Organizational leaders can apply six readiness principles, exhibited by successful Kilimanjaro climbers, to achieve success. A previous article highlighted the first three: First, start with a purpose; secondly, define reasons why the journey is worthwhile; and thirdly, adopt a readiness mindset. People who have a clear sense of why they are doing their work, completing a project or climbing a mountain are more effective and efficient in everything they do. You cannot afford to move forward if you don’t adopt these three basic elements.
Here are the final three principles.
4. Choose Your Execution Path Carefully
Beware of the shortest and easiest path.
Research shows that people who opt for an eight-day climb have the highest rate of success, at 85 percent. This success rate decreases to 64 percent for seven-day climbs, 44 percent for six-day climbs and 27 percent for a five-day route. Despite this data, most climbers are still attracted to the five-day path, because it’s the shortest and easiest. It’s also the most established, with structured camping sites that cater for all basic needs. So, why do only a quarter of people on this route successfully reach the peak?
The answer to this question has a lot to do with how execution works. The eight-day route is not a straight-line climb. It’s a three steps forward, one step backward process – you climb to 1,500 meters, only to spend the night at 1,000 meters, and then push another 1,500 meters the following day and sleep at 2,000.
This process addresses two key areas required for success: adjusting to altitude and mastering your fitness. It’s important to acclimatize yourself, your team and your organization to reach your goal – to be driven by strategy, not speed.
5. Appreciate and Trust the Process
Regardless of which route climbers choose, one of the keys to success is maintaining a consistent tempo. Sometimes, it’s slow, and they may be tempted to go faster. Opting for speed alone is dangerous; in fact, the corporate world is full of success myths associated with speed, even when research proves otherwise. Despite being a self-described “pre-crastinator,” psychologist Adam Grant says that people who slow down — and even procrastinate — “tend to be more creative, original thinkers.”
It’s not speed but the level of trust that enables us to reach our destination safely and on time. Daily collaborative effort is key to achieving results and serves as a foundation for every successful climb – but trust is the glue that holds it all together. As Stephen M.R. Covey says, “Trust is the new currency of our interdependent, collaborative world.”
When in your version of Kilimanjaro, trust the process, and listen to a leader or guide who has climbed the mountain over and over again and knows how to successfully lead everyone to the top. Covey says that “trust is the most overlooked, misunderstood and underused asset to enable performance. Its impact, for good or bad, is dramatic and pervasive.” It’s also the one thing that can dramatically increase your personal and professional success.
It’s difficult to maintain a passionate mindset over the entire eight to 12 days it takes to reach the top. How can you continue to trust the process even when the climb becomes unbearable? According to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, being able to enjoy the process (not just the end goal) is the main way to achieve a state of flow or momentum.
6. Achievement Is Never for the Individual but for the Whole Team
Individual contribution is essential, but it’s teamwork that allows you to reach the peak – whether it’s Kilimanjaro, corporate success or a community initiative. Basketball legend Michael Jordan slam-dunks this point: “Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships.”
One climber put it simply: “You don’t climb Kilimanjaro alone; you don’t reach the peak alone. I thought I knew myself and my lifelong friends, but I didn’t; it was during the course of the journey that we became a real team – we can conquer anything now.”
“The value of a high-performing team has long been recognized,” write Scott Keller and Mary Meaney for McKinsey. “It’s why savvy investors in start-ups often value the quality of the team and the interaction of the founding members more than the idea itself. It’s why 90 percent of investors think the quality of the management team is the single most important nonfinancial factor when evaluating an IPO.”
No one travels to the peak alone, and no team reaches the peak without a deliberate approach to achieve the goal sustainably. No matter how much effort you put in at the outset to develop the right strategies, it’s the right mix of skills, tools and attitudes – along with the right readiness principles – that will allow your team to excel. When implemented well, these readiness principles will allow you to make successful predictions and reverse previously failed strategy execution.
Remember that real achievement is a reward meant for the whole team, never for the individual leader. It’s 2019, and most organizations still heavily reward the contribution of the individual. We have enough evidence to balance the individual and team contribution, especially when the objective is to achieve sustainable results.