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"Expedition Behavior" - It's Not Just For The Great Outdoors

One of the principal tenets of The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) is a concept called “Expedition Behavior” or EB. Over the years the definition of EB has taken on variations, but the original definition provided in by NOLS founder Paul Petzoldt was “an awareness and attention to all relationships that influence an outdoor experience.” Petzoldt wrote about EB in his 1974 book, The Wilderness Handbook. He wrote that, “Human nature influences the success or failure, comfort or discomfort, safety or danger of an outdoor experience as much as equipment, logistics, trail techniques, rations, or other basic organizational concerns…. even the well-thought-out and well-equipped outing might face failure, injury, or death if good Expedition Behavior practices are missing.”

While it may sound dramatic to equate your workplace to a wilderness expedition (unless of course you work in that environment), it’s not as big of a stretch as you may think. Petzoldt stated that

“Good Expedition Behavior is an awareness of the relationship of individual to individual, individual to the group, [and] group to the individual…it is the awareness, plus the motivation and character to be as concerned for others in every respect as one is for oneself.”

He went on to explain the many ways our interpersonal dynamics affect one another and the ways in which each person can demonstrate EB. At the heart of it all? Connection.

Petzoldt is describing how everyone’s actions, well-being, and success are all connected. It’s an equal balance of self-care and group-care. Be in tune with your own needs and address them, and be accountable for contribution, but always be mindful that individual success and team/mission success are connected.

While most of us don’t have to worry about animal attacks or falling into a crevasse during our workday, elevating connection can contribute to our survival. As Dr. Robert Waldinger explained during his 2015 TED Talk, summarizing the findings of the 75-year long Harvard Study of Adult Development, “social connections are really good for us, and loneliness kills…people who are more socially connected…are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected.”

Elevating connection in the workplace leads to improved individual well-being and performance, more effective group collaboration and productivity, and the overall success of the organization.

If you genuinely care about your team members and want them to thrive, in addition to promoting company success, begin with connection. Help them feel connected to the mission and vision of the organization, help them feel connected to leadership, and help them feel connected to one another. Because for better or worse, we are all connected - and we want to foster a positive, healthy connection that benefits everyone.


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