Lessons from trekking to Everest Base Camp – for life and coaching

Having recently had the great privilege of three weeks of trekking through the Everest and Goyko valleys in Nepal, I have taken the time to reflect on some of the insights and learnings that came from this journey. In this post I summarise my ten most prominent learnings and over the next few weeks I will expand on each of them. While these are based on my experience of the trek most link back nicely to the Positive Performance Coaching model we use at BKD Executive Leaders. I will also encourage readers to reflect on whether there is anything that they can draw on that will assist them with their own performance and development. But first, some background to the trek.

Why go to Everest Base Camp?

The decision to trek to Everest Base Camp (EBC) was the result of an on-going fascination with the challenge taken on by the brave few who push the limits of human endurance and resilience by climbing the worlds highest peak (8848m). Having a strong interest in the psychology and physiology of human performance I have always wanted to see Sagarmatha (Nepali for Everest) for myself and contemplate what it must take to climb it. As a former athlete I understand the need to physically push your limits but I recognise that an 8000 plus metre summit requires a totally different level of discipline and mental toughness. The consequence of a failed climb is quite possibly death. YouTube has plenty of videos highlighting the challenges of climbing Everest.

Given my interest in Everest, when my friend Steve Chitchester floated the idea of a trek to Base Camp to mark his 50th year, I was in, as was his best mate Jason Elias. What I wasn’t so keen on was trekking in late January / February when the Himalayan winter is at its peak. Nevertheless, this was the most convenient time for us, so off we went.

Day 1 of the trek. Departing Lukla through the gates dedicated to the first Nepalese woman to summit Mt. Everest – Pasang Lhamu Sherpa. Unfortunately she lost her life on the descent.

A big thankyou to our lead guide from Trek, Guide, Ski Nepal, Gyan Tamang (summited in 2018) and Lukpa Sherpa (6-time summiteer), and our porters Nimah and Born. Their support made a challenging trip (big dumps of snow and regular temperatures below -20’C) manageable.

My top ten lessons

Having returned home safely from a great trekking adventure, here are my top ten learnings and personal reflections.

  1. A clear purpose supported by a well thought out plan provides you with the focus that will drive your best behaviours and performance
  2. We should take time out to challenge ourselves regularly – done well it encourages a positive mindset, feeds your confidence, self esteem and personal belief
  3. Invest in your health – it repays you by opening the door to experiences you can’t have without it. No doubt there is some good fortune involved in individual health but investments in your health are well worthwhile.
  4. Humility is a value of mine and on this trip two things reinforced its importance – seeing the reality of life in a developing country, and being exposed to the grandeur of nature.
  5. Reflection is an essential catalyst to change and progress. As a psychologist and coach I have long subscribed to the value of reflection as a tool for driving personal development and change. This trip emphasised the need to set aside real time for genuine reflection.
  6. Family is the clear priority in my life. The same for my trekking partners.We noted that we spent around half of our time talking about family in one way or another. I’ll explore why that was important for us to recognise and what can flow from that and how a little bit of creativity can open up communication.
  7. Men do talk, especially when trust is there and time is set aside to allow conversations to evolve organically. ‘Men don’t talk about personal issues’ is a common refrain. There is some truth in this day-to-day but on this trip I observed that trust and time appeared critical to open male to male conversations.
  8. When you are feeling the pressure (e.g. you’re on a ledge and you dislike high ledges), having the skill to relax your mind and body is a critical coping skill. Best of all it’s available to all of us.
  9. When you are struggling and being tested, be it physical or mental, breaking the challenge down to ‘the next most important step’ is essential to progress. It zeros your focus in on where your future momentum will come from.
  10. I am very fortunate to have been born in Australia. Even more so to live in Australia. Having spent 2 weeks touring Japan in January, and then trekking Nepal, I have a stronger appreciation of the advantages this country provides. A few areas for improvement were also highlighted.

My ‘clear plan’ is to elaborate on each of the ten reflections and pose some questions that will encourage readers to reflect and consider what if anything is relevant to you, your work and your family. I encourage reflection as it promotes insight and awareness which are pre-conditions to building the motivation for development and change. Insight, motivation, development and change are all central elements of our coaching practice at BKD Executive Leaders. If you are interested to learn more I encourage you to contact me at robkerr@bkdexecutiveleaders.com

For a laugh / gasp, enjoy this brief video of the hard landing at Lukla airport, the gateway to the Himalayas and one of the worlds most dangerous airports. 


