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Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

In the dynamic world of business, where rapid decision-making, seamless collaboration, and innovative strategies are critical, effective communication is essential. Yet, we find that even in the most successful corporations, communication breakdowns can become a regular occurrence, leading to misaligned goals, misinterpreted strategies, and missed opportunities. In this series, we are talking to CEOs, COOs, CTOs, and other C-Suite leaders, to discuss what leads to communication breakdowns, and more importantly, how they can be avoided. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Tim Walther.

TIM WALTHER is an Adventurer, Trainer, Coach, Inspirational Speaker and Author. For more than 25 years, Tim has used his passion of applying adventure psychology and experiences to the business context while living a life of extreme adventure. Founder of Grand Dynamics International, he uses experiential learning and adventure as a medium to bring out the best in leaders and teams. He has written and co-authored several books and published articles about leadership development and adventure, including his most recent best selling book titled, ALL IN Adventure Stories: The Bold Pursuit of Your Potential. He has also been featured in The New York Times, Delta Sky Magazine, Fox Sports News, Climbing Magazine, Outside Magazine, and The Voice of America, where his training programs have been featured in 156 countries worldwide.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about communication, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

The evolution of my career came began with studying Applied Psychology at Ithaca College. During summer break I went to visit my brother in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and was introduced to the mountain town culture, and the lifestyle of creating adventure experiences on a daily basis. On one mountain climb in particular, the CMC route on the massive Mount Moran, I had a satori — what some would call as a flash of enlightenment — that my calling was to somehow combine adventure experiences with the business world.

The intersection of adventure and studying business, psychology and corporate communications was the genesis of what would become Grand Dynamics, and experiential training and development company. The emphasis was on delivering a different way to develop leaders and teams through creating experiences and applying the lessons learned from them. I furthered this career path by achieving a Masters in Experiential Education, working with multiple consulting companies and ultimately starting my company 25 years ago.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our people. Our team of contractors is comprised of the most incredible people that I know and am proud to do business with. The people who deliver our events include highly accomplished adventure athletes, exceptional business leaders and entrepreneurs, outdoor guides and experiential educators, and elite military special forces leaders. For example, our Thailand Cave Rescue event is led by an exceptional group who facilitated the greatest rescue in history.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Create value, customer-centered and cutting edge.

Create Value: Above all we must create value for our clients by ensuring that they will have a significant return on investment for the time, energy and money when leaders commit to an off-site event, multi-day retreat, team and leadership program, or training and development experience. This is where the relationship begins.

Customer Centered: The value must always delivered by thinking about the participant experience first, while aligning with the mission of the organization that employs them.

Cutting Edge: The cutting edge is where the uniqueness of the experience creates the positive lasting impact.

All of these take form with a drive for excellence in everything I do while taking these three elements into consideration.

The experiences we create are always meticulously planned to fully engage the participants in very unique ways. I have focused relentlessly on continuous innovation to be the leader in our industry, through creating experiences that have never been done before. One example is the creation of our Mountain Seminar, which is a very unique experience that engages participants in the concept of climbing a mountain and relating it to the mountains that they climb together at work. This event can take place inside our outside. The outdoor experience involves carefully crafted nature-based challenge experiences that take place at resorts, nearby parks or wilderness areas.

Our indoor events involve bringing a nature based outdoor experience inside to the conference room! During this unique experience, we leverage special effects to recreate mountain elements like high winds, fog, challenging weather and more to create an immersive and powerful experience. Here’s an example!

Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader? I’m curious to understand how these challenges have shaped your leadership.

One story is of a competitive team event delivered by our company, Grand Dynamics, to a group of high-performing participants. The leader who hired me asked me to “fudge” the results of the competition. This person wanted to win and have everyone else believe that their team had outperformed the rest of the group. While this isn’t necessarily a situation with two good paths, it would have been easy to award the VIP client with the win, as no-one else would have known the difference. Not going along with the VIP meant the risk of losing the client, however, there was a bigger lesson for the leader of this group to consider. I chose to deliver the true results of the competition. That decision opened up a moment of contemplation and a valuable discussion about the purpose of the exercise and core elements of leadership. Our discussion included the purpose of competition, including the fact that the origin of the word means is to raise each other up, not to pretend, or prove, that someone is above everyone else.

We often hear words like, “act with integrity” and it is important to consider the bigger impact of our actions.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic question. Why is communication within an organization so essential? Can you recall a specific situation where effective communication within your organization led to a significant breakthrough or success?

