A few years ago, my business partner and I had the privilege of leading a group of executives down a 14-mile stretch of slot canyons in southern Utah. Our task was to guide them through a team-building experience involving multiple rappels, traversing pools of frigid water, and a rigorous hike through some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet.
The business objective was to enhance the problem-solving skills of their executive team, providing an experience to help them more readily seek input and support from one another. In the process, their CEO wanted each participant to have a world-class memorable experience.
These objectives were important to us, of course, but we had a higher “mission-critical” goal: get everyone home alive and uninjured. To assure this outcome, we scheduled a “tune-up” run two weeks before the real event. With seven rappels to negotiate, we wanted to assess each one—one more time.
As we worked our way down the canyon, we tested each anchor to secure our ropes, checking footing, obstacles, etc. Since some rappels would necessarily be through waterfalls, we checked for dangers that might be lurking beneath them. At each rappel, we considered the situation that would face our rookie canyoneers, thinking ahead about how they might approach each challenge.
Every rappel appeared straight-forward until #7. We discovered that a flashflood had wiped out all good anchors for our ropes. It was a short rappel (10-15 feet) into a pool of water, but we were still concerned. Could we just jump in? How deep was the water?
We were relieved to hear the voice of a hiker who had been travelling up-canyon. We asked him to test the pool’s depth, and obligingly, he stepped into it. He completely submerged—and upon surfacing, assured us that we could make the jump. We did so without incident.
The time arrived for our client canyoneers. We began with basic training in rappelling technique, a careful equipment check, and orientation regarding what they were about to experience. This was held the evening before we hit the trail, and allowed us to assess both the confidence and competence of each participant. Where we detected either fear or over-confidence, we stressed that by staying true to critical safety procedures and working well together, everyone would have a safe and fulfilling experience.
It was a beautiful fall morning for our first rappel. All went as planned throughout the day, until we hit rappel #7. We knew we would have no anchors there, of course, but as my partner and I looked down on the pool below, our anxiety grew. It looked the same as before, but how could we know if it was safe to jump in today?
After discussion among ourselves and our clients, I volunteered to downclimb to the pool. The descent was precarious, but after a few tense moments I stepped into the pool.
I was shocked when the water only came up to my mid-calf! At that moment, I said a silent prayer of gratitude that we had not decided to jump. It took us considerable time to have everyone downclimb, but we did so safely, finishing the full trek about an hour later than planned.
Canyoneering is a perfect metaphor for running a business. You hope to achieve high and noble purposes by working well with your people, solving problems and overcoming challenges. Some of these are “mission-critical,” meaning that if you don’t handle them properly, they can kill your business.
To avoid business death, you need basic training in “what to do” and “what not to do.” You need to be sure you have the resources and equipment required to be successful. And, you need to assess the confidence and competence of each member of your team.
You can choose to “go it alone,” but to do so accentuates the risks. An experienced guide can be invaluable, especially when you’re faced with dangers you might fail to observe.
As seasoned business coaches, we at CEObuilder have travelled the canyons of business for many years. We are well-acquainted with the processes, systems, and resources required to travel those canyons. And we ask critical questions to help you avoid fatal pitfalls.
According to the American Management Association, organizations that use coaching reported stronger market performance. A global survey of coaching clients by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the Association Resource Center concluded that the mean ROI for companies investing in coaching was seven times that of the initial investment. A quarter of the companies in the survey reported an ROI of 10 to 49 times investment.
Business is, indeed, an extreme sport! Why go it alone?