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Success is Environmental

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

Lesson #7 Kilimanjaro


You only know what you are capable of or not when you are put to the test.


I have never been fond of how we recruit because there is no way we can predict future performance based on potential or past performance (maybe past repeated performance, but not one-off) because the environment is different. Success and performance depend on millions of things not only on the mountain or in life but at work, too. You might have all that success in a specific role would require, yet you fail.


It was not different on Kilimanjaro either. Out of 17 of us, 10 summitted, and we all had the potential, the ability, and some even the experience of hiking 5000m and above.


What did we need (potential)? We needed the ability to walk. Easy, right? We all had that. We all had training and mental preparation for the task ahead, just like at work.


Yet, when put to the test, only 10 of us delivered, and this ratio is similar in the workplace, too. We just don't want to admit it to ourselves. Why would we? Our paycheque depends on it.


As I always say, success is environmental, and the environment impacts you physically, mentally, and emotionally. How you can overcome those determine your success.


Performance is not so much about your potential but how you can overcome the challenges the environment throws at you while doing the job or completing the task. If you cannot handle those, your ability to deliver will decrease by the day. You still have the potential but no longer the ability.


Up on the mountain, your ability to succeed is decreased daily by the lack of sleep and hygiene, headache, nosebleeds, cold, wind, rain, complete loss of appetite, vomiting, and physical exhaustion accumulated daily because your heart rate is constantly around 130 per minutes to supply your body has enough oxygen. These are all given due to altitude. On top of that, you might come down with a cold or other sickness. You have the potential but no longer have the ability due to environmental factors.


Unfortunately, nobody talks about this in organisations, so we keep dragging people along on the journey even when they can no longer deliver. Instead of addressing the factors that impact their ability to deliver, we send them for training, put them on improvement plans, or fire them.

It is time to consider the environment in which we hire and in which employees perform because, most of the time, low performance has nothing to do with potential but more to do with the environment. I have seen brilliant professionals not being able to deliver due to the environment they were in (private and professional).


On the other hand, I have also seen people succeeding who we didn't see the potential in, but the environment was right to bring the best out of them.


Lastly, there are people with no potential and no ability who are carried by others and as a result, they can show off their certificate of success.


If you need help designing modern organisational practices so you can stop worrying about performance, turnover or engagement rate, give us a shout.



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