Leading When Your Organization Stops Growing

Can plateaus actually be important building blocks to success and growth?

Summary
Transcript

We always think that progress within our organizational vision has to occur in one particular direction: forward. Mountain climber and best-selling author Alison Levine uses her experience of climbing Mt. Everest to illustrate the idea of “backward” progress.

"For some reason we always think that progress has to occur in one particular direction, but that's just not the case," says Alison. Inspirational leadership means getting your team to understand that sometimes you have to go backwards in order to eventually get to where you want to be.

Watch this video to learn how going backward can also mean progress.

It is not straightforward at all. You might think that you get to base camp and then you climb to camp one and you climb to camp two and so on, but it's nothing like that.

You're actually going to spend about 10 days hiking in the base camp. Once you get to base camp you have to spend a few days there getting used to the altitude. The next day you spend climbing up to camp one. You spend the night at camp one, and the next day come back down to base camp. You spend a few more nights at base camp, then you climb to camp one and spend the night, climb up to camp two and spend the night. The next day, guess where you go? Back down to base camp. Spend a few more nights at base camp. Again, you climb to camp one and spend the night, climb to camp two and spend the night. The next day you're going to spend 9 hours climbing up to camp three. It's about 24,000 feet. And the next day, guess where you go? All the way back down. The reason that you have to keep coming back down to base camp is because you have to let your body get used to the altitude very slowly. It's this process called acclimatization. If someone were to magically drop you off on the summit of Mount Everest, if you could be dropped there by a plane or a helicopter or something like that, you would actually be dead in a matter of minutes from the altitude. The catch is that anytime you're above about 18,000 feet, which is any camp above base camp, anytime you're above 18,000 feet your body is starting to deteriorate and your muscles are getting weaker, so you have to keep coming back down to a lower elevation just so you can eat, sleep, hydrate, and regain some strength.

Not only is it very physically challenging to be going up and back down and up higher again and back down again, but psychologically it is super frustrating as well just because intellectually you know that you want to be going this way, but you're spending a heck of a lot of time climbing in this direction. What you have to remember is that even though you're going completely backwards, you're still making progress because you're helping your body acclimatize.

For some reason we always think that progress has to occur in one particular direction, but that's just not the case. Sometimes you do have to go completely backwards in order to eventually get to where you want to be.

Alison Levine

Alison Levine is a history-making polar explorer and mountaineer. She served as team captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition, climbed the highest peak on each continent, and skied to both the North and South Poles—a f...

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