The man at the top of the mountain didn’t fall there. – Vince Lombardi
You don’t simply arrive at the proverbially “top” of the mountain. It’s a tough journey.
If you have a company on the cusp of growth in 2017, you are on the cusp of a difficult journey together.
Thousands have scaled to the top and many more have died on the mountain. What are the real differences between the ones who made it and the skeletons along the path? What about the companies that fight the same battles day after day, month after month until finally the business does not explode, the people do?
Here are a couple of practical but critical lessons learned, meant to help you normalize your growth journey in 2017, check your sanity and help you inspire your team when growth gets hard.
One of the most underestimated (and therefore misunderstood) responsibilities of a leader is: It is your job to predict and prepare your team for the journey ahead.
No one wants to follow someone who doesn’t know where they are going. So what do you do if this is your first time leading an organization, division or company of this size or scale?
It’s your job as a leader to help everyone understand where you are on the journey and where you are going. Normalizing the journey is one of the most important aspects growth.
You will need to make difficult decisions. Tough times will happen. You can either get in front of the problems or react as they happen.
Put the journey in context
The difference is clear when you think about the journey in another context. Pretend you are climbing Mt. Everest. When you get to 28,000 feet, no one told you that you needed oxygen to finish the journey. You start to panic and focus only on getting off the Mountain alive.
Contrast that to being completely prepared and educated about the difficulties ahead. You knew that at 28,000 feet you would need oxygen and you needed it to finish the journey. At 28,000 feet, everyone on the journey celebrates because it meant they were closer to the top.
It’s no different leading a team in a business that wants to grow. How much would your leadership (and results) improve if you were able to get in front of the problems? Even better, how would it look if you could predict them?
That’s why it is crucial to reference growth as a journey, not just a set of objectives. You need the right preparation, people and processes to get to the top.
Can you imagine not preparing to climb Everest? Or not having the right people to help you?
Here are a few ways to prepare your team for growth in 2017:
Create a common language around growth.
We use the Business Growth Lifecycle and the analogy of Mt. Everest when talking about the journey to the top. This is a powerful leadership tool to help predict the most common problems that derail growth hungry companies. The more you talk about these Warning Signs of Success, the more credibility you will gain as a leader.
Every company has their own language and culture, so find common analogies that everyone can relate to. To find out where you are in the journey, have your team look at the Business Growth Lifecycle and take the quiz in the back. Then facilitate a conversation. Being right about where you are is not as important as having a healthy discussion. This exercise creates focus on opportunities for improvement in 2017.
Use the common language whenever possible.
As the leader, use these analogies and language as often as possible. Use them in email communication, weekly meetings, operations, etc. This will help employees normalize the journey and their place in it.
Have extremely clear goals.
If you don’t know where “the top” is for your organization, it’s time to define it. The top of Everest is a very clear goal. Everyone knows the destination. Your goals should be this clear, too.
Acknowledge that it gets harder the higher you go.
As you climb higher and higher, the air gets thinner and thinner. It’s a lot more difficult to climb, the closer you get to the top. It’s even more difficult if you’ve never been to the top before. You aren’t acclimated to the elevation.
There has never been a company with smooth and linear growth. Look at the turnover in the Fortune 500. If you are successful you will grow yourself into problems. That does not mean you cannot be prepared.
How will you help your team normalize the journey in 2017?