One Easy Way to Encourage Your Team

I took my bike to the cycling shop for a quick repair before heading out for a beautiful Saturday afternoon ride in Breckenridge. Recognizing me from the last time, the manager asked where I’d been riding so far this summer. I shared, “Oh you know Swan Mountain Road toward Keystone? It’s gorgeous, but yikes, that’s quite a hill.”

He laughed. “Karin, it’s okay to call a mountain a mountain. And that ride is definitely a mountain. If you can do that, you can ride just about anything around here.”

I thanked him for the encouragement and headed out on my ride. About 10 minutes in I had a choice…to head straight up the steep incline or take an easier route. “Hmmm…” I thought. “This is a mountain. But I do mountains.” And up I went.

It’s Okay to Call a Mountain a Mountain

When we do keynotes for companies, we always like to talk to a few of the Senior leaders as part of the preparation. Consistently one of the insights they share is, “Our team’s job is so hard! We’re asking them to do a great deal with limited resources, in a rapidly changing environment.” Or, “They’re working so hard, this is one of the toughest times our industry has ever seen.” Or “I’m so proud of this team. What we’ve asked them to do is nearly impossible, and somehow they’re making it happen.”

So then we’ll ask, “Have you told them you know how hard it is?”

Most frequent answer, “Oh, no! I don’t want to discourage them.” Or, “If I admit it’s hard, then they may think it’s okay to not accomplish it.”

And then we’ll inquire: “Is it okay if I let them know you know? Here’s why _______.”

And then from the stage we share, “We talked with ‘John’ in preparing for our time together. And here’s what we learned. Your job is hard! You have to do ___ and ____ without ___ and ___ in the context of _____.”

And a sense of relief falls over the room. There are always big smiles and sometimes applause. Not for us, but because “John” gets it.

Don’t be afraid to call a mountain a mountain.

If your team is facing a steep climb, recognize it. And then remind them of the mountains they’ve scaled before and why you know they’ll be successful.

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Posted in Communication, Energy & Engagement and tagged , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

8 Comments

  1. Another gem, Karin! I am in the middle of a mountain and I reframe it as something like a hill. I am “in between jobs.” The reality is that this mountain is significant and there is no way around it other than put in hard work and keep pedaling. What that means is put in a full day at the office with resumes and connecting. Write meaningful cover letters. Connect with former colleagues and friends. If I were to treat job transition as anything else, I don’t know if I would ever grow the courage to climb it the right way!

  2. I smiled as I read this because every one of the presentations I’ve made recently has addressed the issue of “How to survive in constantly changing environments.” It’s sort of the issue of the decade…I love your thoughts here, Karin! Just call it as it is…it isn’t going to get better, so how can we prepare people to keep moving ahead? Meeting the issue head on is the first place to start…

    • We were just having a conversation with someone who said that one of the most amazing things anyone ever told them was, “Yes, this is incredibly difficult – and you can do it.” The first brings credibility, the second, confidence. Powerful!

  3. LaRae, Thanks so much. I’m with you… the pace of change is accelerating in almost every industry and the stakes are higher than ever before. Talking about that candidly can make all the difference.

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