Are You Ready for Your Company’s Next Big Adventure?
This blog post was written by: Nathan Fa'avae.
I have been a professional athlete for almost 20 years, but adventure has been in my blood since I was a boy. I started running marathons at 16-years old, raced extensively in competitive mountain biking, and later found my greatest passion in multisport adventure racing. Adventure racing involves multi-day journeys and a combination of athletic competitions in which athletes race in continuous series of stages. Athletes are required to rapidly switch from one athletic discipline to another as they compete to achieve the best overall time.
I have learned many valuable lessons in my sporting career that apply to anyone looking to push the limits of possibility and achieve their own “best” – be it as an athlete, a business owner, or in any other context. I was honored to recently be invited by Avaya, to virtually present at their ENGAGE 2021 user conference in Orlando, Florida. Not unlike my team, those who attend Avaya ENGAGE are passionate about challenging themselves and championing change. They are thought leaders and experience innovators who are eager to learn, experiment, and grow (just not out in the wilderness!).
Here are some sentiments I shared with attendees…
Eat the elephant one bite at a time
Just like multi-sport athletes, organizational leaders have a long road ahead of them to reach the “finish line” (their desired customer, employee, and business outcomes). They are operating in their extreme environment, and there’s intense pressure to achieve the best overall “time” – be that getting new products to market, dealing with supply chain challenges, or managing business growth.
When you have a long way to go, the most important thing is the ability to focus stage by stage. In an adventure race, we can have several days of non-stop effort and numerous stages over hundreds of kilometers that build the course: kayaking, mountain biking, navigating through all sorts of mountainous terrain. It’s overwhelming to think of the finish when you’re standing at the start line.
When what’s presently in front of you feels impossible – be it a race from China through the Himalayas or a multi-year digital business transformation – the “race” must be broken down into digestible stages. Focus on one part of the process at a time. Do that part well, then focus on the next. Eventually, you will be on the winner’s podium.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Teamwork is something that is instilled in us at a young age, from grade school through adulthood. There’s nothing quite like coming together as a team to achieve a common goal – and putting the team before yourself in the process. These experiences build character and humility, reminding us that it’s not about being the fastest, strongest, or smartest person in the room but rather the most valuable contributor to the team. We see this on mountainsides and in workplaces: research shows effective communication generates 4.5 times higher talent retention, and connected teams demonstrate a 21% increase in profitability.
Whether you’re participating in an adventure race or mapping out your organizational strategy, you’re seeking out a challenge in hardship. It can be a long road with unexpected twists and turns, and that makes teamwork crucial. Identify each other’s weaknesses and harness the power of each other’s strengths. High-performing teams are not afraid to ask for help. No one benefits by being the strong and silent type or trying to compete within your team.
Reach deep to face adversity
Like multi-sport athletes, business leaders and innovators find challenges thrilling and enjoyable. That means we must come up with ways to weather the storms (literal and figurative). Challenges come in many shapes and forms. One thing I have learned is that challenging times don’t last forever. If you can just get through those times, things will always improve, and you’ll find yourself one step closer to that finish line. Never give up. As someone who has faced the unthinkable repeatedly, I can say with confidence that there is a path around all obstacles and there is a solution to all problems.
The power of a positive perspective
One last lesson I would like to impart is the importance of living in the moment and staying positive. Be grateful for all that is around you. No matter what’s going on in your “race,” time can always be taken to look around, to be present, and to show appreciation for the opportunity that’s in front of you. We create our reality, and we get what we give. Never underestimate the power of a positive perspective.
For those of you championing change within the walls of your company, I ask: are you ready for your organization’s next adventure?