During a weekly connection with Matt Wagemann, our HR Manager, he shared a story from his family’s vacation to Tennessee. Along with their four boys, the Wagemann’s hiked upwards toward Rainbow Falls, and they had three distinct encounters along the way.

The first encounter was when they were about ¾ of the way to the top. They were getting weary and trying to decide whether to keep going or turn back when someone coming in the opposite direction prodded them along. “Keep going; you’re almost there.”

The second encounter was on their way down the mountain when they ran into others who were at the same stage in the journey that they were just an hour before. Having pushed through to the top and having seen the beauty of the falls, they were able to encourage those headed up to “keep going; you’re almost there.”

As they neared the bottom, their third encounter was with a group of people who were huffing and puffing as they asked Matt, “are we almost there?” It didn’t take Matt long to assess the landscape and their condition before sharing that the destination may be a bit far and strenuous.

In hearing the story and cast of characters, my mind jumped immediately to some stages of the leadership journey.

Are you a leader who’s wearily making your way through the rocky terrain?

Do some days feel like you’re close to the next beautiful view, and other days you feel stuck in the woods? Though you might feel like you can’t fit one more thing in or carry any more, this is a great season to find a mentor or coach. This post provides a few insights. Whether it’s someone you respect or a professional, the value of creating space to process, untangle, and tag-team with a coach to find clarity and direction is quite remarkable.

Are you a leader who’s gained a ton of experience over the years and has something to offer to those who are struggling their way up the mountain?

It can be hard for people to ask for a coach, and it can be equally awkward to ask someone if they’d like to be mentored. AND it’s worth it. One of the mentors in my life told me not too long ago that “anything he’s doing that doesn’t equip the next generation is a waste of his time.” Who’s someone you know with lots of potential and yet struggling to find their way up the mountain? Ask if they’d be interested in meeting from time to time to talk through the challenges they’re facing and opportunities in front!

Or are you someone who’s in a leadership role and yet not prepared or equipped for the rough terrain and miles of trail that lie ahead?

This is the most challenging of the three stages because it requires us to ask a huge question – “Am I equipped to lead (this team, this area) in this season?” If the answer is no, it’s important to begin taking steps to move out of the way – both for you and the people you’re leading. All kinds of people find themselves in leadership positions for all sorts of reasons, some of which are quite terrible – for everyone involved!! If the answer is yes, it’s time to take some steps to get in leadership “shape.” If the deficit relates to vision, strategy, culture, relational connection, or something else, it’s time to find a coach/mentor or a book that dives headlong into the areas of immaturity or weakness.

Regardless of where you are in your journey – ready to learn, ready to teach, or ready to re-evaluate, cheers to asking the tough questions that lead us into the next stage of our journey!!

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