Updated: Oct 4, 2021
Incline (Noun)... Defined by Merrium-Webster as: an inclined plane : GRADE, SLOPE. The word "incline" is pretty straight forward, but when I think of an incline, I think of the grueling 1-mile long flight of mountain stairs here in Colorado Springs. The incline is a tough hike, meant only for the fittest of achievers. I always seem to be busy when asked if I'd like to join someone on the hike. Don't get me wrong, I've had my fair share of encounters with the incline, it's just something that I need to prepare for.
As leaders, we can all relate to the challenges that come with conquering an incline. It's tough, dirty, and often times we want to quit. But once you have reached the summit, the intrinsic reward is indescribable. For me, it never fails - as I am headed up the incline, I'm thinking, "Man! I don't think I ever want to do this again..." But as soon as I summit, and that dopamine release hits my body, I can't wait to do it again!
So here is a sneak peak of what’s to come in a series of articles titled: “Lessons from the Incline.” Each of the follow-on articles will focus on, and dive deeper into one of the letters from the word INCLINE. For now, here are a few short descriptions of the INCLINE:
I - Intentionality: Before you start up that incline, you have to be intentional about how you are going to get it done. Go at a pace that you can sustain—starting out at sprint can burn you out and exhaust you before you’ve really even begun. As a leader, you must be intentional with your people, tasks, and understanding what you need. Being intentional will help you solve big problems. Being intentional allows you to build deliberate culture.
N - Navigate the Terrain: An incline is a funny thing... Many times, it appears much easier to just go straight up. It looks faster and more efficient, but have you thought about the cost of taking the shortest path? As a leader, you have to understand the aspects of your decision making and know how it will impact those around you. Are there obstacles that you can identify before you start the journey? What tools or equipment might you want to have on hand as you navigate the terrain?
C - Consistency: When you are drudging up an incline, sometimes the best thing that you can do is be consistent in your stride and put one foot in front of the other. As a leader, knowledgeable and well-balanced consistency will help you build trust within your team and will give you a play book for success for challenging times.
L - Look Around: As you head up the incline, take time to enjoy the journey—look around you experience beauty—sights and sounds. In your everyday grind, you can't forget to get out from behind your computer and realize what’s going on around you. Get to really know your people. Get to know the culture in which you work. Looking around will keep you aware of potential obstacles in your incline. Look up: take a breath and occasionally pause to see where you still have to go. Look down: Likewise, turn around and see how far you have already come. Looking up, down and around can all be huge motivators that allow you to keep putting one foot in front of the other,
I - Intensity: Intensity is a "must have" when attempting to tackle monumental challenges. Leading well is no different. Energetic, intense, and inspiring leadership is contagious. However, realize that sometimes you may need to pause, catch your breath and regroup before moving on.
N - Nimble: It's best to be nimble in your ascent! Be quick and light in your movements up the hill. In leadership, being nimble and quick to listen to those you lead is vital. Be quick to listen, understand, analyze, and to take action. It's a dance that, as we master it, will cause your people to not only trust you with their concerns, but will create a loyal and inclusive culture.
E - Expect the Unexpected: Throughout your journey, you will find that the roots, loose rocks, and tree branches seem to be working against you. These unexpected obstacles often seem to come out of nowhere and can really cause some damage. The same is true as a leader. Unforeseen challenges can derail your team and can be devastating to culture and your business. Start your journey expecting that there will be difficult times ahead—even if you don’t know what they are yet.
Reminding yourself and your team why you are doing what you are doing and rooting yourselves in the vision and mission will help you get back on the trail, and push you toward your summit. Throughout the next few months, we will dive deeper into each of these themes and flesh out leadership lessons in the form tips tricks and techniques that will push you toward a successful summit.
Remember, you can't lose focus just because you think you’re “finished”. Coming down off a high can be dangerous. A slip and fall can cause injury and there's always a false summit somewhere. So... Start strong and finish well!