This week I had a chance to carve some of my own edges.  On skis in Crested Butte, the best ski town in Colorado (in my opinion).   What I love most about CB is the landscape.  The beautiful snowcapped mountains, juxtaposed against expansive open spaces.   The air is crisp and clear; the locals are warm, kind and have a keen sense of play and adventure. What is not to love?  Okay, back to my edges.

My goal was to learn become more skilled at carving- using my edges to ski down steeper runs.  Kathy, my ski instructor for the day made it look so easy.  As we settled into our lesson, I continued to make my usual mistakes.  Working too hard on my turns, leading with my shoulders and make too many quick inefficient turns.  We stopped to debrief and chat and suddenly the light went off.   Kathy had just shared a mantra with me that she has been using for years with her students. “Dive into Danger”.  While that didn’t sound so wise at 10,000 plus feet standing on waxed metal, why not try I told myself.  What did she really mean anyway? 

It turned out that I was doing all sorts of things to avoid pointing my skis straight down the hill before making my slow and controlled carving turns.  I was scared of losing control, not being able to stop and of course, falling.  I was fighting my skis and the hill and most importantly do what was completely counter- intuitive, lean down the hill.

As soon as I let go of my fear and concern, and allowed my skis to work for me – to maximize the natural edges and torque of the skis- to move with controlled speed, amazing things happened.  My turns immediately improved, the speed now helped me use the skis to their full potential.  My legs no longer burned from effort.

My experience on the slope caused me to wonder, “How often do we work against ourselves?”  What really holds us back?

When we are asked to take on a new project, or pursue that seemingly unattainable goal, how often do we lead with old techniques, mindsets or habits that won’t serve us well?  How can we find our own way and “dive into danger”.  Two things come to mind. 

Resources:  Do we have enough we ask ourselves?  Enough is an interesting concept.  What is enough really?  One definition is “”as many as required”.  I prefer the synonym sufficient, “enough to meet the needs of the situation” (Merriam Webster).  We often think resources are about quantity- more people, time and/or money.  How often do we think about using the resources we have in new ways?  To manage with what we have but eliminating unnecessary effort. To do the counter-intuitive?  Just like working those edges on the mountain, how might we move out of our comfort zone to work in new ways?  To stop doing what isn’t working and focus on what is.

Work- arounds: If we stopped to realize how many work- arounds happen in our business lives, we might be shocked.  Like urban legends, they persist over time often without truth or value.  Yet, they serve a purpose- to get the work out the door.  Just like the work arounds I created on the mountain to avoid falling, there is a better way.  Unpack it all, examine the inefficiencies and start again with a new technique. What would happen if we stopped building onto old job descriptions and existing roles just because they have always existed and listen to the people actually in them?  What do our talented people need more or less of to do amazing work? It is our job as managers and leaders to support their insights and help them make it happen.

My day on the slopes was shape shifting for me.  I woke up dreading another day of effort and returned with the satisfaction that there was indeed a new way of thinking and doing. The counter- intuitive created possibilities.   What might happen in your world if you were to think about your edges?

4 Comments

  1. What a helpful analogy. To change the way we lead requires analysis of the inefficiencies, and careful preparations for a different approach. Working towards this with a coach is critical. Thank you for all the coaching you have given me over the years. Invaluable.

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