I often speak about collaboration as an important, often overlooked, element in the work that professionals do. Recently, my colleagues and I had an experience that suggested what collaboration looks like in action and how to create the conditions for great collaboration to occur.
Below is a picture of a climbing wall in Chaska, MN. At a conference at this site, a group individuals from various professions including myself and Certior Group colleagues Hal Hershgordon and Patty Totaro were tasked with scaling this wall in random teams of three.
We were supplied with safety equipment – helmets, harnesses, ropes, etc. – and organized in a manner that minimized the risk of a fall or accident. But there were several constraints that made the climb unique: each threesome was tethered together and the middle climber was blindfolded. Patty Totaro is the blindfolded climber in the picture below.
Below, I’m beginning the climb blindfolded, guided by my two teammates.
Below is a picture of the teams of supporters controlling the safety ropes.
The people on the ground did much more than just provide rope support. They also gave the climbers verbal encouragement and often, verbal suggestions about the next critical move to make.
The unblindfolded climbers were highly focused on assisting and guiding their blindfolded co-climber. Hal Hershgordon is the climber on the left literally helping the blindfolded woman move her left foot to her next foothold.
(If you look closely, you noticed raindrops in the picture above. The downpour that occurred during the event made for slippery conditions, adding to the difficulty and complexity of the activity).
Ultimately, most of the groups succeeded in reaching the top. But in some ways, that wasn’t the main takeaway from the experience. In fact, while the experience itself was exhilarating, climbing the wall blindfolded with teammates and supporters has for me become a metaphor for collaboration in business and in life.
There are so many parallels, analogies, and lessons embedded in the wall climbing experience. For this article, I’ll focus on just three. First, as advisors, we’re tethered to our clients, guiding them, and helping them take the next small step – the next critical move – along their metaphorical climbs in business and in life. Certainly there are others giving encouragement, making suggestions, and “holding the ropes” from time to time. But we’re there with them, helping them steward their True Wealth.
Second, sometimes it’s raining, the wall is slippery, the situation seems overwhelming, and the next move is unclear. We use the acronym V.U.C.A. (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) to describe these conditions and, by analogy, the world we live in. Yet, the learning is in the struggle to move up the wall (or forward in business and life). It helps to have guidance and support.
Finally, after climbing we all got a chance to celebrate not only our own accomplishments but those of others.
We often don’t allow ourselves to fully experience and celebrate the positive moments in our lives. A motto that came out in the aftermath of the wall climbing experience was “Savor the Good”. It’s something that I hope we can all adopt and grow into.