Ask anyone what is most important in a relationship — at home or work — and the answer inevitably will be “communication.” We work with many leaders at the top of their fields, and at this level technical ability is never the limiting factor — communication always is. So if people want to be truly exceptional leaders and create exceptional teams, then communication is the key. Effective communication is the foundation of every interaction and the concept is so broad that it requires breaking it down into many components. We can talk about the importance of one on one communication, establishing role clarity, public speaking, motivating others, adapting our communication to our audience, and many other aspects. We cover all of these and more in our trainings.

At Grand Dynamics, the success of every training and event we deliver is based upon clarity of the goal and roles, interpersonal interactions and an efficient process to deliver the end result.

One of more most recent event themes is the Thailand Cave Rescue. We have delivered this event in various iterations in for YPO Groups, in-tact corporate teams and for large group conference attendees. The events have taken place outside, in actual caves and we have even transformed entire hotels into a cave environment. What is behind these experiences is the communication that is required during an actual mission. In this case, it was the mission to rescue, and save the lives of the 12 boys and their soccer coach from the cave in Thailand. There are many facets to the critical communication that facilitated the rescue. One of them that led to the breakthrough of the rescue taking place, was when one of our team members facilitated the communication between the leaders of the Thai government, US Military PJ Rescue team, and the elite rescue team of divers. The story of what happened behind the scenes is nothing short of remarkable. This example highlights the importance of understanding cultural differences, breaking down silos, moving beyond ego, and above all, effectively communicating to accomplish a mission.

You can learn more about these events and the examples of these programs here:

Is there such a thing as over-communication? Have you ever faced any challenges or backlash due to over-communication, and how did you address it?

Yes. Too many meetings is the easiest example. When organizing a meeting, the first question is, “Is it necessary?” The second question, assuming it is necessary, is “Is it necessary for those invited to attend.” The last part of effective meetings is having clarity of the purpose and outcome of the meeting, then facilitating it efficiently.

How do you strike the balance between over-communication and under-communication within the organization? What guiding principles do you follow?

This is largely related to the roles of individuals in the organization that play out within a given context of the task at hand. Clarify the roles and responsibilities, then deciding on the mechanisms of communication to follow it through. In order to make it happen, someone needs to own the process.

The key here is to have clear goals, roles and responsibilities combined with an agreed-upon process for action. It’s not hard or complicated, but consistency is key. These simple elements are where the majority of teams fail. We find that if teams follow these basic rules, then much of the over / under communication issues take care of themselves. Clarify the Goal: Make sure that the goal is clear and that everyone is in agreement on supporting the pursuit of that goal, even if they don’t 100% agree with it. The lack of commitment to achieving the goal is often where problems get created. If you don’t have buy-in from some of the team members, they may be undermining the process, creating lots of problems and unnecessary communication.

  1. Clarify the Roles and Responsibilities: Who is responsible for what by when. Oftentimes this is not defined upfront and the lack of clarity here also creates lots of frustration and the need for additional meetings and communication.
  2. Clarify the Process: What systems and processes will your team use to track and report on progress, so that everything is transparent and that all the necessary information can be accessed by all those who need it?

Ultimately, these processes must be driven by the leaders of the organization. One notable leadership event was for one of our favorite clients, Encore. Encore is an event production company that delivers events that transform through creative, production and technology services. Their service for every kind of event you can imagine is requires often highly complex and time sensitive communication. The theme of their leadership meeting was “Own It.” Owning it means that you are the leader taking responsibility for the process of effective communication to execute on the deliverable all the way through completion. And it’s this type of responsibility that leads to the successful execution of complex events for the customer.

The rise of hybrid work has brought new communication dynamics. How have you found this shift affecting communication within your organization, and what innovative methods have you implemented to adapt?

Given the breadth of locations where we have our event staff, we have worked in a hybrid environment long before Covid. What we have learned is that while we can (and should) do a lot to improve on-line meetings and collaboration, nothing ultimately replaces in-person interactions. We know this from the work that we do with clients, and also from managing our own team.

We highly value in-person connections through company retreats and off-sites. When our team delivers events for clients, we schedule additional time together for our own staff to focus on our internal relationships and connections that strengthen our organization. When we meet virtually, we have a wide variety of fun and engaging elements that focus on connection before the content. This proactive time creates lasting value in how our team operates together by keeping our relationships positive, solution-focused and efficient.

