5 for 5 blog – To the Mountain Climbers

23 Nov


With Thanksgiving upon us in the US, I was thinking over this past weekend of the many things I am thankful for. And while leaders often comment that they stand on the shoulder of giants, my thoughts have drifted back to teams I have led in the past. Because while no doubt every leader has other leaders to thank for the investment they have made in their careers, it is the people that we have led that put their faith into us and joined us tackling huge challenges, and climbing mountains if you will.

Last Friday, I happened to receive a note from a team that I had led recently that is located in Penang, Malaysia. So as a way of writing back, I wanted to share this letter to them and all of the teams I have been blessed to lead:

To the Mountain Climbers,

Good morning. Thank you so much for the email you sent last week. It has been too long.

You may not realize it, but I think about the team all the time. I think about the many trips for meetings (and getting dropped off at the airport early). I think about preparing strategies and ops review slides. And I think about economy rice…a lot.

But mostly, I think about the challenges we faced…together. During our time together we dealt with a financial crisis, the impact of tsunamis and floods, supplier insolvency, and several challenges where there was no playbook for us to reference and certainly no clear answer. Each of these I equate in my mind to a mountain.

Many people stand at the foot of a mountain and turn away thinking that there is no way to climb it, even if there is a better place on the other side. There are a thousand people who can stand there and point at the mountain and say how difficult it will be. But it takes a team that believe in the purpose of what must be done to set out and climb.

Sometimes, the bravest thing you can do at the foot of the mountain, is take one step forward. And then another. Trying to maintain your footing but always moving. Climbing involves so much risk and uncertainty, you need people with you. There were many times in the midst of our challenges that I didn’t know where to step next or which move was right, and you would offer an idea, a thought that re-sharpened our focus. Teams making climbing mountains possible and bearable. Thank you for believing in me during those many challenges. When you look up the mountain and all you see if fog, it is inviting to turn around and head back down. But as a team, I knew anything was possible.

It seems odd as I am writing this note to think though that you are not “My” team any more. As so often happens, when our paths change, we become part of a new team. You would like my team, they are just like you: hard working, committed to making a difference and serving a purpose above our organization, and looking out for one another as one team. They ask great questions and share new ideas. They are mountain climbers too…and we have many ahead.

With Thanksgiving this week, I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for having the faith to climb mountains with me. I would not be where I am on my leadership journey without you all. So please keep climbing, and I will too. May be we will meet on a summit one day. And if we do, please bring the economy rice.

All the best….always, Kevin

Here are this week’s 5 for 5 articles:

How To Build A Culture Of Listening – by Karin Hurt – via Fast Company

Learning’s Not as Important as You Think – by Carol Leaman – via Chief Learning Officer

Saying vs. doing – by Seth Godin – via @thisissethsblog

The Single Best Thing You Can Do to Make Better Choices – by Mira Zaslove – via Quora (and INC)

What Leadership Looks Like – by Stuart Crainer – via Thinkers 50

All the best, kevin