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What Bushwalking Taught Me About Business

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What Bushwalking Taught Me About Business

A couple of years ago I needed to get moving. And I mean ‘moving’ in an exercise kind of way.

I started up a walking group in my shire and almost three years down the track (he he) not only am I fitter, but I have learnt a lot about business from my fellow walkers. This was never an intended outcome but rather a happy coincidence.

Here’s some of the wisdom gleaned from ‘hoofing’ it around a bushwalking track:

1. That first hill teaches you a great deal about your resilience and capacities. You have to commit.

There are days when I swear I am not going to make it up the hill that starts our walk. I stagger on wondering why I continue to do this to myself but when I reach the top, it is worth it. Every single time.

Business is like this as well. We have a goal, in the ‘doing’ we know we might succeed or fail. Success is all the sweeter when we hit the peak. As I got fitter that ‘hill’ got easier and so did the ups and downs of my business. Learning to take it all in my stride and build on past successes really helps me to keep at it.

2. Success can be incremental.

Initially, we were all getting around the track in about 65 minutes. Over the period we have improved that time down to as little as 40 minutes. Now we are doing the reduced time and travelling further. Our success has been due to a couple of key ingredients; wanting to improve, having a person who sets the pace, supporting each other to keep going and finally the awesome café at the end of the track.

This continually reminds me about setting goals and rather than expecting huge wins all at once, recognising that the practice of ’Kaizen’ or incremental improvements, delivers serious results over time. Oh, and a good coffee at the end is always a motivation.

3. Not everyone walks at the same pace.

When we have a team, we like to work as a team. My walking group has shown me that 100% cohesion is not always necessary to get the desired outcome. One of our walkers John (name changed) walks in front of everyone else every week. At first, we were all a little non-plussed as to why he even bothered to come to a walking ‘group’. When I chatted with him, he said he felt he was walking with the group. He could hear us chatting away behind him, and from his perspective, this fulfilled his need to be with others.

For our part, we have since ‘repositioned’ our expectations of how John is a part of the team. He is our pacesetter and keeps our eyes on the finish line. John is the main reason for our excellent time improvement. I have realised it’s OK to have some members of your team not doing it the same as everyone else. As long as they are aware of the destination they can make a wonderful contribution.

4. Creating a time, place and reason to walk creates connection.

There have been many positive social benefits to our group outside of the exercise. I have become aware of members of the group getting together for activities outside of our weekly walk. It makes me very happy. Social isolation is a growing problem in our community and if the walk did not exist these connections would not exist.

Our places of business accomplish this as well. Connection is a fundamental human need. If you are a business owner, consider yourself an honorary ‘connector’. Congratulations, this is no small thing.

5. Empower others and they will lead.

There have been occasions when I have been unable to attend. At first, this made me worried that others would not walk without me. The first time it was weird, but over time and with a deeper connection to each member I was not needed for the walk to be a success.

Surely this is a great example of leverage? I started it, created opportunity and trusted their ability and now they can do my job and more. It is possible to build this leveraged leadership within your business. It might not be done exactly like you, but it gets done and often exceedingly well.

Needless to say, there have been many other lessons, and indeed I know there will be more to come. I feel very grateful to my group for their commitment to themselves and now each other, including me. Together we get the job done, sometimes quickly, sometimes with stragglers but through it all, wind, rain, heat and the occasional slithery friend, we know where we are going, and it’s always easier with company.

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