A few specific suggestions:

Making sure everyone has their video turned on and is focused on the conversation at hand is one simple, but critical element of video meetings with multiple people.

In our on-line meetings, we might start with a fun icebreaker that helps to loosen up the participants.

Also, nothing replaces a sincere conversation about how someone is doing and the challenges they may be facing.

In an era of specialized roles and departments, how do you ensure that different parts of the organization are not working in silos, and what mechanisms encourage cross-functional dialogue? Similarly, how do you maintain a sense of unity and shared purpose among teams in a hybrid work environment?

The breakdown of “Silos” represents one of the greatest opportunities for leverage in an organization. This concept is largely a function of the culture of the organization. Relationships form the foundation for how, why and when individuals reach out to each other to share best practices, and for help or advice when solving problems. Unity and shared purpose is driven by the leadership who communicate the values of the organization and how the teams each relate to the mission. One way that companies effectively deal with the lack of communication between silos is to do an event that gets teams to work together in fun and unique ways that both builds the relationships between people in positive ways AND teaches effective communication and leadership skills. This is one of the main areas of focus of our corporate events.

One specific event that we offer is our Team Expedition — Better, Faster, Smarter edition. In this team challenge, multiple teams complete unique challenges simultaneously for three or more rounds. In between these rounds, participants meet with other team members who have already completed a challenge that they will be required to complete. The goal during this meeting is to share best practices and strategies for how to accomplish the task they have already completed — better, faster and smarter. What participants discover experientially, is that the sharing of information and best practices leads to increased productivity and efficiency in solving the problems at hand. The results, based on time and outcomes, provide the proof that breaking down silos, reaching out to each other and sharing information and strategies, lead to greater team and organizational success.

TIM WALTHER is an Adventurer, Trainer, Coach, Inspirational Speaker and Author. For more than 25 years, Tim has used his passion of applying adventure psychology and experiences to the business context while living a life of extreme adventure. Founder of Grand Dynamics International, he uses experiential learning and adventure as a medium to bring out the best in leaders and teams. He has written and co-authored several books and published articles about leadership development and adventure, including his most recent best selling book titled, ALL IN Adventure Stories: The Bold Pursuit of Your Potential. He has also been featured in The New York Times, Delta Sky Magazine, Fox Sports News, Climbing Magazine, Outside Magazine, and The Voice of America, where his training programs have been featured in 156 countries worldwide.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Most Common Communication Breakdowns In Corporations And How To Avoid Them”?

Communication breakdown #1: Lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities.

I’ll begin with a little story about clarity of roles and responsibilities. This story is about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.

Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

This simple story exemplifies the necessity for the clarity of roles and responsibilities, and the frustration and lack of task completion that may come from a lack of communicating these elements in advance.

Communication breakdown #2: Too many Unspoken and Unmet Expectations.

Research has shown that the people leave people because of unspoken, unmet expectations. Imagine, the person who is irritated, bothered or upset about something, but doesn’t communicate it. The holding of frustration or resentment leads to behaviors of disengagement, or event sabotage. Therefore, the primary question, as a leader of a team or organization, is “How might you go about reducing unspoken, unmet expectations held by people in the organization?” In a word, communication. Here is the framework for better understanding expectations.

Managing Expectations: The Goal: Reducing the amount of Unspoken and Unmet expectations.

Spoken and Met

Unspoken and Met

Spoken and Unmet

Unspoken and Unmet

Think about how to create an environment and the actions that will reduce unspoken, unmet expectations? The leader who seeks feedback, the actions that create a trust among team members are just a couple to get you started.

Communication breakdown #3: Not tailoring communication to the behavioral style of the audience.

Behavior Styles: Research shows that people have uniquef individual behavioral styles, and that each style has a natural tendency to communicate in a particular way. If we want to connect with people and influence them in a positive way, we must realize that people are different and have different preferences for communication. The differentstyles are: Dominance (What: Task, Outcome, Results Focus), Influence (Who: People, Fun, Relationship Focus), Steadiness (How: Process, Planning Focus) and Conscientiousness (Why: Measurement, Detail, Analytic Focus). When we communicate, we must do so in a way that addresses the primary needs of the individual we are communicating with. When we are communicating to a group, we must understand that all four primary styles will need to be addressed.

We train teams to learn and adapt to these different communication styles in our Action Seminars, retreats and team events.

Communication breakdown #4: Assuming that others want to be treated the way you do.

