, WA

“The provision of military history throughout the trek provided a basis to motivate myself when the times were difficult.  Having an understanding of the conditions that the soldiers fought under and the limits that they were able to push themselves provided a basis to compare my own hardship.  My comparison centred on the fact that I am young and fit, as were the soldiers, and therefore I would be capable of surviving a similar level of hardship.  When this comparison was done, the hardship that I was suffering at the time really was insignificant compared to what the soldiers endured.  This realisation put my situation into perspective and reduced my perceived difficulty in completing the trek or carrying extra weight.  I have used this learning to put my work and personal environment into perspective and to knock down barriers that I may raise when times get difficult.

“By being part of 7 CRA employees that did not previously know each other, we were forced to quickly pull together to achieve our goals.  Over the first few days while we were being pushed to extreme levels were very cohesive and operated effectively.  However when the pressure dropped, individual needs surfaced which reduced the team’s cohesiveness as well as my sense of belonging.  These events highlighted the need to balance individual requirements within the team environment and most of all to concentrate on communication”.

Greg Davies, B Eng, Minenco Pty Limited:

‘Kokoda is not aimed at any one particular company and is based on tried and true, simple but realistic and practical leadership theories.

The Kokoda Leadership Program was an incredibly powerful experience.  I have found it difficult to put into works all the thoughts and feelings I experienced before, during and after the trek.  I didn’t know if I was affected by Kokoda as much as other trekkers; I didn’t vomit, collapse, wet my pants or suffer from fungal foot. .In addition to the enrichment in terms of people I have met, the experiences with a foreign culture and environment and the satisfaction of meeting a physical and mental challenge, I have left Kokoda with a clearer picture of who I am, the extent of my abilities, what I do well in terms of teamwork and leadership skills and a clear and positive path for improvement.’

Esprit de Corp

In commenting of the special quality of the Australian 39th Battalion at Isurava, the official War Historian, Dudley McCarthy wrote:

“Esprit de Corps is a spirit which pervades a team, a group, an organisation. It exists wherever human beings confront and overcome adversity together. The greater the adversity - the stronger the bond. Esprit de Corps is evident in military units, in sporting teams and in organisations with proud traditions.

“Although possessing no permanent site, having neither roof nor walls, no unchanging form, it yet becomes home for those who serve in it. Away from it, each of its members can revert to being homeless individuals, lost, uncertain, without proper identity. Because of this it calls to life in a man, rounded into fullness through shared battle, suffering and death, each other will always feel some sense of brotherhood for each other man of his battalion. Through this thing the strong lift the weak to efforts and achievements beyond their own strength and their conscious wills, and the dependence of the weak gives greater strength and endurance to the strong. For every individual human part of this battalion who is killed, this thing changes something in those who survive and calls to life something new that never was there before.”

The challenge for today’s leaders is to inspire their team or organisation to develop and maintain a spirit of high morale.

This is what the Kokoda Adventure Leadership Program is all about!