Sales Manager New Business at AFL


BKD are pleased to announce that we have been exclusively engaged by the AFL to recruit for the role of Sales Manager, New Business (NSW).   Kylie Rogers, General Manager Commercial at the Australian Football League (AFL) said. “For the first time in its history, the AFL are launching a Sydney-based Sales Manager role to unlock the potential of Australia’s largest sports market. This is a rare opportunity to cultivate and drive new business in the Sydney market. The AFL, as an organisation, is in exceptional shape and we look forward to bringing the right person in to unlock our potential for some of Australia’s leading national brands.”


The AFL is Australia’s premier sporting organisation supporting a constantly evolving national competition which has experienced rapid growth over the past 10 years.  The AFL currently has 650 permanent employees across the four state bodies, AFL Vic, NSW/ACT, QLD, NT and at AFL House.  The AFL organisation is responsible for growing and developing Australian Football across Australia.  The opportunity for Sydney-based brands to connect with the growing AFL fan base has resulted in the need for a Sales Manager to cultivate and manage new business in this market.

The Role

 This is an exceptional opportunity to become an advocate of the AFL for high profile, Sydney-based, national brands – and be the custodian of these brands back into the AFL.. The primary focus of this role is to generate new clients to the AFL. The successful candidate must develop and lead focused sales strategies and sales solutions for delivery of budget requirements across all AFL advertising channels (sponsorship, stadium, digital etc) both to the media advertising and direct market.

This role requires someone who is highly professional, takes immense pride in delivering first class solutions, and who is also prepared to work hard in a fast paced media and technology business.

The role of Sales Manager- New Business demands a high standard of sales & client management and requires someone with an ability to deliver creative and inspired solutions.

This role also requires the ability to work autonomously in Sydney, albeit work with a sales and partnership team based in Melbourne.

Major functions and responsibilities include but will not be limited to:

  • Effectively delivering on financial targets, but also independently drivng larger strategic growth opportunities.
  • Identifying new business opportunities across a range of markets and industries.
  • Planning and executing strategic business plans (including initiatives to protect, defend, grow and attain new clients to meet our financial targets).
  • Planning and developing strategic, senior relationships with internal and external stakeholders.
  • Leading and developing strategic and creative integrated solutions for AFL Media clients.
  • Providing thought leadership in the advertising market with our external and internal stakeholders.
  • Delivering accurate and timely sales reporting, pipeline and revenue forecasting.
  • Contributing to the wider commercial team strategic business priorities.

Mandatory experience for those applying;

  • A minimum 3 years experience in a senior sales role within the advertising & media industry.
  • Strong understanding of digital, print, social and broadcast media.
  • Experience in business development initiatives and activities.
  • Established and relevant market and client relationships.
  • High level of negotiation skills and experience in executing, delivering and managing contracts.
  • Strong experience in managing budgets and delivering accurate and timely pipeline and sales forecasting reports.
  • Strong experience in developing and executing sales business and / or account plans.
  • Proven ability to think strategically in the development of integrated client solutions.
  • Excellent presentation and communication skills.
  • Strong attention to detail.
  • Liaising with client services, editorial, production and design to provide creative new advertising solutions for clients.

The AFL Values which the candidate should consider their personal alignment to are;

At the AFL we Play to Win. We rise to every challenge and do what we say we will do – we own the outcome. We thrive on pushing the boundaries beyond what we have done before to achieve the extraordinary for our people, fans, partners and the community.

We Play Fair. Respect, integrity, honesty, empathy and a great work ethic earns us the right to play.

We Play with Passion. We love what we do. Passion, energy, fun and perseverance is at the heart of our sport and is what drives how we work.

We Play as one team. We work as one team because together we achieve better outcomes. We bring out the best in each other by embracing our diverse range of ideas, skills and backgrounds to achieve individual and shared success. We celebrate our wins and always have each other’s back.

Applications Close Monday the 7th of January 2019

Expressions of interest, which may include a covering letter and CV, should be emailed to benbuckley@bkdsportsleaders.com or robkerr@bkdsportsleaders.com


Job Analysis: What is a High Performance Manager?