You are likely familiar with the “Golden Rule,” which states, “Do unto others, as you would have them to unto you.” In other words, treat others the way you would want to be treated. The issue with this rule is that, quite simply, others may not want to be treated the way you want to be treated. An different way to look at this rule is called the “Platinum Rule,” which states “Do unto others as they would want to be done to them.” Treat others the way they want to be treated, not how you want to be treated. This subtle, yet very important difference, challenges us to think about what is most important to others, versus ourselves.

Communication breakdown #5: Keeping silent about a problem because you don’t want to upset others.

I’ll share this idea in an adventure context. A majority of my life outside of work has been spent pushing my limits in various adventure pursuits. You can read about several of these in my new book, ALL IN Adventure Stories: The Bold Pursuit of Your Potential ( In these stories, the element of communication is showcased in a variety of life and death situations. There’s no room for NOT communicating when there is something that is felt or observed, that may have an impact on the safety of an adventure. That same idea rolls over into our adventure programming for corporate retreats or events. Our team is constantly seeking feedback, double checking and overcommunicating as the consequences of any potential mishap become more and more important.

When it comes to internal corporate communication, speaking up when we are uncomfortable can lead to breakthroughs in how we do business together. It can also reduce the frustration and lack of information sharing that can ultimately erode a culture and the organization itself. This, in a nutshell, was at the foundation of what happened with the demise of Enron. To facilitate this kind of communication, leaders must create an environment where it is safe to disagree with the group and even the leader of the group.

What role do you see for yourself as a leader in fostering a climate where employees at all levels feel comfortable voicing their opinions and concerns? Can you share an example where this openness led to a positive change?

It’s the role of the leader to ask for feedback and model the way as an example for continuous improvement. There are many ways to do this. Modeling in group conversations, personal outreach and tools like 360 degree assessments are a few. Once we get the feedback, we thank those providing it, acknowledge the suggestions, and take action to improve ourselves. This focus on growth is one critical key to the ever-evolving organization. Another element is the overall climate of how emotional intelligence is observed in day to day interactions. For example, facial expressions, body language and tone of voice send subtle and not so subtle cues about whether or not the information is wanted or encouraged. Attention to these elements of communication is an easily overlooked part of creating an environment where people feel comfortable voicing their opinions.

Navigating the complex terrain of corporate communication must certainly present unique challenges. As a C-suite leader, what thoughts or concerns, related to this or otherwise, often keep you awake at night? How do these influence your approach to leadership?

As someone who likes to take on big goals, be it ice climbing the Grand Teton, Swimming 20 miles across frigid lakes, or holding my breath for 5 minutes to go deep water spearfishing, I can get pretty outcome focused. There are certain goals that we need to attain to keep our businesses running and growing ns it is the vision that provides the inspiration for the aspirational goal. However, I’ve learned over the years that, it can pay off, often in unexpected ways, to adopt the attitude that “the journey is the destination.” It’s not that the goals aren’t important, but if we focus too much on them, we tend to increase our anxiety, damage relationships, damage our health and sabotage our long term success. However, when combine good planning with a focus on the journey itself, we tend to live more in a space of flow, happiness and creativity, which naturally takes us to our goals, and often beyond what we ever dreamed might be possible. In the end, it is the process that matters most. It is being present while we focus on the moment to moment actions that provides the state of flow, optimal performance, and have the greatest impact our desired outcomes.

Can you share a piece of feedback or advice you received that significantly altered your leadership approach or philosophy?

People support what they create. Involve people by asking for input and feedback, even if they are not directly involved in the ultimate decision being made. This will lead to people feeling heard, and ultimately engaging in the support of the directive.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Living an ALL IN life. The BOLD PURSUIT of our Potential is the act of living with COURAGE to take action and live the life we want to create. What percentage of our potential are we living, and how do we bridge that gap?

At the end of your life, you will reflect back on how you have lived. Will you have regrets? The most common regrets are filled with a lack of courage to live a certain way. Making the choice to follow our dreams, not someone else’s. More time with loved ones, more shared experiences in life, more alignment with our values. What’s most important to you in life? Clarify your values, summon the courage to follow your dreams and go ALL IN to live them. You can find out more about these concepts in my recently released book, ALL IN Adventure Stories: The Bold Pursuit of Your Potential ( ).

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Those interested in corporate events, training, retreats, speakers or experiences can find our more or sign up for our newsletter at Individuals can find our more about my book, online courses and adventure retreats at

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.