Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Monkey Rock

I travelled to Virginia this week to facilitate a workshop. I choose to drive along the Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge Mountains as a more interesting route to the client site. As a child we used to family camp at a place called Big Meadows in Shenandoah National Park on the Skyline Drive. Last time I would have been there was over 50 years ago when I was 8 or 9 years old. I cannot imagine talking about a place I was revisiting fifty years later!
As I finished my short hike I came into the parking lot and found Mike and his daughter, Melissa along with his son, Logan. I walked past them and made the bold decision to go back. I found it compelling because Logan reminded me of myself 50 years ago. He looked keen to head out on this hike with his Dad and sister. I went back, introduced myself to Mike and told them the story of how we used to camp here as a family when I was about Logan's age. This family camping and subsequent hiking shaped much of my life. I found out that Mike was taking his two children on their first hike. I took pictures of them, thanked Mike for listening to my story and allowing me to take pictures.

So, what about Monkey Rock? As kids we would go run along the AT and play for hours at a place we affectionately named Monkey Rock. I reminisced about how at ages of 6, 7 and 8, we would freely roam the wilderness finding places like Monkey Rock to claim as our own. One day we took our parents along the trail to see where we had spent our days and hours gleefully playing. I remember the shock on my mothers face when she discovered that Monkey Rock was an out-cropping on the side of the mountain. If any of us had tripped over the edge it would have been certain death. And none of that happened. For me, it was shaping the adventurer I would become.

I wonder how restrictive we are as parents today. Some might say, over-protective. Others, not protective enough. If we are going to help our children grow into the adventurers they are capable of being, we need to get comfortable with them venturing out – expanding their comfort zones, taking risks and learning from each adventure.

What about us as leaders?  Are we over-protective of our people? Or maybe over-protective of ourselves?  Maybe as parents or leaders, our over-protectiveness stagnates the growth of our children and employees. How are you showing up? Are you growing your people or stagnating their growth?

I am happy that I returned to talk to Mike and his children. He risked taking his daughter and son on an adventure that they had not experienced before. Would they see dad as a nerd or a jerk that took them away from their comfort zones? Seeing Mike and the kids reminded me that it was my parents that took me away from my comfort zones and created experiences that impacted not only my life in the moment but shaped much of what I was to become later in life. Enough that I wanted, fifty years later, to revisit Big Meadows campground, walk again on the AT, and see if I could find and recognize Monkey Rock. Who knows what experiences will be the ones that shape who we will become? I hope that the adventure that Mike chose to take Logan and Melissa on will positively impact who the two of these wonderful young people may someday become. And hopefully, they will remember the impact that their father has had on the human beings they became.

If you are a leader, the same applies. How are you impacting the people you lead?  Will they tell positive stories of the impact you had on their lives or will you become an added statistic to the number one reason someone leaves their organization - because their boss sucks! You decide!