The role of a High Performance Manager. A case for Job Analysis.

With Cricket Australia’s (CA) High Performance Manager (HPM) role now vacant, there has been much media speculation about who should move into the role permanently. Within Cricket Australia, instead of asking WHO might fill the role they are most likely revisiting WHAT the High Performance Manager’s role actually is.

Within a sporting organisation, the role of High Performance Manager is one of the most critical. At the same time, it is perhaps one of the least understood, especially by those outside of the organisation.

For any role, achieving clarity around what the role is, and the key results it should generate, is a critical step that should occur well before the search for candidates.  This requires a thorough Job Analysis which explores questions such as;

  • What is the purpose of the role?
  • What is this role accountable for and what does success look like?
  • Who are the key stakeholders / clients that this role services?
  • What skills and knowledge are necessary to do this role well?
  • Are results delivered through others?
  • Which relationships are critical to the success of this role? and
  • How will the role maintain alignment with the organisation’s broader strategy?

Within the Football codes, the title of High Performance Manager is often held by the senior Strength and Conditioning practitioner. It is arguable that in some cases, a more accurate description of the role would be Head of Physical Preparation. The argument being that the focus of the role is oversight of the athletes loads and the physical preparation of athletes. This includes having significant input into the duration and form of game based training sessions for the purposes of reducing the risk of fatigue and injury.

While physical conditioning is fundamental to High Performance, if you believe that High Performance equates to an athlete consistently performing at, or near, his or her potential, then High Performance is the product all facets of the athlete program that contribute to performance. Beyond physical preparation this includes skills training, game simulation sessions, medical services and well-being services. What the athlete must manage, somewhat independently, is how their life away from training impacts performance.

In terms of accountability for performance, be it high or otherwise, it is typically the Senior Coach who most acutely bears the consequences of performance. However, while the Senior Coach sets performance expectations that should influence all elements of the program, it is unrealistic to ask the Senior Coach to monitor, assess and manage each program element. First, their expertise is their knowledge of the game rather than conditioning, rehabilitation etc., and second, their core role is to coach individual athletes and the team.

To ensure there is an integrated training program conducive to High Performance, sports organisations employ a High Performance Manager or, in some cases, a Football / Program Director. This role takes a big picture view of the total program and works to ensure that the activities each training area delivers is completely ALIGNED to the goals of the overall program. This alignment is critical as high performance comes from the multiplier effect that a truly integrated program produces. The analogy of a finely tuned racing car is relevant. If one component of the machinery is not working effectively, the car may continue to run, but will not achieve its ultimate performance potential.

Within such a structures, the High Performance Manager is not delivering the actual training programs. They will use their expertise to influence the program and measure and assess the outputs while delegating the delivery to the various program leaders. They in turn report to the Senior Coach or General Manager, or the combination of the two.

Such a structure is relatively contained within a Club setting. However, in a National Sports program such as Cricket Australia’s, it may well be that the role of the High Performance Manager is at the very least a peer of, if not senior to the National coach.

High Performance Managers of National Sporting Organisations straddle a very broad and widely dispersed collection of service providers and will be working to ensure there is an alignment to the philosophies or principles that form the foundations of the programs at the Senior level and through the elite talent pathways.

The skill set of those who hold a Program Director /High Performance role will vary across organisations but typically it will be a mix of the following.

  • A high level of expertise in at least one of the performance disciplines (e.g. The skills of the sport, Exercise Science, Performance Psychology, Medical, Rehabilitation)
  • A very good understanding of the other performance disciplines, generally gained through working in a variety of athlete programs and/or further education
  • The ability to influence and manage others

The sports scientist who has expertise and experience across a range of disciplines, or an experienced coach who has integrated and synthesised information from these areas over a long career is well placed. An administrator who has experienced a variety of performance programs and is experienced in synthesising information and managing people may also be well credentialed. Those who understand both the ‘Art’ and the ‘Science’ of Performance, and can step back and coach and guide the specialists who deal directly with the athlete are well placed to do well in the role. It is however an area where a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, thus the importance of being willing to delegate and being open to challenge.

