THE OTHER SIDE
It was the first day of my Trek!! A good 4000 feet climb as we started from the base camp, all set to conquer the peaks to reach the hidden lakes amongst the glaciers! The team was a good mix of seasoned trekkers to absolute noobs who had chosen to do one of the difficult treks as their first!
Very early in the day I realized that despite my cycling, yoga, walking and a bit of running the inclines were a test on my fitness and I wasn’t as swift as I thought I could be.
It would need a lot more from me to be trotting about in the front and hence, I chose to listen to my body, soak with the surroundings and trek at my own pace which was called… slow! I wasn’t the last or the only one though, there were a couple with me and some behind me. The fast pacers did get some rest while the slower ones were catching up but then everyone managed to reach the campsite on time, almost at the same time.
Evening, during the briefing, we all shared our experiences and I went full throttle on how idyllic it is to be slow in the trek, making the fast pacers look like fools.
Day 2 was tougher for me since it had several inclines with gravel, some boulders, rivers and long climbs. I did manage to reach the campsite as the last one, with one more trekker of course. I had one of the most beautiful evenings sitting by an enchanting lake! Elated and proud of my walk through the day, we came back to the briefing.
The trek leader had an important announcement. The next day was the most challenging climb. The climb to the highest peak on the trek. The previous batch that had attempted the trek had returned to the base camp failing to go ahead after waiting for three nights in the campsite due to rain. The rain god seemed benevolent on us though, the predictions looked good. While we were having dinner, the Trek leader announced the plan for the next day.
“Im choosing four people to leave early tomorrow, not because they were slow or they cannot do the trek or any other reason. It is just to give them the comfort of their pace. I’m giving you all a head start!”. There was silence, the head starters were to leave 1 hour early, while the better 11 in the team would catch up anyway! Was this the thought behind breaking the team? Four trekkers were named and yes, I was a part of it.
This was the first time I was named amongst the slow trekkers.
In all my earlier attempts in treks/walks, though most of them on plains, I have always managed to be in the front! A sudden feeling of doubt, failure & panic set-in the moment I was named, for a head start, Was I really that slow? Why was I named? Was it because I said I liked being slow? It felt as though my US visa got rejected while the rest of my friends got it ☹. For the first time I realised how it feels to be named a non-Performer or not so good a performer in a Team!
While the intention of the Trek leader and the guides were noble considering the tough task ahead and also their previous experience, I was wondering how it resonated with the team! While we give it fancy names, its clearly demarcating performers from non-performers! How does this impact a person’s self-confidence? His ability to pursue the path he had chosen? Has there been a seed of doubt ingrained into his mind? Has the enthusiasm and excitement of the team member been dented? Was it really required to Divide the Team this way? Is this a hindrance to inclusiveness in the team? These were some of the questions that zapped through my mind from that dreadful moment! The night was hard, the doubts I never had before about completing the trek started cropping in.
I tried my best to see this as an opportunity to experience the trek differently with just 4 trekkers walking and leaving the rest of the team behind.
In the morning, there were 4 of us of course, but there was another team member who was one of the fast pacers also walking with us! He had CHOSEN to walk to us. How wonderful!! I thought. Couldn’t this have been an inclusive solution to our problem? To have a trek buddy attached to each of the slow pacer/perceived slow pacer? Can there be other team members complementing each other, helping each other win over their faults …rather PERCEIVED FAULTS? As leaders, with the pressure to deliver and meet targets, how many times do we sit back, pause and see how we can pull up the ones that are slow pacers? Why is the first instinct – to divide, compare and break the team and team spirit? Do we have the luxury of time to put people before productivity? How often would a team member standby with someone in his team to support and help, at a time when the latter was stuck, slowed down or drained?
How can we change the instinctive and easy approach of dividing and get to be more inclusive in a Team? Guess its only when we start thinking about it!! Think about it differently!
UBUNTU, I’m sure we have all read this African term meaning “I am, because we are”, enough and more number of times now in whatsapp forwards, articles, team workouts and training programs. But do we remember this story as a Team Leader and as a Team member? Even I didn’t, till I was on the OTHERSIDE!!