Climbing a mountain is certainly a wonderful accomplishment. But, what do you do once you reach the top? Randy Gravitt, CEO of InteGREAT Leadership, says the mountain metaphor is a great way to show businesses some much- needed perspective. “There’s an old Haitian proverb that says, ‘Beyond mountains, there are mountains.’ As a leader, you have a chance — with every accomplishment and each mountaintop reached — to gain a new perspective.” But, as any mountain climber knows, you can’t stay on top for too long. “There’s no air up there. You literally can’t breathe; or, to relate it to our leadership metaphor, you can’t stay in celebration mode forever. There will be new goals to reach, once you catch your breath again. There will always be mountains beyond mountains.”
Another thing both leaders and mountain climbers know? It’s tough to reach the top alone. It will take a team working together to help get you there. So, how do you — and your people — reach the top? Leadership, communication and participation are critical to the success of an organization, Gravitt says. “Your leadership, team and organization have to be on the same side of the rope. They must be pulling together against the competition — not against each other — toward the goals in order to make any progress.” Gravitt also advocates for elite levels of execution for all businesses and organizations: “It’s not that some teams are more blessed than others; there really are things you can do to take your execution to the next level.”
In order to do this, leaders must first know the goal of execution, which Gravitt defines as doing the right thing, the right way, every time. In other words, set the bar high and then try to exceed that threshold. However, Gravitt reminds business owners that this is the goal, not the expectation. He adds, “Let’s talk about expectation: It will crush you if you think any mistake is indicative of failure.” Instead, missteps are part of the inevitable path to high performance; however, the goal at the end of the road never changes.
What follows are Gravitt’s fundamentals for achieving this destination: doing the right thing, the right way, every time.
PURSUE MASTERY. When Kano Jigoro, the founder of judo, was on his deathbed, he reportedly asked his students to ensure he was buried in his white belt in order to be remembered as a white belt learner, not a black belt expert. Whether you’re a judo master or an individual contributor, the lesson here is the same: the best of the best continue to pursue mastery and strive to improve every day, Gravitt says. “Pursuing mastery is achieved when the desired behavior is persistently and perfectly done to the point where it becomes habitual,” he says. Mastery can be pursued in each and every task of the day, down to the friendliness in customer interactions. “When that friendly smile becomes second nature, then you can move on to something else,” says Gravitt. “But all the while, you’re pursuing ‘let’s get better!’” Gravitt reiterates that only when everyone on the team adopts a growth mindset can the team be positioned to win. Team members who already have this mentality should be highlighted to showcase to the rest of the group, while team members who are not pursuing mastery might not have a place for long. After all, complacency is what costs the business. Another key component to fueling a growth mindset within your team? Create an environment where people feel engaged and empowered. Gravitt says, “If we don’t have belief in our team, we should not be surprised when they’re struggling.”
OWN THE NUMBERS. “People love to keep score,” Gravitt says. Without a sense of measurement, it’s easy to confuse activity with accomplishment. Measurement encourages improvement and helps determine, resolve and avoid problems. But how do you go from knowing the score to owning the score? It starts with giving every person in the company a numerical and measurable goal. He says, “Every single person on your team needs to have a reason why they’re getting out of bed in the morning and coming and giving you their time.” Before you can give individuals numbers they must own, businesses must first determine what numbers matter when it comes to measuring success. He recommends letting team members have a say on what goal they want to work toward because a team member’s engagement level rises when they have the authority over owning their numbers. He says, “When you can get every single person to have something that works for their job, it really is amazing what can be achieved.”
HELP OTHERS WIN. While a general sense of teamwork is important, going above and beyond to help others win is the critical key to elite execution among teams. Gravitt shares the example of a technician who calls team members and asks how he can help them upon finishing his own route. This mindset is beneficial for all company positions and, Gravitt suggests, should be a part of every individual’s job description. It’s also a priority to seek during the hiring process. Other elements to building community involve encouraging all members to coach, challenge and celebrate each other as a team. Gravitt reminds leaders that some people on the team may not feel seen, heard or celebrated, so it is valuable to commemorate their successes. He says, “The leader’s voice is always the loudest voice. It’s important for us to use our voices to encourage the people on our team.”
FINAL THOUGHTS. There will always be mountains beyond mountains. And it’s OK to get stuck in the valley; in fact, being there can even bring new opportunities. “Stuff grows in the valley, and this is a good chance for you to recalibrate as you begin the pursuit of excellence,” Gravitt says. ?