Increasing the sustainability, productivity, and engagement of your team

Thousands of hikers take to the Appalachian Trail (AT) every year, traveling 2,190 miles from Georgia to Maine. For some, giving their best means simply going out on the trail for a day, spending the night in the wilderness, and getting picked up by an Uber the next morning.

However, some become “2,000-milers” and complete the entire journey.

During my own 14-day journey on the AT, I met several people who were in this group of 2,000-milers.

Many of them had left their jobs.  They simply weren’t inspired by where they were in life, and were looking for something different.

What Inspires People to Do Their Best?

For anyone who had left a job to go on this 2000 mile journey, I asked them “why did you leave your job?”

Almost every single answer was some variety of:

  1. “I just didn’t like the leader of my company”
  2. “I didn’t feel I had a sense of direction”
  3. “I didn’t know where I was going with my career.”

It made me wonder… why, when they were willing to challenge themselves so thoroughly on the Appalachian Trail, weren’t they willing to challenge themselves at work?

Here’s a simple strategy for getting your team to put forth remarkable effort, as learned on the Appalachian Trail.

A clear destination

For thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail, Maine is a finishing point.  Maine is a VERY far away finishing point when the start point is Springer Mountain, which is all the way in Georgia.

Arriving at Mount Katahdin in Maine is the goal at the end of an arduous journey. If they are already the kind of people who will put themselves through incredible challenges to get to that end destination – just imagine what they would do for your company if they had a clear sense of direction.

Their goals may not be congruent with your teams goals, but you can help them see how to tie their goals in with your team and/or company goals.

So what inspires them?

Have you taken the time to learn what inspires your team members?  When’s the last time you sent something that you find inspirational to your team?  When’s the last time you asked them to send something inspirational to you?

It could be a simple YouTube video, a quote, or a story from their lives.  And it could be as simple as “It just occurred to me that I really don’t know what you feel inspired by, but as someone here to help you succeed, I’d really like to know.  To that end, I thought I’d start by sharing something I find inspirational.”

And then send them a video or something else that inspires you.

Inspirational Videos?

And if you don’t know what to send, just watch these YouTube videos.

If you’re not inspired from these, I’d love to see what does inspire you.

Ensure Your Team Has A Clear Sense of Direction

 When you know what you team members are inspired by, you can help them apply their interests to your company. To find out, just ask!  Find out why they picked your department, your company, and your industry. What are they hoping to accomplish? Do they have what they need to get the results they care about?

Once you have the answers to these questions, ask yourself what you can do to help them reach their goals.

Help Your Team Learn to Invest in Themselves, and Build a Real Relationship

Does one of your team members want to learn about yoga or real estate investing? You could read some reviews and share a book with them on the topic.  Does another one of your reports like gardening?  Maybe you could find a few YouTube videos about gardening and share those with them.

In addition to sharing resources with them about their areas of interest, you can share other resources to help them succeed in their role within your company.

Ask them what they learned from the information you sent.  You can also ask them about trainings, connections, or events that would be helpful for them in reaching their career goals. Help them figure out how to get the resources they need, in order to reach the goals that matter to them.

Invest in your ability to communicate

Your employees need to know why their contribution matters. Invest in your ability to communicate (80% of which is listening!). If you can help your team to see why they matter, and what their role is within the larger organization, you will have a more engaged, productive, and stronger ability to have an impact within your company.

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Here’s to your greatness,

Misti Burmeister

Misti Burmeister has been helping leaders have difficult conversations for more than 15 years, increasing engagement and productivity across generations. Help your team reach its highest potential at