How to Lead People from Where They Are At

Photo by nappy on

If you have been following along, this is the 2nd Lesson from my 6 Leadership Lessons I Learned From Being Part of a Mountain Guiding Team. The first lesson was about how to lead so that others can truly follow.

It seemed natural to me to have the conversation flow from Lesson 1 into this one. Leading so that others can keep up and actually follow you requires you to understand who you are leading. You need to meet them where they are at.

Start by Getting to Know Your Team

It requires you to first get to know who you are leading. Learn about their likes and dislikes. Don’t just talk about yourself all the time. Ask them what they did over the weekend, share a cup of coffee or tea either in-person or virtually. That is usually a great way to gain some insight into the type of person they are and where their interests lie.

I have found when I get insight into the things that people do away from work, it helps me lead better. When you are able to exchange stories about your weekends it starts to build trust with the other person because they won’t just feel like you are all about the work.

I haven’t met very many people that want to go to work each day and feel like no one cares about life outside of work. If you work in this kind of environment chances are there is very little to no work:life harmony there. If I was in that environment, I would run. Find somewhere else to work.

Going back to the story on the mountain, we spent the entire time heading up to base camp talking to each other. Getting to know each other better, what our interests were outside of climbing mountains. We had about 4 miles of trail to walk, it was a perfect time to talk and enjoy learning more about each other.

Side note: If your organization is willing, taking a trip out into the mountains as a team can be very enlightening and eye opening. You learn so much about each other in those kinds of environments and build a deeper level of trust. If you need help figuring this out, reach out I’d be happy to help.

Building Trust Leads to Acceptance

I have found that the more I work on building rapport and trust with a person, the easier it becomes to accept situations as they are. I am much less likely to take things personally when work schedules are getting off track or timelines aren’t being met. Because the trust foundation is being built, you can have tough conversations in a way that everyone walks away feeling stronger.

So often we are only focused on checking a box and getting things done quickly. Taking a pause and thinking about the other people involved can actually have a much more positive effect than just powering though.

During our walk up to base camp, we learned that the team didn’t have a lot of experience traveling on snow and ice. We opted to take our time and adjust our plan slightly instead of being rigid.

Because we took the time to explain everything to the clients without any pressure to ‘get it’ quickly, we set ourselves up at a better chance for an enjoyable climb. Trying to force the team into learning snow skills quickly wouldn’t have been enjoyable for anyone.

How many times do we rush our teams to get things quickly so we can check a box?

Sometimes the best thing we can do for our teams is slow down and take a pause. Check in on how they are doing before focusing on getting the task done. Build rapport, accept the situation for what it is, and you’ll be surprised just how well things can go.

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