Go big or go home. That’s what we used to say to each other while climbing in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We pushed ourselves harder and harder every season. We were constantly trying to find our best on those boulders, cliff faces, and mountains.
I’m still trying to go big. Except now the mountains have become revenue goals, and the relentless desire to get to the top of the cliff has been refocused on some crazy new product. The game has changed, but the rules are the same.
One of the mandatory elements you have to have in climbing is trust. Trust in your partner. Trust in his abilities, his focus on your shared goal, and his commitment to always putting his partner’s safety first. Trust in your partner is sometimes all you have when your ten miles away from the nearest phone and on a 1000’ vertical rock face.
When you are trying to go big with a new business venture, it’s no different. You need your team to trust you. In order to make that crazy idea of yours work, you are going to have to take risks. To get other people to take risks with you, they have to trust you.
Not to mention that at some point along the way there will be challenges, obstacles, and some doubt. If you want the same team to come out of the valley that went in, you will have to establish trust with them.
You Have to Know Your Stuff
It takes a long time before I trust someone enough to go climb a big mountain together. There are countless days spent climbing smaller cliffs and getting to know each other before we talk about bigger objectives. During that time I am constantly evaluating my potential partner’s abilities, physical strength, and general climbing know-how.
In the same way you have to prove your abilities to your team. Do you know your product inside and out? Can the team trust that you know how to succeed? Are they confident that you know where you are going and know how you are going to get there?
You Have to Behave in Ways That Your Team Values
I still love to climb as much as I ever did, but these days I am much more conservative in my climbing ambitions. That has a lot to do with having a wife and two kids. So now I look for partners who share my commitment to coming home safe and sound every single time. If a potential partner has a flair for misadventures and sketchy situations, I will likely pass on a climbing invitation. It was not always this way, but those are my current climbing values.
As a leader you need to act in a way that is consistent with your teams values. This is about having integrity. Hopefully you have done a good job building a team that shares your principles and values. Even if this is not the case, you have to practice what you preach at a minimum. You can’t establish trust if you can’t at least maintain and act out your own value system.
You have to care about your team
You can’t fake this one. If you try and be a leader who says he cares about his team but thinks about them only as assets to be leveraged, you won’t be fooling anyone. Your team will see right through your charade and they won’t trust you because of it.
This has everything to do with understanding your team’s challenges, frustrations, and fears. To get to a point where you actually can empathize with your team you have to be an active listener. You have to intentionally set aside time to talk to them and understand their points of views. Then you have to act on what you learn. Work to remove obstacles and challenges that you can control. For those you can’t control, acknowledge their existence and show your employees that you understand their frustrations.
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