With a moniker like Antarctic Mike, it’s not surprising that Mike Pierce is an avid fan of polar expedition history.
He’s also an endurance athlete, and among an elite group who has competed in Antarctica.
“In 2006 I took two trips to Antarctica to run multiple marathons and a 100km ultramarathon. To prepare, I trained in a commercial cold storage facility in San Diego for two years,” said Pierce, who shared his story at the UMA Motorcoach EXPO in Long Beach, California, as the event’s keynote speaker on Friday, Feb. 25.
In doing those races, he became one of nine people to run the first Antarctic Ice Marathon and the first American to run the Antarctic 100k, a grueling 62 miles on an ice shelf 600 miles from the South Pole.
So why does someone who lives in the sunshine of Southern California seek out one of the coldest places in the world to push himself physically and mentally?
Connecting Antarctic pioneers and business recruiting
His reason, he says, is to follow in the footsteps of his hero, Ernest Shackleton, and the polar pioneers. He has discovered that the connection between their expeditions and the world of business is amazingly close, and what he has learned during his performances informs his work with organizations that want to find, engage and keep the best performers.
Pierce started in the recruiting business in 1997, working to show managers and leaders exactly how to identify and recruit the best people.
He now speaks across the US and Canada to executive teams, organizations, associations and sales teams about how to lead people so they are fully engaged in what they do.
His flagship program, Leading at 90 Below Zero, connects the drivers and principles of Antarctic expedition history stories to the real world of finding, engaging and keeping great people in today’s business world.
Follow the penguins
“People think in pictures, not words,” he says. “That is why I use photos, video and stories – because the likelihood of you remembering and using what you learn goes up dramatically.”
He shares his insights in what he describes as The Penguin Principles, which uses his Antarctic experience to teach how to build and maintain the strongest, best-performing team. His presentation gives attendees specific action items to take back to their businesses and put into play immediately.
“The Emperor Penguins are the only creatures that can survive in the harsh climate of Antarctica,” Pierce says. “Even though they’re swimmers, they spend most of their life on land marching, and not alone. Their success and survival depends on teamwork, sacrifice, sharing of difficult responsibilities and a number of other factors that are easy to understand and hard to execute when in the midst of a winter storm.”