How A Trip to the Top of Kilimanjaro Helped Me Get a G.R.I.P

Conquering Our Mountain: 

When I applied for the “Conquer Kili” adventure with the Chris Long Foundation, I wasn’t quite able to put my finger on why I wanted to climb Kilimanjaro, but I just knew I was being drawn to do this journey.

I learned a lot on this trip about myself. Many of my weaknesses were exposed. I observed some incredible people who had traits and values I needed to incorporate or strengthen. And as I reflected, many of these qualities can and should be integrated into our business values. Far too often, our personal needs and feelings overtake the company’s mission. And in today’s climate, which is increasingly complex and fast-paced, getting our team aligned to “Conquer Our Mountain” is critical. Here is the G.R.I.P. model to help get our team aligned:

Get Uncomfortable:

I was too comfortable in my life. Physically I was getting by. Which meant that mentally I wasn’t pushing myself. Which meant I lacked discipline. Comfort is addictive. In our work environment, we have to try things that are new and often uncomfortable. So, how can we make that happen? Here are some suggestions: 

  • Set a big public goal: When we declare something to others, that adds motivation to hit the goal. Yes, shame is a great motivator. 
  • Get an accountability partner: Teams can always achieve more than individuals. We can push and learn from one another and pick someone up when we need that little push. 
  • Build new habits: Whether it’s getting up earlier or self-educating, we have to learn to do things differently, and it takes time. 
  • Say Yes: Fear gets in our way. A lot. Sometimes, we have to recognize that our thoughts and past experiences inhibit our ability to grow in our job. We just gotta say yes. 

Relearn and Learn: 

If someone asked, “hey, do you know how to walk, breathe and eat”…you may look at them sort of funny. But that’s exactly what I had to do for high altitude hiking. And sometimes, this is what we need to do at work to see if we can make improvements. Here’s how: 

  • Re-examine your tasks: The old saying of “we’ve always done it this way” needs to be disposed of immediately. The best way to start is to list all of the tasks that you or your team do. 
  • Identify Areas of Improvement: After you identify the tasks, we are going to look to see glaring areas that haven’t been addressed in a while and can be improved. 
  • Collaboratively Improve: Dominant personalities tend to skip this step. But getting input from the team will not only get better ideas, but will also lead to buy-in and faster implementation. By slowing it down, you are actually speeding it up. “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast”.
  • Methodologies: Once you’ve laid out the step-by-step process, and identified the right software and systems to execute the improved process, methodologies will need to be developed that can be trained and reienforced. 

Initiate: 

On summit night, we woke up at 11pm, and started up from 15,000 feet to reach 19,341 feet. It’s 8 degrees, high winds, and it will take eight (8) hours for us to summit. We are taking one small step at a time to minimize energy expenditure while focusing on the shoes in front of us, and taking deep nose breaths to maximize oxygen intake. What does this have to do with business? 

  • Do the little things: Do you ever walk into a bank and the teller smiles at you and offers your kid a lollipop? It’s the little things that we do that help take our business from good to great.
  • Take small steps…daily: Life, and thus work, can sometimes be a grind. However, when we focus on the task in front of us, and focus on smaller tasks that lead to larger accomplishments, we are no longer overwhelmed. And those small steps lead to great accomplishments. 
  • Lead by example: As we are hiking up, former Army Ranger Shane Harris picked up some garbage. We observed, and without a spoken word, we all started to pick up garbage that was left behind. He led by example. 

Put People First:

When I signed up to climb Kilimanjaro, I thought this was about climbing a mountain. This trip was really about people. The people who supported me to get there with donations, hiking buddies, family support and even just interest. Or the guides and porters who led us up, carried our equipment and supported us as we were grinding on the summit. And, our team of eleven relative strangers who came together and encouraged one another. It took a team to climb this mountain. 

  • Consider your actions: Everything we do and say matters. What message are we sending to our peers, our boss and our team with our actions and words? 
  • Servant leadership: As a young Army officer, I had the perception that my job was to be “in charge” and tell people what to do. Well, sometimes that is the role of a leader, but most of the time it’s helping people maximize their potential and lead them to what is possible that they previously thought was impossible. 
  • Gratitude cures frustration: After some previous life hardships, I worried. A lot. I suddenly found myself gripping my steering wheel really tight all the time. Then a friend posted a comment about gratitude. I started being deliberate in having gratitude for the countless blessings I’ve been given. It changed my life. I stopped worrying and started enjoying my situation, no matter how challenging it may be. Bring that gratitude to work. 

This journey that we took started on the day that I applied, not on the day we started hiking. Early morning runs in the winter and discussions on the clean water challenges that Tanzanians face are just as important as those steps on Kilimanjaro. Part of this process was for me to learn about myself, about trusting my team, about communication, about following the leaders in charge and making a difference. It was about Getting Uncomfortable. It was about Relearning what I thought I knew. It was about Initiating action. It was about Putting other People First. This change in action and mindset, implementing G.R.I.P. helped us Conquer Our Mountain. 

Connect with Velocity on LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/company/velocity-advisory-group

Want to read more from Joe Witte?

https://www.velocityadvisorygroup.com/adjusting-to-a-new-role/

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