Leadership Lessons From the Climb

It’s been a pretty epic summer around the Miles’ house. In August, I achieved a decades-old goal of summiting Mount Rainier in Washington state. I made it to the summit, thanks to an amazing team of guides and fellow climbers. It was an incredible experience, which took months of training and planning to achieve. In all those months, in addition to the hours we spend actually climbing, I had plenty of time to think about what I was learning from the experience as well as what had happened in my life and business in the weeks before the climb.

A few weeks before I flew to Seattle, we learned that eaHELP (one of our Miles AG companies) had been named #131 on the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest-growing companies. This was an incredible honor, and one that I’m still trying to wrap my brain around. I had plenty of time, on those early morning training runs and that long climb up the ice, to think about what I’d learned in both leading a successful company and achieving one of my biggest personal goals. Here’s what I discovered:

Decide from Day One whether or not you will empower and trust the people around you… or not.

My climbing guide, Charlie Wittmack, is an amazing leader who has climbed some of the most epic mountains in the world. I completely trusted his experience and guidance from the start. I never wasted any time second-guessing him or what he was asking me to do. Why would I question him, when the guy has climbed Everest and I haven’t? But I can see how easy it would have been, halfway through a pretty grueling training program, to wonder what he was thinking. Our entire team at Miles AG and all our affiliated companies are driven by the value that we’re a team, and that together we run to our problems and opportunities. We trust each other, we value each other, and we help each other. Anybody who doesn’t completely buy into that culture manages to orbit out of our organization pretty quickly.

Stay humble – even when everyone thinks you are awesome.

Just a few days before we were named to the Inc. 500, one of our biggest competitors in the virtual assistant space imploded financially. And when I say “imploded,” I mean imploded big time! Two days later, we were named to a pretty prestigious list for our exceptional financial growth and management. It would have been so easy for me to spend those days patting myself on the back, but I’ve seen that happen enough times to know that the moment I start doing that a huge target appears on my own back. Don’t buy your own press. Know that any success you’re experiencing is a result of the efforts of your entire team, not you. Serve others more than yourself, because that’s the only path to true and lasting success.

Make sure everyone knows why they’re doing what they’re doing.

My entire physical training program was to prepare me for one thing – summiting Mount Rainier (and getting down).  When things got dark, scary, windy, hard, and cold on the mountain (seriously – SO. COLD.) we kept our vision clear in our minds – the summit. Everyone on all the Miles AG teams knows that they’re doing everything they’re doing so that our clients can achieve more of the results they want. We know why we do what we do, and having a rock-solid understanding of our mission keeps everyone inspired when things get tough.

Make sure everyone knows how they “win” in their jobs and missions.

A “win” was clear on the mountain – making safely to the top and back down again. In the day-to-day of building and running a business, it’s not so clear. As a leader, it’s my job to help my teams see what a “win” looks like in their particular positions and give them the resources they need to get there. I need to keep them connected to the “why” behind what we’re doing, and how their contributions and individual “wins” help us achieve our greater goals.

You don’t have to be climbing a mountain or leading a company to be constantly learning about leadership. You’re a leader right where you are – in your cubicle, in your living room, in your church, wherever you’re around people and exerting an influence. The best leaders are those who learn from the people and experiences around them at every stage of life, and take those lessons into whatever leadership roles they hold in the future … all with the goal to serve others.

What are you learning about leadership today?

Leadership Lessons From the Climb

About The Author
- Ivy Sprague is the Manager of Operations for Ellipsis, as well as the Marketing Communications Manager for Miles AG and its affiliated companies. Ivy started as an eaHELP virtual assistant in 2012 while growing her own freelance writing business, and her professional experience includes nearly two decades in marketing and communications. When she’s not pounding on her MacBook, she’s lifting weights, knitting sweaters, or figuring out how to incorporate even more lyrics from 1990s pop standards into her writing.