Our June Spotlight: Adrian Hayes – Dubai’s very own Adventurer, Speaker & Coach

In this issue Adrian shares his view on leadership, teams and how his life experiences have shaped his business.

Adrian Hayes is the British, UAE based, record-breaking polar explorer & adventurer, keynote speaker, business coach and sustainability ambassador. He has set two recent Guinness World Records for polar expeditions –walking all the way to the North Pole, South Pole, and summiting Mt. Everest in the shortest period of time in history; and for the longest unsupported journey in Arctic history, the 2009 1,940 mile vertical crossing of Greenland. Both records are featured in the 2012 edition of the book.

His most recent expedition was a 44 day 1600 km crossing of the Arabian Desert by foot and camel in the footsteps of 1940s British legendary explorer Wilfred Thesiger. The documentary of the expedition is planned for worldwide broadcast in Autumn 2012. A former British Army Gurkha officer and Airbus Sales Director, he is a keynote speaker and business coach, specializing in leadership and team coaching and delivering seminars Worldwide. He is also a speaker and ambassador on economic, social and environmental sustainability.




1. Tell us about you, your experience and time in the Middle East.

Our personal values we hold are spawned from a multitude of things from genetics, culture, upbringing, order of birth, home life, education, work experience and so on. And some time in my childhood, for whatever reason or reasons, I became focused on experiencing everything in life that could possibly be experienced! And I guess that sums me up – a desire and seeming ability to wring out the very most of life.

I first came to the Middle East when I volunteered for a secondment to the Royal Army of Oman from the British Army – where I was an officer in the Gurkhas, the legendary fighting troops from the mountains of Nepal. The 2 year positing to Salalah, Oman, as head of training introduced me to this amazing region and I was lucky enough to learn Arabic at the British Defense School of Languages at the same time.

After studying for an MBA on leaving the Army, I entered business and have held progressively senior positions in pharmaceuticals, power cables and aviation, the latter as the Regional Sales Director for Airbus Middle East.

Concurrently, I have been studying something that I came to realize fascinated me – people. And it is through the studies, programmes and qualifications in personal development, coaching and leadership that I set up my own company in 2007, delivering keynote speeches, leadership and team development programmes, which I deliver Worldwide.

My record breaking expeditions have primarily been as a result of merely putting into practice these powerful learnings, tools and techniques.

2. What does your business offer?

There is nothing unique about anyone who’s done something special speaking about it. In fact it’s usually part of the course and helps fund these expensive pastimes! However, what I try to deliver in most keynotes is the deeper lessons from personal development, team development and leadership. Obviously, in the dedicated and longer programmes on these subjects there is far more time to really empower these skills


3. What would you say to people who think “teambuilding days” are a waste of time?


I would say they are probably right!! Let me clarify – if your objective is to have some fun, then typical teambuilding days are a great way to have employees let their hair down, give them something totally different for a change and have that fun. However, the days don’t change the fundamental ways that teams or people behave interact or perform. Which is why I leave the typical “teambuilding days” to the many companies that offer what I fully agree are very well organized events.


The work we do is far more to do with communication skills, leadership and interaction; all geared to what teams essentially exist for – to achieve results.

4. What are your biggest challenges in the next 5 years?

I’m a goal driven person and I set my goals for a calendar year in some detail before or just after the beginning of the year, reviewing them briefly each quarter and in detail at the beginning of July. My goals for the following year are there of course but not down in concrete.


So, on the adventure side, I have a project for 2013 which, let’s say, is extremely challenging! In fact huge! However, the “business of adventure” is now as commercial as any business and I keep my plans to myself and my agents until we have sponsors and everything on board. With so many people now doing so many things in the adventure tourism World, one has to keep ahead of the competition in my field as much as any industry sector.


As for 5 years, I’m personally not one for the typical “5 year plans” because I simply believe we just don’t know what will come into our lives in such a time period. Rather, focus on the year’s plans with the following year there on the table, but see what comes into the space.

5. What are the skills and competencies that you think are needed in order to meet the regions talent requirements?

I have some fairly passionate views on education first and foremost, which is that whilst the World is moving fast beyond belief, our educational system is progressing painfully slowly and is largely still stuck in a World of 20 years ago. My son is still learning Latin at his school in England which, to me, beggars belief.

With facts now at our fingertips through smartphones and other technical innovations, many employers and progressive educationalists are saying it’s virtually a waste of time teaching young people facts and that we need to impart critical skills such as the ability to think on our feet, problem solving, adaptability, emotional intelligence, people skills and so on.

How do we get people to learn this after education? By being allowed to try, experience and, sometimes, fail. It’s something called empowerment.

6. How do the regions leaders need to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape of the region today and what needs to be done to equip them to manage it?

“Leaders promise a better future”. That is the simplest, clearest and most applicable definition of leadership I know amongst the multitude of waffle on the subject – and is as applicable to a sports team with 10 minutes of a match to go as a Nation’s people looking at their lives for the next 10 years. Leaders promise – and reassure us – of a better future.


On a macro level, for me the most striking thing across the whole World is the near total absence of any leaders admitting the “uncomfortable truths” that the World is not the same as it was pre-2008 and – with finite resources, uncontrollable debt, unsustainable populations, high unemployment and a multitude of other issues piling up – it probably never will be. Richard Branson’s book “Screw Business as Usual” is far from complete, but at least attempts to address the issues that our leaders need to face in today’s World, which most are avoiding.


On a micro level, aside from empowerment, I am a passionate advocate of strengths leveraging – be it individuals, teams, divisions, companies or products. That is the leveraging one’s strengths above anything else and managing over our weaknesses, as opposed to trying to improve what we are not. In practical terms that means looking at how we can be even better at where we shine. To me it’s the way we stand ahead of the crowd.

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