Interview: Victoria Humphries – Guinness World Record Breaking Polar Explorer
As part of the first all-female expedition to the North Pole, Victoria Humphries gained a unique understanding of climate change and how it has progressed over time. This experience makes her a powerful sustainability speaker, as Victoria can supply audiences with her unique insight into the North and South Poles.
We recently interviewed Victoria to learn how climate change is transforming how we explore the Poles, and what business leaders must do to persevere during periods of crisis. Discover Victoria’s unrivalled insight in our latest post, and why she is the perfect speaker for your corporate event.
How have you witnessed the effects of global warming first-hand?
“If I tried to replicate what we did on our Arctic expedition now, it absolutely wouldn’t be possible.
“We were completing a relay expedition and we started in February/March time. On the last leg of the expedition, we reached the North Pole at the end of May, to then be rescued off the ice by an aeroplane.
“To do that, the aeroplane has to land on the ice.
“The ice is now melting to such an extent, that the window of opportunity has shrunk significantly. So to do that expedition now, you have to complete it a lot faster.
“And there’s a limit to how fast you can travel in the Arctic now. Amazing adventurers are still managing it, but it’s a far smaller window of opportunity because the ice is melting in front of our eyes.”
How do you build mental resilience and maintain a healthy mindset?
“Really, it’s about practise.
“Before you even start to build resilience, you must understand that resilience isn’t about strength. It’s not about being strong, always succeeding and always standing up.
“Resilience is about how quickly you pick yourself up when things go wrong.
“So unless you’re prepared to take that first step, to try something scary, like apply for a job, you’ll never have the experience of failing.
“Once you’ve failed and picked yourself up, that is resilience to me. It is all about how quickly you pick yourself up. And therefore, to work on that, you have to take that first step.”
Can you give an example of when you persevered through adversity?
“During my Arctic expedition, my mother and I fell into the Arctic Ocean, and it really was a matter of life or death.
“Once you get yourself out of that situation and you start to reflect, your inner instincts say, ‘I just want to go home, I want to be in a safe, secure place’.
“It’s about carrying on, about having that resilience, that inner strength to keep going.
“In that situation, we had no choice, because if we sat down and cried and sulked and said, ‘I want to go home’, the whole expedition, the whole team, suffers as a result.”
Why must we continue to create opportunities for women to lead and achieve?
“It doesn’t have to be at the North Pole. It doesn’t have to be leading a business. It can be in every element of your life. It’s about women succeeding and realising we can achieve the same as men.
“We are equally capable. There are some things women are better at, some things men are better at. Let’s stop always differentiating, though. We’re all humans. We can all achieve.
“We can all step out of our comfort zone – you will be amazed at what you can achieve in your life. If you want to step out of your comfort zone, just give it a go.
“What’s the worst thing that can happen?
“So I passionately believe that everyone should be given an opportunity. And obviously, as a woman, I feel doubly passionate that women and young women, young girls in particular, need to set their aspirations higher.”
How can corporate teams improve their change management skills during periods of uncertainty?
“I think it’s about accepting a culture of trying, of allowing staff to try something.
“Some ideas will succeed; some ideas won’t succeed. It’s about the phrase ‘fail fast, succeed faster’.
“I think it’s two things. It’s one, enabling your staff to understand that sense of perspective, understand that they’ve got to sometimes just step forward, give it a go. What’s the worst that can happen?
“But also, it’s about recognising that change is a constant in our life. There will always be change. It doesn’t matter what your company strategy is, how many hours you put into your company strategy, something will come along, like Covid-19, and change it.
“It’s about recognising that everything in life is fluid.
“Life is not linear, nothing is defined. And I think in a leadership team, you must communicate with your staff that nothing is set in stone.
“Equally, I think businesses need a culture of innovation, a culture of experimentation, a culture of ‘let’s give it a go’. Let’s try things. You know, the companies like Apple probably made loads of phones that didn’t work before they created the iPhone. So, it’s about a culture of ‘give it a go’.
“What’s the worst that can happen?”
What is the secret to business growth?
“I think nowadays, it’s very easy during a crisis to panic, hunker down and think ‘I’m not going to do any innovation, I’m not going to give any new ideas, I’m not going to develop’.
“You need to absolutely look after your staff, look after the bottom line, ensure that you are safe and secure. But a large amount of that should happen during the good times, so the staff culture that you have developed will hold firm in times of panic, stress and crisis.
“So really, the most important thing I’d say is to look forward, think about how you can grow, how you can develop. Can you see an opportunity out of the crisis?
“Many crises lead to opportunities, and it’s about that forward-thinking mindset rather than a retrospective mindset.”
What is your greatest achievement?
“My greatest achievement is being part of the first all-female expedition to the North Pole.
“There’s no question. I’m so, so proud to be part of that.
“The next bit is corny, but actually being a mother and raising a child who I’m really proud of, who’s had challenges along the way. And I think we have helped him grow and hopefully, by some of the messages that both my husband and I believe in, he will be ready to face the world.
“I know that sounds really corny, but actually for me, my purpose is spreading the message, especially amongst young people, that things will go wrong in your life. You won’t succeed at everything. You won’t get the job you wanted. You might fail an exam. It doesn’t mean that you are a failure.
“If I can spread that message, whether it’s to my son or the wider world, then I will have achieved my purpose.”