Leadership Insights From a 20.4km Scout Hike

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Hi. I’m Keith McEvoy, CEO of Success That Works and founder of SuperCharged Academy. So, yeah. Scout hikes. I know, here we go again, Keith. You mentioned Scouts not so long ago, but this is something that happened to me.

We do about three or four times a year, we take all our 9 to 12 year olds up the side of some mountain and listen to all the moaning and everything. But it just occurred to me on Scout hike that I did there a few weekends ago, this, when you’re taking these little group of kids up the side of a mountain, it’s very like your team at work.

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And that’s what I’m going to share with you is some of the insights that, watching these guys over the course of the afternoon, it was bizarre. How similar it was to, actually, leading a team at work. And some of the things that we were doing, without even thinking about the kids, is exactly what we should be doing at work. I mean, exactly.

For some reason, what we do at work, I don’t know, just being so stiff and so like, “Well, you know, I’m in corporate world now, I can’t do that. I’ve got-” When I’m at home I’m all nice and very, and working and I have no trouble leading. But somehow, we step into corporate world and it’s like very official and have to worry about HR policies, and we treat people differently.

But, actually, I sort of want to show you and convince you that you know how to lead so much better than probably anyone you know is leading in the corporate world. I’m going to show you the example because the insight I got from this Scout hike is totally relevant to you, totally relevant to you.


So, what happened. Well, first of all it was Glendalough, which is, if you’ve ever been to Ireland, you might have been to Glendalough. I know Obama went there with his kids when he was over in Ireland there about three years ago. It’s a very scenic area just south of Dublin. What it’s known for is it’s a big valley, so it’s a big valley and in the valley, are two lakes. And in Irish it’s Da-Lough. So, glen = glen, da = two, lough = lakes. So, Irish for “two lakes in a glen.” Sounds cool.

But the cool thing about Glendalough is it’s been a very, very old settlement. So, there’s been people living there and monasteries and all of this type of thing for thousands of years. And about 710, so that’s A.D. 710 or 720, the monastery that was there, the monks that were there, they built this really cool thing called a round tower.

The Round Tower is, basically, it’s a tower, that goes up out of the ground to about 20 meters, 30 meters high and at the top they’ve got these little pointy things, so a cone. And these stick up like for miles around and you see these things just sticking out of the ground and they’ve been there forever, but they look so cool. So, everyone goes there, all the tourists and all the people like me. You go to Glendalough and you look at these amazing sights and all this old heritage, it’s all sitting around you.

And with the Scouts we look at that for about 10 or 15 minutes because the Cubs like, “Old stuff. I don’t like old stuff, yep?” And then we kick them up the mountain. And the mountain is the coolest part. So, you, basically, I say mountains. In Ireland, we call them mountains. In the U.S. or in Europe you probably call them little foothills. They’re quite small, in fact, this is about 500 meters high. Yeah, you’re laughing, I can hear you laughing, but they’re mountains to us.

So anyway, you get them up and you start hiking and they got these little trails, so only about so wide. And then in some places when you go across the top, it’s like bog and marsh, so they’ve got sort of railway sleepers, so big wooden planks with gaps in between. So, you’re walking along these. It’s very scenic. Yeah, so I put a picture on the blog for you so you can see it. It’s stunning scenery, absolutely stunning.

So anyway, we get up to the top of the hills after much climbing and loads of moaning. We’re there at one stage, actually, I’ve got a video of it, I’ll put that up, as well, but it was really cool because I was standing there and off to my right, this is the right hand, right hand, Keith, right hand, was this big drop and you could see the two lakes below, so it’s sheer cliff.

The Song

And then the kids were in front of me and they were singing this song, I think, like, 99 bottles on the wall and they were down to 67, so you know, like, “Oh, guys, come on, stop it.” But they’re in such great spirits. And either you, you’re sort of sometimes, you’re just pinching yourself so I took out my camera and, actually, just recorded just looking down and in the background, you could hear them singing away. It was just one of those like spiritual-type moments.

But it was then I started thinking because the reason I was actually at the back was because, it’s the same in a team, the Cubs have different abilities. There are some guys and all they want to be is at the front. They want to get up there, they want to run, they’re fit as hell and, you know, get up there. And then there’s the other guys, is, a girl at the back and, “Oh, this is too hard. When’s it going finish. Ahhh.” We’re all capable. I know she’s well capable, but she needs a bit more attention, a bit more help to get her there.

And without realizing it we did exactly what I want to do at work in the corporate setting was you, actually, you don’t treat everyone the same. When you’re trying to lead a team, you don’t treat everyone the same.

You’ve got to respect where everyone’s coming from and respect at what point they are and what they want to get out of it. So, basically, we said to the guys in the front, they were gonna run away anyway, we could’ve shouted our guts out to try and hold them back, but instead we said, “No. You fire on ahead and as long as you can see us coming up behind you, you’re fine. If you come to a fork, stop, sit down, have a break. Yep?” And that was great.

The guys in the back where, basically, it was like, “Come on, we’re almost there. There’s a McDonald’s just at the top. You know, the helicopter’s there waiting for you.” Whatever it took, keep pushing them along, keep helping them, take this thing, take that thing, take a break now, drink a water. So, we gave extra attention to the guys who needed it, and you allowed the people in the front who didn’t need the attention to fire on ahead


The Question

And the question for you is, on your teams, are you actually respecting how your team naturally works because with Cubs, if you don’t do that and you don’t respect them and if you don’t take into account their different abilities and everything, it’s a train wreck, absolute train wreck.

Because you will never get to the top of the hill. You will never get to that scenery. Because the moaning, or the fighting, between trying to keep everyone the same, it just means nothing happens. Yeap. They break down. The first break that they sit down, they’re too tired to get up, they won’t go, the tired people, and then you have the people at the front who don’t want to stop. And they’re all annoyed with you and you’re holding them back and it just makes for an awful experience.

So, my question for you is, are you creating a really good experience, or an awful experience at work? So, here’s what to look out for. Just treat everyone as they are. And some people will require, whether you like it or not, they’ll require more attention. And other people, let them go. Just give them the little instructions to keep them on track, but let them go.

Well, I hope that helps. Talk to you next week.


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