I went rock climbing recently. It was a ball! I used to make time for it consistently and hope to make it more of a priority again.  It’s always fun to revisit an activity like that after years. You find that you have a whole new perspective. I am at a very different place in my life than I was when I last strapped those shoes on and tightened that harness.

I guess that I must still feel pretty at ease way up the wall because my mind was on more than where I would put my foot or hand next. I couldn’t help but think about how many analogies there are to make between climbing and leadership.

The first, and most obvious, is how you must release and trust another for your safety net. In rock climbing you are “on belay”. The person holding the rope as you ascend must keep a focus of mind and body to stay at the ready in case of a mistake. As long as they are doing their job, the worst that can happen is a quick swing away from the wall. The extent to which you are willing to leap or stretch for that next hold is, in part, determined by the trust you have in your belayer. A strong belayer allows for bigger risks and a more successful climb.

As a leader, you must first trust your team to do their jobs well and then provide that strong safety net for employees who can then play bigger in your business rather than safe. Let them know that they can take a bigger leap, learn a new skill, take on the next challenge and that mistakes don’t need to mean doom. Are you the kind of leader who goes off the handle on someone who makes a mistake or do you encourage them to learn from it and move on? In the past I’ve used the analogy of a tree, playing on the small branches, rather than clinging to the sturdy trunk, or worse, hanging out on the ground beneath the tree. I may have to modify my analogy.

See the rest in the series for more insights.