Chef Laura: Peak performance

My Summer of 2014’s bucket list read: Hike a fourteener.  When I noticed the days getting a bit shorter, I said to myself, “Let’s git ‘er done!” and summited La Plata Peak last weekend.

For those of you outside of Colorado, or perhaps those who prefer sinking your toes into the sand than in hiking boots, a “fourteener” is a mountain whose peak is at least 14,000 feet above sea level. In Colorado we have 53 of them and sometimes we hike ‘em. Why? Because they’re there, or our friends are doing it, or because we put it on our above-mentioned bucket list.

La Plata Peak is the fourth tallest fourteener in the Centennial State, yet its difficulty rating is only a two out of a possible five.  Perhaps Reinhold Messner gave it this innocuous rating, but my lungs and quads screamed, “This has to be at least a three!”

During the long, steep hike filled with scrapes, bruises, sunburn and blisters – either indicating the severity of the course, my inexperience, or both – I asked myself several times, “Whose idea was this?!”

Although Coloradans wear “hiking a fourteener’ like a badge of honor, it is in fact not a requirement to maintaining residency. What kept me scrambling up jagged rocks to the 14,368-foot summit was the fact that it was my idea.

This got me thinking about work. You know when the boss assigns you a project but never lays out the “WIIFM”?   You complete the task silently wondering: Why are we doing this?  How does this benefit our company?  How will my contribution to this project actually move the needle?  And finally Whose idea was this anyway?!

Of course, you halfheartedly charge ahead; giving it the ol’ college try.  You do what is required because you are a good soldier, turning in an “acceptable” outcome.

But what if this project was your idea?  Your brain child?  What if you owned it from inception to completion?

Would you take special care of it?  Yes

Would you do just what was required?  Probably not

Would you give up on it? Heck no!



When employees are not only allowed, but encouraged, to get involved in the decision-making process and given some creative elbow room, benefits abound:

Motivation Increases – employees get excited to see their ideas come to life in a meaningful way.

Morale Sky Rockets – employees start taking pride in their work.

Productivity Soars – friendly competition spreads as peers strive to be the next employee to create and execute a great idea.

Turnover Tanks – Employees aren’t likely to quit because essentially they’d be quitting on themselves.

As back-bending and ego-stroking as it may seem, getting employees to buy-in and take ownership will produce better results. And when obstacles present itself like the boulders atop La Plata Peak, ownership employees are internally-motivated to find ways to climb around them.

Reaching the 14,36-foot peak, I experienced a symphony of emotions: excitement, pride, determination. If you don’t have access to a fourteener, those same emotions can be felt completing a well-executed work project that you owned.  Git ‘er done!