FIT TO LEAD

Trekking through unpredictable times

Maureen Yeo thrives on navigating challenging obstacles and unforeseeable circumstances that present themselves on nature trails, just as in the corporate world

THE great outdoors, with its wild beauty and untamed landscape, has always captivated me. However, while these places offer some of the most rewarding sights known to man, travelling to them is not easy and requires some determination that tests the limits of even the most seasoned outdoor enthusiasts.

That, to me, is where the thrill lies and what spurned my love for trekking. It has taken me across the globe to discover amazing places that are untouched by human hands. That is also why I make it a point to spend time every year exploring some of these natural environments.

Before Covid, one of my favourite locations to visit was Mongolia, to participate in the Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset, one of the world's most beautiful and isolated events. The event consists of 10 to 15 days of horse-riding treks before a full marathon or 100 km run around the craggy mountain past west of the stunning Lake Hovsgol. Back in Switzerland, where I have been living for the past 5 years, I spend my downtime hiking and ski-touring around the beautiful Ursen valley of Andermatt, which happens to be where I work.

Nature trails present all sorts of challenging obstacles and unforeseeable circumstances that I have to navigate carefully, in order to keep myself and everyone safe. In horse-trekking, when we would be out for days and out of our comfort zones, you would see the true nature of everyone, including the horses. Some do well under pressure, some don't. While everyone is different, the goal is the same, which is to complete the trails and get home safely. This is similar to the corporate world where I had to recognise each person's differences and strengths and motivate everyone to achieve our common objective.

Besides trekking, I also swim and run. I try to go for a swim at least twice a week, and not only has it helped me build my confidence, it has also taught me self-reliance. In swimming, I have to rely on my own abilities and to some extent, that trait has helped me manage my team better.

Similarly, with running, it is a great activity to develop self-control, stamina and persistence. Being able to run long distances is basically having the mental discipline and control to run your own race and pace. As much as it's tempting to stop or give up, it's mind over matter, and that's what it takes to be a leader. The willingness to go beyond the point where others will stop.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade 

As the regional director of Asia at Andermatt Swiss Alps, a year-round destination sitting at 1,444 m above sea level in the heart of Switzerland, I look after its growth in the Asia-Pacific market.

Andermatt Swiss Alps is essentially a real estate business that is a people business, and when human interaction was limited by Covid, we had to re-navigate our business strategy. Working alongside our digital specialists and our local marketing agencies, we had to move all our viewings and marketing online. In Asia, despite the strict lockdowns, we successfully sold properties to clients who were craving for fresh alpine air and nature.

As much as I endeavour to plan and prepare, unexpected situations are bound to happen. However, how we manage them makes all the difference. Being physically fit helps to keep my energy level up and running the sales teams in different countries. However, I think mental fitness is equally important.

As a leader, I have learnt to be level-headed and adaptable during such situations. This is something I picked up during my treks, where at times, I encountered physical difficulties and mental challenges that drive me to the edge. During these moments, it helps to keep calm, exercise patience to properly assess the situation and come up with a plan to overcome it. Whenever I face a tough situation, I take a hike up to the mountains at Andermatt to absorb some healing powers from the mountains before going back to the drawing board.

And of course, effective communication and transparency are key in getting the team on the same page and moving forward together to tackle any obstacles that we face.

Maureen Yeo, 42, is regional director of Asia at Andermatt Swiss Alps.

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