Many people talk about getting to the top: the top of their game, the top of their field, the top job in the company or even the top of the marketplace. For some it is insurmountable. For others it is an obsession. Martin Grieder would be the latter, in both his business and personal life. He has built a stellar reputation as a top executive and also conquered the Seven Summit Quest, climbing the highest mountain on each continent. He comes down from his recent trip up Mount Everest to share his advice for climbing higher faster.
Grieder, a member of YPO, helped launch Nespressso Professional at Nestlé. He is currently GVP Marketing (CMO) at Sonova, where he oversees marketing worldwide. I interviewed him on my weekly podcast, 10 Minute Tips From the Top and he generously shared the many leadership lessons learned in mountaineering. Here are his top 5.
1. Have a vision
"It all starts with having an audacious vision for where you want to go," Grieder says. "As a leader, you need to have a vision, conceptualize it, and share it with your team." The same is true for personal development and mountains. Having a clear and compelling vision of where you want to be is the only way to get there. No one gets to the top of Everest accidentally.
But vision means more than dreaming and planning. It's also means looking around at the lay of the land, familiarizing yourself with what Steven Johnson has called "the adjacent possible," the origin of innovative ideas. Grieder expresses it perfectly, "Success comes from looking outside of your industry, pointing out opportunities, and connecting the dots." As in mountaineering, you have to both keep your eyes on where you're headed, and stop to look around for what's next.
2. Get Training
Grieder is an advocate of intrepreneurship as a training ground. "When you are embedded in a large company," he points out, "You don't have to worry about cash." It's a way to start before striking out on your own. He advises looking for difficult start-up projects within your organization. He started in corporate internal audit at Nestlé to get a good overview of the entire company, then moved over to Nespresso, "when everyone else was shunning it. It was a big question mark," he told me. He was there for ten years, becoming the president of Nespresso USA and eventually the Global Head for Nespresso Professional. But he didn't stay. Always looking for the next challenge, he moved to BabyNes to take the Nespresso concept into infant formula and "start that new business from scratch and build it." These experiences helped train his ability to "really feel at home in the areas of innovation." Look for opportunities wherever you currently are to take on unpopular or embattled project and train your entrepreneurial skills.
3. Take Calculated Risks
In business and in mountain climbing, Grieder says, "If you do it right, if you plan carefully, a mountain isn't dangerous. It's a calculated risk." The business climate is as challenging and more dynamic than any mountain, but you can't just stay home. You have to be able to tolerate some danger. But be smart about it. "Negativity and seeing the problems too soon will kill success," he cautions. Have the courage to take calculated risks.
4. Be Agile
"Moving forward," Grieder says, "Agility will be one of the key success factors in enterprise. As we move more from product innovation to service innovation, we have to accept that we can't plan the journey from a-z before we embark." The ability to adapt to changing conditions, to improvise and respond to things not going as you planned but as they actually happen, is an unusual and valuable skill.
5. Trust Your Team
"Most importantly, it's all about trust," Grieder told me. "On a mountain, you have people with different skills sets. You have to trust each person to deliver on his skill set 100%. If you can do that in business, you can operate much faster." A smoothly functioning team allows each person within it to increase his or her efficiency, and to enjoy it more. Without trust, delegation isn't truly possible. "You need to build a team that believes in you, and you in return in them. Together you follow the path to the top of the world." It's critical to be both worthy of trust and capable of trusting. You wouldn't want to be up there alone.
Each week Kevin explores exclusive stories inside YPO, the world's premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.