In summary, the Head of High Performance role is a complex one and defining the role and qualities needed accurately is critical to a successful hire. The Job Analysis process significantly assists in identifying and hiring the right talent.  Unfortunately, organisations do not always have the resources, time or subject matter expertise needed to build a position description that is more than just a further iteration of the previous role.

If your organisation would like to get great clarity around a critical role, BKD Sports Leaders is available at robkerr@bkdsportsleaders.com to discuss whether outsourcing the Job Analysis process is appropriate for the position you are filling.

General Manager at Bastion EBA


Bastion EBA is part of the Bastion Collective, a carefully curated selection of communication agencies that provides a place where clients can access a range of complimentary services, delivered under one roof, by experts in their field and experience a level of service that is typically only possible in smaller businesses.

Bastion EBA is a specialist Sponsorship and Experiential agency that help brands connect with their customers through the things they are most passionate about. Whether it be sport, arts, music, events, charity or community, we work with leading brands to help refine the strategic thinking that guides their investments in these areas.

We help to manage the day-in, day-out of our clients’ sponsorship portfolios, deliver integrated activations and amplify campaigns through digital and social before following up with targeted and detailed measurement and evaluation post implementation.

Our core capabilities centre around Sponsorship Strategy, Sponsorship Acquisition, Sponsorship Management and Experiential Marketing including real time social and digital amplification. We assist our clients develop the most effective approach to their sponsorship program that compliments their overarching marketing strategy.

Whilst the majority of our work is done with brands, we also work regularly with rights holders and assist them with the development and implementation of their commercial strategy.

The Role

The GM Bastion EBA – Northern Region (Sydney based) is responsible for running the day to day operations of Bastion EBA, with specific focus on driving new business activity as well as managing strategy teams, client servicing and all experiential activity across the NSW/Qld/NT prospect and client portfolio.

Reporting into the Bastion EBA CEO, the GM Northern Region has ultimate responsibility for the delivery of world class sponsorship strategy, management and experiential/activation work, and will work with the Executive team to identify commercial opportunities in order to meet all Financial and Non-Financial performance targets.

Major functions and responsibilities include but will not be limited to;

  • Business Development
  • Sponsorship Strategy
  • Experiential
  • Client Management and Delivery
  • People and Culture
  • Brand and Marketing
  • Financial Management
  • Administration

This role represents a unique opportunity to build and develop a core component of a dynamic and fast growing business. The Bastion EBA environment is built to and aspires to develop our people, exceed our client’s expectations and continually improve and innovate. We are looking for a motivated, creative and culture focused leader to drive the next phase of growth for the Bastion EBA Sydney office and broader business as a whole.

Expressions of interest, which may include a covering letter and CV, should be emailed to robkerr@bkdsportsleaders.com or benbuckley@bkdsportsleaders.com

Applications close Friday August 4.

Chief Operating Officer at Racing.com


BKD Sports Leaders are currently searching for a Chief Operating Officer on behalf of Racing.com.

Racing.com is a 24-hour racing service, where fans can watch live racing for all race meets in Victoria, South Australia and Hong Kong, as well as regular racing programs. This is an exciting opportunity to take a leadership position within this innovative Sports Media organisation.

Key Responsibilities

  • Lead the Commercial Division which includes making advertising sales, managing contracts with wagering partners and building the B2B media brand of Racing.com.
  • Work across the broadcast, editorial and digital teams to further develop the cross-platform product offering whilst ensuring operational effectiveness and efficiency within the current operations.
  • Develop strategic partnerships and manage new business units and joint ventures.
  • Support the CEO in developing the business strategy and driving the operations. Plan for enhancing business capability that is aligned to growth.
  • Support the CEO and Legal Counsel in business and rights acquisitions.

The successful candidate will have a strong understanding of the Sports and Entertainment/Wagering media landscape. Ideally they should have around 10 years’ experience in managing commercial sales and fulfilment. S/he will have worked in one of, or a combination of; Media Agencies, Sports Federations, Wagering Businesses, Media Networks or Brands with direct exposure and involvement in sports.

Further, they will be able to demonstrate a strong history of successfully managing and improving business operations, building and maintaining relationships with multiple stakeholder groups, displaying commercial acumen, effective negotiations, and a track record of achieving stretch targets. If you would like the full job description for this role, please email Ben Buckley at ben@buckleyadvisorygroup.com

Applications have now closed for this role.