It’s the beginning of March and part of our Odyssey team is hitting the slopes in beautiful Lake Tahoe, California. General Manger Jonas Herzog, Director of Client Success and Sales Extraordinaire Kim Clary, and her husband Jacob are locked in. This terrific trio has been embarking on back-country runs, dodging obstacles like trees and snow-covered rocks, skidding to thrilling stops, and flat-out crushing it down some steep slopes. That’s snow joke! There’s powder for days, a dream for most skiers! And the sun is out. It’s picture-perfect.
During this skiing adventure, they’ve also had a little time to reflect. To say the past few years have been difficult personally and professionally is a profound understatement. We have navigated through times of feeling lost, hopeless, and frustrated. Now, we’re experiencing what feels like a long road out of the snowy abyss with multiple obstacles along the way.
But what’s helped Jonas, Kim and Odyssey Teams navigate work through the challenges of the past few years and become able to withstand difficult work conditions has a lot to do with the sport of skiing.
Here are a few valuable lessons we have adopted from skiing that have helped us become better leaders, people and co-workers.
#1 Awareness Is Key
A skier must be in tune with their body and the rhythm of each turn while constantly scanning the terrain and the environment around them. If they fall out of rhythm or stop paying attention to the terrain around them the risk of injury to themselves or others increases.
Mindfulness techniques can help you be attentive and focused on the slopes. Start with breathing exercises on the lift, pick a line and visualize going down the mountain. Picture yourself making the next three turns in front of you. Where will you initiate the turn and end the turn? Continue this as you ski. Be mindful of your body, the terrain and your surroundings.
Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind to help reduce stress. Doing this throughout the day at your job can help you remain calm, focused and think clearly. Even taking five minutes to focus on deep breaths or meditation can have a great impact on your body and mind. The practice of mindfulness is becoming more and more common and for good reason. It’s needed now more than ever with all of life’s distractions and the ever-increasing anxiety that comes with it.
In fact, Odyssey Teams offers Mindfulness Sessions with our own expert Chau Yoder. Chau has worked with several Fortune 500 companies including Chevron. Thousands of people who have experienced Chau’s teaching understand quickly how to breathe a little easier and lead from awareness. Imagine what is possible if your team was less stressed, more peaceful and able to focus better in challenging situations?
#2 Be Deliberate In Your Adventure
Measuring risks and being ‘deliberate in your adventure’ is an essential element of skiing, and what makes it challenging and fun. Once you are on top of the mountain you now have a choice of how you will be getting down. It is good practice to pause and take a look at the grandeur around you. Calculate what should happen and could happen. Envision your run. Just like several activities, there are risks involved.
If you are skiing in the backcountry, did you remember to check the avalanche forecast? Have you and your ski buddies taken an avalanche rescue class? Your friendly neighborhood ski patroller is always a wealth of mountain knowledge. They can provide good advice. Speak with friends who know the mountain and consult trail maps to help influence your decision.
Sometimes you can take a wrong turn going down that blue run and you could find yourself looking at a steeper run that you were not prepared for. Taking measured risks during a deliberate adventure is about being prepared and willing to adapt. Measuring those risks ahead of time and being deliberate in your preparation will lead to more success and a sense of accomplishment.
This falls in line with one of our favorite quotes at Odyssey: “In times of change the learners inherit the earth while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” – Eric Hoffer
It says the learners inherit the earth. Well, we have all been forced to adapt over the past couple of years and we’ve learned we can deal with uncertainty and embrace a new environment.
At Odyssey, we successfully learned how to offer our award-winning teambuilding experiences as virtual options for the expanding remote workforce. We even built an entire state-of-the-art studio, inside our Chico, CA headquarters, to host these virtual events. Our keynote speakers adapted to presenting on video calls, a big change from speaking in front of a live audience and feeling its energy. Our logistics team learned how to manage the back-end of these video applications. We learned how to balance work and home-life. None of it would have happened without being prepared and willing to adapt. Those are essential skills needed for leadership and growth.
As we return to offices and in-person events we will continue to offer our virtual programs as well as hybrid programs. These philanthropic give-back experiences unite teams to help them to do good from their respective living rooms.
#3 Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
Getting comfortable being uncomfortable is the Odyssey way. Jonas and Kim are experts on the slopes, something that didn’t happen out of nowhere. Their advancement in the sport simply could not have happened if they did not push it at the start of their skiing endeavors.
With time, they learned how to maneuver down that steep run. They pushed their limits and naturally became better skiers and learned about themselves in the process. It can be hard to take that first step into the unknown, but once you do, it will get easier every time.
In leadership, we have to apply the same mentality. We might fail, but we might also succeed, and there can be much more to learn when we fail at a task. Be disciplined and motivated, step out of your comfort zone, embrace vulnerability, overcome your fear and don’t be afraid to fail. These are important concepts essential to leadership and skiing.
#4 Overcoming Adversity
As any avid skier will attest you will fall and that’s part of the sport. But how do you pick yourself up and keep going? Do you go back to where you fell and try the line again and try again? What tools do you have in your tool belt to help you deal with adversity and challenges?
A classic example of a setback that could change a ski day is leaving your ski boots at home. How would you deal with the mistake of forgetting a critical component of your success? Would you let it ruin your day or would you use your resources to figure out a solution? The many challenges and roadblocks of life are opportunities for growth and building resilience.
It takes practice to be good at skiing and it takes practice to be a good leader. Be prepared for discomfort and willing to embrace adversity. It also helps to have a positive mental attitude. The saying “attitude is everything” has merit. Let’s go down this slope a little further.
At its core, accountability is a simple concept — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions. This is critical for effective workplace collaboration. We all know it’s important to be responsible for your actions. If you make a mistake, own up to it and see how you can fix it. You will feel better and others will respect you more as a result.
Skiing is a metaphor for leadership. The sport has given Jonas and Kim the opportunity to practice skills that are essential for leadership. There are more parallels you can apply to skiing and leadership too. Like setting goals, getting in a rhythm, letting others lead, and having fun. Yes, having fun! That’s a great leadership skill.
And we like to apply each of these principles and lessons to many other activities we participate in as well – like rafting, hiking, exercising, biking, running, etc. Learning and growth occurs when we apply the theory outside of the training room and the day-to-day work environment.
Speaking of the work environment. Did you know, the ideas behind our teambuilding experiences are similar to this concept? The basic goal of all of our programs is to create a powerful experience that leads to growth and transformation for individuals and teams. We often say, ‘we don’t build teams, we build individuals together’ and our facilitators are experts at helping you and your co-workers develop as people and leaders.
Plus, our virtual, hybrid, and in-person teambuilding programs give participants something to do, something to feel and something to think about. Contact us if you’d like to engage in a life-changing leadership development experience.
But we digress. This isn’t about a sales pitch. This is about skiing ‘the leadership summit’ and the many valuable metaphors that can be found on the mountain.
Have fun on your Odyssey and think of us next time you’re on a chair lift.