Alexander Winifred Thursday, October 6, 2016
Since 1985, Dr Sa’id Adekunle Mikail, a financial consultant, has stayed away from water after his brother and some close friends drowned at sea in a tragic accident.
And yet, he recently found himself in a kayak, fighting fear and terrible memories, battling the waves off Lumut for six hours.
Tired and out of his depth, Sa’id had to face his self-doubt in a true “sink-or-swim” situation.
But, like most of the people who participated in Tun Razak Youth Leadership Award (TRYLA) programme’s special brand of life-experience ordeals, Sa’id was able to look back at the ordeal and recount it to fellow adventurers at the end of the course.
“Everyone knew what had happened to me, when I was told to get into the boat. I tried to stay back, but I knew I had to take the challenge. Towards the end of the exercise, I realised I could do it,” Sa’id told a hall full of executives who made up his coursemates.
Over five days in the coastal town of Lumut, executives like Sa’id who work at the International Shari’ah Research Academy for Islamic Finance had learnt to rope down cliffs, gone jungle trekking and of course, faced the sea in an adventure course designed to toughen them up.
For many, it was their first big step out of the air-conditioned office cubicles where they spend all their day, five days a week.
For Sa’id, kayaking in the open sea was something beyond his wildest dreams but the experience was invaluable, he said.
“The most important thing I learned here is that you have to be honest with yourself. Once you are honest with yourself, your honesty will draw others to trust you as they can see that you are sincere.
“You will gain a sense of belonging and commitment, a passion for what you are doing,” said Sa’id.
By exposing first-timers to the mercy of the sea and the perils of the jungle, TRYLA teaches young leaders how to thrive and survive in the wild outdoors, as well as negotiate the rigours of the corporate world.
Its organiser, The Malaysian Institute of Management (MIM), is on a mission to ensure the traits that TRYLA encourages including that of team spirit, leadership and initiative, are duplicated within the office walls of the participants’ corporation.
The exclusive programme is named after Malaysia’s second Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak, who was the president of the Outward Bound Trust Malaysia from 1957 to 1975.
The first TRYLA was held in 1993, and is open to selected young executives between the ages of 24 and 35 from all backgrounds and industries.
“Over the years, we have trained about a thousand young executives and managers through this programme,” said MIM CEO Sivanganam Rajaretnan.
“The activities in the TRYLA programme are designed to push participants to their limits, manage their emotions and in the process strengthen their mental fitness,” he added.
“Participants come out stronger as a person and the education they take back helps them respond better to the challenges and requirements of today’s working environment,” said Sivanganam.
This year’s TRYLA is the second time MIM has partnered with Outbound Bound Trust Malaysia to “incorporate the element of physical endurance” into the training programme, according to Sivanganam.
Over a million people from around the world have taken part in courses offered by the Outward Bound Trust, which has its roots in the British Empire.
Founded in 1941 by prominent educator Kurt Hahn and shipper Lawrence Holt, originally the trust was a Wales-based school for merchant seamen with a mission to develop skills of self-discovery, confidence, tenacity and perseverance.
Just over a decade later, in 1953 Sir Gerald Templer, High Commissioner of Malaya, secured funding from the Malaysian industry, banking and business leaders to start the Outward Bound School of Malaya.
“During our programmes, the instructors don’t challenge the participants, instead they need to fight against mother nature,” said Datuk Ismail Abdullah, a retired Royal Malaysian Navy First Admiral who now serves as Outward Bound Malaysia ED.
TRYLA’s activities push participants to appreciate the importance of staying healthy enough to make crucial decisions when facing tough situations, in addition to embracing the value of teamwork and trust.
“When you are in a kayak with another person, you must communicate, or you can’t move. You need to talk and work in unison. All these important elements will be brought back into the workplace,” said Ismail.
The vigorous outdoor activities help in developing a high performance culture, cultivating positivity, while also empowering participants to develop new relationships and professionalism.
“When you are physically fit, you are also mentally fit, which empowers you with the clarity to plan well and execute successfully,” said Sivanganam.
So popular has the programme become that each edition usually gets at least a thousand applications although less than a hundred candidates make it to the actual programme, due to a stringent vetting process.
To cater to surging demand from across the country, TRYLA will be held twice next year, for the first time, Sivanganam said.
For attendees, TRYLA is not only a chance to learn, but also an opportunity to make new connections and do something different.
Siemens Malaysia Sdn Bhd communications executive Simone Chung said she was drawn to the programme’s outdoor activities.
“I have been to indoor training programmes before, but never to outdoor ones such as this. Since this was an opportunity to join something exciting and it’s a new experience for me, I went for it,” said Simone.
“Here, I have had the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds, far-off states and working environments,” she added.
“Through the sharing sessions we had, I learned a lot about other experiences and cultures,” said Regal Pac Sdn Bhd mechanical engineer Wong Ming Shen, who works at a ship maintenance company based in Perak,
“It’s not easy to be a leader,” said Port Klang carpet manufacturer Sugihara Grand Industries Sdn Bhd production executive Mohd Salehuddin Idres.
For his efforts in leading a team of executives during the programme, Mohd Salehuddin received the TRYLAN of The Year award, an honour reserved for one deserving participant during each annual edition of the programme.
“I learned during this programme that in order to be united, you need support from your subordinates. The most important thing is to stay positive no matter what happens,” he added.
“We need to stick together and focus on what we want to achieve,” Mohd Salehuddin said. “At MIM, we believe leadership is relationship,” said Sivanganam.
“When you are tasked to climb a mountain, you can practise as much as you want, however, you will only be able to climb on that day when you have people who support your journey,” Sivanganam said.
“In the end, it is the entire team that climbs the mountain,” he added.