Lost in a Crowd

Apr 16, 2021


Surrounded by dogs, mountain bikers, and hikers, we…got…lost! Find out how a misguided hike reminds leaders about best practices and U-turns.

The weather was perfect; my husband and I planned an entire day of possibilities. We ventured off our beaten path with the expectation of discovery. We wanted to do something new, different, unexplored. As it is for most journeys, the beaten path was wide and well-traveled. Helpful signs were clear and well-placed. The further we got off the main road, the smaller and more infrequent the signage became. The road twisted its way up into the hills at about the same time I turned to my phone to settle a light-hearted debate using the World Wide Web.

What we discovered was a hidden gem, well, maybe not so hidden to the hundreds of other people clamoring for parking, cinching up backpacks, and wrangling children. Though cars were parked along the road up to a mile from the entrance, we got a perfect spot near the trailhead. We were up for a short hike, so we picked a simple one-mile loop. You know, when you basically take every left until you see the parking lot again. Well, it would be over three and a half miles before we saw the parking lot again? Surrounded by dogs, mountain bikers, and hikers (as young as two years of age), we…got…lost!

This is where I would usually say, “Let’s sit down, have some water, look at the map, and figure out how to get back to the parking lot.”

Unfortunately, we were lost in a crowd with:

  • No Water: Coloradans don’t even go to the grocery store without a thermos of water and extra clothes for layering-- just in case the weather changes. On this day, expecting only a Sunday afternoon drive, I brought thermoses of warm tea to fend off the chill in the air. …Reminding me that leaders don’t have to be prepared for everything, but they must be prepared for best practices.
  • No Map: I felt rushed as people were closing in to study the map I was quickly surveying. I picked out a short loop and rejoined Ian, no pictures, no second opinion. The final left turn was at a 135-degree angle and completely hidden by trees. …Reminding me that leaders don’t have to navigate perfectly, but they must be ready for U-turns.
  • No Direction: When we asked for help, it became clear that there were two parking lots, separated by over 12 miles of trails. When asked if we were parked on the east or west side, I couldn’t answer. I’d lost my sense of direction while researching silly trivia in the car. …Reminding me that leaders don’t have to know exactly what’s next, but they must be directionally correct.

It was puzzling to me, having conquered 14,000 ft. peaks, that I fell victim to so many mistakes. I allowed myself to be rushed, skip must-haves, and go unchecked in new territory. Those mistakes, in addition to poorly marked trails (and parking lots), innocent distractions, and the appearance of simplicity, lulled me away from best practices, unexpected paths, and a specific direction.

Thanks to a cell signal, a saloon with a memorable name, and our trusty skills of deduction, we mapped our way back to the correct parking lot. What lessons can you pull from my experience? Do you need to get back to best practices, make a U-turn, or reconfirm your goal(s)? What mistakes resonate in your business, right now? How can you avoid being lost in a crowd?

by Michelle Sugerman • Leading Synergies, LLC • © All Rights Reserved

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