A leader’s climb to excellence is never easy, but the opportunity to reach new heights is possible if new initiatives are approached like climbing a mountain.
That’s the message of world-class mountain climber Manley Feinberg II, author of the new book “Reaching Your Next Summit: 9 Vertical Lessons for Leading with Impact” (Indie Books International, 2017).
“Climbing is easier than what most leaders are trying to accomplish in their lives every day,” says Feinberg. “Think I’m crazy? I honestly believe this for several reasons – Number one is that climbing demands a unique clarity of purpose and an outright declaration of focus. So does leadership.”
A popular motivational speaker, Feinberg inspires audiences with his tales of adventures in 25 countries and reflections on the quest for leadership excellence. A former executive with Build-A-Bear Workshop, in his 11 years he helped the company climb from 40 stores to over 400 worldwide and launch a successful IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, realizing a 862% increase in revenue to 474 million.
“In the mountains, you must declare a current climb or you will get nowhere,” says Feinberg. “After all, you can only climb one mountain at a time. The same is true for initiatives in the workplace.”
Here are Feinberg’s four ways to generate momentum to accomplish workplace initiatives:
1. Declare Only One Initiative as Your Current Climb.
Picking one is essential for that very reason: the fact that you are already dealing with the pressure of trying to keep your head above the sea of overwhelm with the mountains you are facing in your life. Knowing you can’t ignore the other mountains and regular responsibilities to which you already are committed. How can you expect adding a new list of initiatives will lead to any success? I’ve fallen into that trap over and over; trying to add more without first stepping back to take an honest look at everything I was already committed to, and then adding multiple new initiatives to my list. When we try to add more than one initiative that we know is going to truly improve and make a difference, our ambition undermines our focus, which in turn undermines our momentum.
2. Select Your Current Climb.
Strategically selecting your current climb is a critical step. When you reflect on ideas, opportunities or project seeds you’ve recently encountered, which ones really jumped out at you? Which ones stirred your passion and got you fired up? Maybe it even evoked a head nod or made you open your eyes wide and sit up. Once you pick just one current climb, the final step is to declare with commitment and conviction. It helps to at least say it to yourself and write down, “No matter what, I’m going to move this forward every day.”
3. Build and Maintain Momentum.
The first key to building momentum is focusing on your current climb first, before the storm of chaos sets in. As soon as possible, ideally before you check email or engage in meetings and other daily activities, sit down and take a small action to move your current climb forward. Do it first. The second key to keep your momentum going is to do something every single day to move your current climb forward, no matter what. The third key to build momentum is to know that as little as five minutes of effort towards your current climb can build incredible momentum.
4. Visibility Drives Velocity.
Keep your current climb visible. Using technology, schedule a standing calendar event, a recurring task, or even project management software. Change your smartphone wallpaper to something related to your current climb. For old-school tools, the sticky note is still a favorite. Write your current climb on multiple sticky notes and try placing them on your monitor or laptop, your alarm clock, your mirror, your dashboard, or any other spot that is visible in your day-to-day life. It might drive your spouse or partner crazy, but it is worth it.
On a personal note, Feinberg likes to sleep on the side of mountains, including the Himalayas. “Even more shocking,” says Feinberg, “is that my wife has been putting up with that since 1993.”