June 4, 2009 Chris Fuller

New Leadership and frozen rivers…

Running my team behind Nils, he took his sled down the embankment and onto thin ice. The dogs crossed fine, but I could see the cracks in the ice and watched as the ice flexed under the weight of the sled and the rear part of the runners broke through. It seemed like slow motion as I saw the water wrap around the runners…

With the speed of the team and the rest of the frozen river being solid, it was a momentary dip, but knowing that I had to cross that same section of ice was unsettling.

Nils knew the terrain, how deep the water was, how the sled and the dogs would react, how that same area felt the day before, etc. In fact, he had been in that area and down that path for years. I needed to rely on his knowledge of that terrain.

Yesterday, we talked about the terrain of mountains and then checkpoints and equipment – more of, what I would call, immediate Operational Terrain. Today, I’m drawn to talking about the Cultural Terrain.

An organization’s Cultural Terrain consists of what they believe and how they behave. Behave as in behavior/action not behave as in obedience. It’s more about the DNA – with a caveat or twist.

Knowing the organization’s history – their background, how they got here, the path they took – the path of the Lead Dogs and Wheelers on the team. All of the information you can learn about this will allow you insight into their pattern of thinking (as individuals and as a group). The reason this is important is that it goes back to their “lens” that we’ve talked about before. Their “lens” is their “beliefs” and “beliefs” drive “behaviors”.

Frozen Rivers.

Frozen Rivers are those things in the organization that have solidified over time and are now “frozen solid” in the minds of the people. It has been termed corporate ‘Sacred Cows’ and can include anything from products to methodology to hierarchy and communication channels.

Having an understanding of these and the willingness to allow the sled to ride on some of this for a “season” is a mark of maturity. Make your list of things that need thawing and work for that thawing to occur as natural as possible. I say, “..as natural as possible” knowing that at some point you may have to break through some ice – but that point is not early on – or you’ll get so distracted about breaking the ice – you’ll stop running the race! Key points to thawing – understand that there is an undercurrent and if you feed the undercurrent with the right beliefs and methodology, etc. – the top will thaw organically – from the bottom up!

Full day today – so we’ll need to pick up ‘Snow-Less Patches and the ‘Icy Barren Coast’ later today in a second Blog – or tomorrow.

Remember – enjoy the trail, enjoy the team – and enjoy the Adventure!

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