Friday Meetings and Missing Mt. Everest

Rob Hall

Now, the most important rule: If you are not on the summit by 2:00 P.M., you turn around. I have seen too many climbers get killed…after reaching the top too late in the day. They run out of gas and get nailed by the conditions on the descent. So this rule is hard and fast. No matter where you are at 2:00 P.M., you turn around.

-Rob Hall (paraphrased for a script)

This famous Mt. Everest climbers turn-around policy was set by the gregarious and cautious climbing guide, Rob Hall. Hall made this policy knowing what a crushing disappointment it would be for a team of competitive climbers to come so close to the top of the world without achieving the goal of conquering Everest. The mental anguish of failure didn’t matter to him. Hall’s experience taught him that the risk of pushing forward far outweighed the slight chance of making it to the summit and then down again alive. Non-negotiable turn around time was a Rob Hall rule.

There have been many documented accounts of Hall’s final 1996 climb to conquer Everest. The story is gripping on so many levels and has much we can learn. Those familiar with the ordeal know that Hall’s loyalty to his teammate led him to fatally miss following his own turn-around policy and left him stranded on the mountain.

Also Read: How Would You Prepare for Your Meeting with Royalty?

While there are many lessons to be learned, we’re going to tease out one small and powerful point to give thought to from this harrowing expedition. Let’s learn from Hall the lesson of knowing when to stop and sticking to that principle.

Every single week a team has their own Everest to conquer. We have daunting tasks ahead of us and need to find our sure footing to keep climbing. We often stop at Base Camp to acclimate to a new altitude and decompress with our peers. We keep our goals firmly in focus and constantly work as a team to support each other and reach our next camp. We have many meetings to make sure we’re all aligned on strategy to reach that summit. We check the ropes as we go and keep a look out for travelers from other teams that might need our help.

What we learn here from Rob Hall is that a team also needs to know when to stop. The entire week is driven by collaboration, energy, and working as a team to achieve milestones. When we get to Friday afternoon, it’s time for meetings to stop. We may seem close to coming to consensus or near a breakthrough, but it’s still time to stop. Ideally, like Hall’s instructions to turn around, there’s already a go-to plan to fall back on when the summit is not within reach.

Booking meetings later in the day on a Friday will bring together a room of frustrated attendees who are more likely checking their phone for the time, than listening to you. The reality of having a purposeful meeting is so slight, while the risk of alienating your peers by infringing on the time they need for wrapping up their week, is quite likely to cause friction. Our recommendation is not to book meetings for Friday afternoon. Everyone’s already run out of gas and are getting ready to leave the office. You’re most likely wasting the collective precious time of all your meeting attendees. Time is our most valuable asset. Pushing the limits of using people’s time has a high risk of backfiring.

Let’s use our time purposefully and meaningfully…even on a Friday.

A meeting rule that’s inspired by Rob Hall:

The most important rule: if you work a traditional work week and decisions for a project have not been made by 2:00 pm on Friday, you move that topic to the following week. I’ve seen too many people burn out trying to power through with meetings until late in the day on Friday. They run out of gas, get nailed by FOMO while their peers start heading out for the weekend. This rule is hard and fast. No matter where you are at 2:00 P.M., you turn around.

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