• Carolyn Stuart

Gaining the Victory

Whenever I am grappling with a decision, or I just need a jolly good workout, the place I always head is Mt Kaukau, the highest point in Wellington city. It takes me just over an hour to walk from our house to the summit of Mt Kaukau.

On Sunday I climbed Mt Kaukau. I wasn’t grappling with a decision but I did need a jolly good workout after too many hours spent on Zoom and a few too many Covid Rāhui treats.

Along the way I thought about how similar my walks up Mt Kaukau were to the journey of a leader, and in particular the journey of leaders at this time as we begin our ascent out of the COVID Rahui.

Let me explain…

About 10 minutes into my walk I get my first glimpse of the television transmitter that sits atop of Mt Kaukau. The image brings into stark reality the climb I have ahead of me, as well as reminding me of my journey’s goal. It is also at this point that I affirm my decision to make the climb - helped this time by the thought that once gyms open again I will be grateful that I spent some time attending to my fitness during the lockdown.

As leaders we need a clear vision of where we are heading and the purpose for our journey.

As I begin my climb I always take this secondary track. It is not as well-formed as the main tracks and most people don’t even know it exists.

But I do, because I have local knowledge, gained from many years living in the area, and my experience in navigating this track.

As leaders we need to apply our local knowledge and experience to situations which means we may sometimes take a different track to the one everyone else is using.

The reason I take this secondary track is that you have to concentrate really hard not to trip on the tree roots or slip in the mud. I find that I am so busy concentrating on where I am putting my feet I hardly notice the effort I am putting into the climb.

As leaders we need to embrace concentrated effort with welcoming arms, especially if it helps us to make fast progress towards our goal.

My secondary track reaches the main track about a third of the way up the climb. I am then confronted with THE steps. Yep lots and lots and lots of them. Recently I counted how many staircases there were. 13. And knowing this number really helps because now as I complete each staircase I count towards 13 and it helps me keep track of the progress I am making towards the top.

As leaders it is good to have waypoints you can acknowledge and celebrate on the journey.

And then you get to the 13th lot of stairs. At this point I usually glance up, note that there are multiple staircases ahead of me AND THEN FOCUS ON THE STEP IN FRONT OF ME.

You see I know that if I kept looking at the number of staircases directly in front of me, I’d lose heart. But instead I remember my goal (the television transmitter at the summit), glance at the enormity of the immediate challenge in front of me and then focus on my next step.

As leaders at this time, we know the goal is a return to our pre-Covid life, but between now and then we have lots of really difficult staircases we to climb. We need to keep the end goal in mind, be very aware of the challenge of the journey we face, and then focus on the next step.

This seat sits at the top of the 13th staircase. Whenever I pass this seat I am reminded of the time when as recent arrivals in the area my friend and I were exploring the track. We were both exhausted, and gasping for breath, when we came upon two women who were at least 30 years older than us sitting gracefully on this bench looking as though they had expended no effort to get to this point. To this day I cannot explain this phenomenon but it set me off on a journey of finding a better route up the mountain than the one we had used that day.

As leaders we need to use the things which challenge our current practice as provocations to explore alternatives to our current thinking.

And finally the last haul before the summit.

As leaders we must always remember that:

- a crystal clear focus on the end goal;

- a plan informed by local knowledge and experience,

- an understanding of the difficulty of the journey;

- a willingness to examine alternatives; and

- a determined focus on the next step

will in the end bring us the victory.

Wishing you well on your journey,

Til next time


P.S. If you like the way I think you can sign up for Thursday Thinking here and enjoy my thinking delivered straight to your inbox every Thursday morning.

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