“We’ve got a mountain to climb” is one of those phrases which is often applied to workplace or leadership challenges, and while we can probably all imagine the difficulties involved in climbing a mountain, far fewer of us have actually experienced it for ourselves. However, after a recent mountain climbing adventure with my sons, I can safely say that there were many parallels with some of the business and leadership challenges I’ve faced in my career.

A positive start

When we stand at the foot of a mountain, whether literally or metaphorically, we’re usually full of ambition. There may be some trepidation, but in my experience it’s a positive feeling of anticipation, determination and excitement. And so it was last week. The idea to go on the climb came from Dominic, and Paul, Benjamin and I were looking forward to joining him. We were to set out as part of a group at 2am, timed so we’d reach the summit at sunrise. This particular mountain was 400m higher than Ben Nevis and it promised to be a memorable experience.

The difficult middle

In business, it’s often when the first flush of enthusiasm begins to wane and the plan perhaps starts to go awry that the first leadership challenges present themselves. This also proved to be the case last week. The initial climbing pace was fairly quick and we were all slightly concerned about keeping up, but we coped well. However, after a while Paul started to feel sick. We were worried about him but he was determined to carry on, even after vomiting a couple of times.

At this point we began to wonder whether we should abandon the plan. Was it sensible to go on? What if his sickness got worse? But what a disappointment it would be not to complete the challenge. Should Paul pull out but the rest of us continue? Paul insisted we should all continue so we supported him as best we could and each of us kept putting one foot in front of another.

Overcoming fear and doubt

It is during times of adversity that we are truly tested. On this occasion, Paul could easily – and justifiably – have decided to cut his losses and pull out of the climb, but he set his fear and doubt to one side and chose to remain focused on our goal. His strength also helped to give the rest of us a renewed determination to support him, to stick together and reach the summit. People who can show this kind of mettle when faced with difficult leadership challenges can be hugely influential in helping a team reach its potential.

The power of a positive mindset

While Paul showed considerable physical strength to keep walking up the mountain while being sick and feeling terrible, it was the power of his positive mindset that really got him through. He simply decided that he wasn’t going to give up. When we face leadership challenges in business, while we may need a certain level of physical stamina to see a project through, it is mental strength and determination that will ultimately get us across the finish line.

A sense of accomplishment

As we stood on the top of the mountain watching the gorgeous sunrise, we had an almost indescribable sense of accomplishment. Even without the additional challenge of Paul’s sickness it would have felt great, but to have achieved our goal despite the setbacks was really something. It made me feel quite emotional to have shared the experience with my three boys and it’s certainly a day that none of us will ever forget.

Leadership lessons

Being faced with a mountain to climb can be daunting, but there is nothing quite like overcoming obstacles with your team to bring you closer together. Just as a diamond is formed from carbon under extreme pressure, so the toughest challenges can bring out the very best in people if the conditions are right.

When we have the support of those around us, a shared goal, open lines of communication and the ability to consider the feelings of others, a positive mindset can enable us to achieve incredible things.

Let’s start something new!

Get in touch with us today and take the first steps to transforming your business.