Reaching the summit
- Posted on January 4, 2017
One of my most challenging and rewarding experiences was summiting Mount Rainier, a peak overlooking Seattle. At 14,410 feet above sea level, the mountain isn’t the highest I’ve scaled by any means, but as a common training ground for Everest it’s extremely challenging.
Reaching the top of the mountain had been an ambition of mine during the time my family and I were living in Seattle. I had to look at its peak every day as I traveled between our downtown headquarters and my home. I attempted to climb the mountain twice before without success and on the day we finally made it conditions were harsh. Many set off that day but only a handful made it to the summit.
After a rapid 36 hour ascent and descent over a tough route that involved crossing numerous glacier crevasses, I felt the kind of elation that can only come from overcoming a challenge after previous setbacks and failures.
As I reflect on the adventure, I can see a number of parallels with the execution of good leadership, especially in the digital era:
Set ambitious goals
Rather than taking an easy route to the top of Mount Rainier, I set a tough goal of doing a very challenging route at a difficult time of year. It was about pushing ourselves but doing so in a way that was measured and calculated to deliver us to the top.
Likewise, in business, if we set ambitious goals for ourselves, we can drive our work to a higher level and deliver better outcomes for clients. If we stop pushing ourselves, our performance will suffer. And we often need to take the most difficult path to ensure we come out on top.
Learn from failures
Each failure to climb the mountain made us better the next time. The lessons we learned from our previous attempts meant we could come back stronger and better prepared to deliver a successful climb.
In our daily work, things may not always go perfectly the first time – but each experience adds to the next. Helping our clients digitize their business processes and customer interactions is complex. Applying the learnings of multiple engagements, through collaboration and knowledge sharing, allows us to ensure we deliver the best outcomes.
Rising at midnight for our final ascent, my first thought was whether we had enough food and water and the right tools to help us out in any circumstance. This followed one of my previous failed attempts in which a storm battered us for hours before our supplies ran low and we had to retreat down the mountain.
In business it is always important to be prepared, especially when tackling a new challenge or taking advantage of emerging opportunities. Having the right skills, methods and assets are a critical requirement to ensure any unexpected circumstance can be managed. Planning for the unexpected allows you to cover all bases.
Don’t become complacent
Mountaineering has taught me that once you reach the summit, you can’t afford to take your foot off the pedal. Getting to the top is only half of the journey. Success is measured by your safe arrival to the base.
Being named Microsoft partner of the year for the past nine years could be seen as reaching the peak for Avanade, but we can’t relax if we are to be seen as the leading digital innovator. Through the power of our people and by applying Microsoft’s world leading technology, we are helping our clients plot their route to the summit of their digital mountain.
I’m now a few months into my role as General Manager for Avanade UK and every day gives me another reason to be proud of the impact each Avanade person is having with our clients and how we will work together to reach the next summit.