High Peaks Group founder Paul Thallner is a regular contributor to Adventure Park Insider, the leading trade publication for the outdoor adventure park industry. He writes on leadership, culture, and innovation. See below for his article "Why Focus on Organizational Culture."
There were approximately 2.8 million non-fatal workplace injuries in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. About half of those involved time away from work. Digging deeper into the data, Labor reports that there were more than 100 workplace injuries per 10,000 employees in the Amusement & Theme Park industry.
As a child, Paul and his best friend, Pete, would help maintain a section of the Appalachian Trail in central Pennsylvania. A couple of times a year, they would spend the day dragging branches and logs off the trail, re-painting trail markers ("blazes"), and digging erosion-controlling trenches. The purpose was, of course, to keep the trail open, accessible, and safe for hikers. Paul learned to appreciate and respect nature and, more importantly, a sense of responsibility for the well-being of others - even for those he would never meet.
If you've ever been on a wilderness trail, you know that the environment can be both captivating and intimidating. You become mesmerized by ancient trees, flowing rivers, endless skies, playful animals, and brilliant flowers. At the same time, you feel small, even incidental. You realize that nature is unforgiving.
That simultaneous feeling of awe and "aw, crap" isn't that different from how we feel at work. We are surrounded by smart people, smart technology, a smart business plan. And yet, we sometimes do dumb things. Or others do dumb things that impact us. Why is that?
Paul started High Peaks Group out of compassion for leaders struggling to figure out not only how to be effective, but also what "effective" even means. He has seen many well-intentioned leaders - who are truly great people - act in ways that subvert their values, damage relationships, and create bitterness. These leaders are not broken, they have focused so hard on the trail at their feet, they have lost sight of the high peaks. Paul's mission is to help leaders and their teams recognize that one's actions have long-term impact on those around them and, if attended to, great things can happen that will not only benefit business but all of our relationships in society.
We spent a lot of time coming up with the right logo for High Peaks Group, and we nailed it. Our mountains represent strength, achievement, personal discovery. They also represent the paradox of an alluring yet difficult environment. The logo also includes a trail that passes across and up the mountain to represent choice, your well-worn pathways, and direction. The blue lake represents the importance of reflection and the hidden currents we can't easily see.
We Welcome all Leaders and organizations.
Whether you are new to your role or a seasoned vet, you’re accepted. High Peaks Group clients come from all industries, sectors, walks of life, have different backgrounds, roles, commitments, and responsibilities. And everyone brings a past that influences how they see the world, their organization, each other, and themselves. We don’t use the past is as a crutch, but rather leverage lessons and strengths to focus on the better leader you will become.
We focus on the future.
Most training programs fail. They fail the same way dieting fails: you end up doing something different for a few weeks and then go back to the way things were. We promote permanent change that can be sustained for the rest of your career and in any leadership role you find yourself in. We focus on pulling leaders towards a better future for their organizations, their teams, and themselves…and it happens steadily over time.
we avoid jargon and gimmicks.
The leadership sector is a multi-billion dollar industry that thrives on your need for a quick fix. It also thrives on the thinking trap, “to a hammer, everything is a nail.” That is, you’re the nail. Learning and development companies sell you products that they tell you will “solve” your “problem.” All you have to do is remember to pull out their 3x5 card with their 2x2 matrix, determine where you are, where the other person is, line up the color wheel, remember your four-letter personality code, align it with theirs, and then use the magic phrase they recommend. (see where I’m going with this?)
Instead of forced, artificial, or stilted processes, High Peaks Group doesn’t force you to memorize a new model, script, or process. Instead, we focus leaders and their teams to function at their peak performance by developing accountability and genuine concern for each other’s personal and professional wellbeing.
We will stand with you in your complexity.
You know that what you put into your brain and body impacts your ability to drive important initiatives. Today’s leaders must not only drive change, they must also do it in a way that leaves others feeling energized (not burdened), happy (not stressed), and whole (not broken). In today’s matrixed, cross-funtional envrionments, leaders have less direct authority and therefore must use a range of skills to move initiatives forward. To thrive today, leaders need to pay attention to HOW they lead, not just what they do.
We will practice.
When we coach or facilitate a workshop for leaders, there is a clear plan for what we are going to do. And everyone in the room pushes themselves hard to be better than they were when they walked in. We don’t waste time…even when we’re ‘going slow to go fast’. When we practice, we practice to achieve comfort and competency. No long lectures here. You will leave tired and satisfied that you’ve done some important work improving your leadership capability. You will have lots to do, and you will feel energized to practice…you will know what it will take to reach your next high peak.
We help you find the fun in your work.
Your leadership role gives you an incredible opportunity to touch the lives of others. At the end of the day, how do you want your direct reports to remember you? As the person who made their lives miserable? Or as the person who really saw the true potential in others? Leading is a huge gift that can be incredibly satisfying. Of course, it’s complicated, messy, and probably has very little to do with your technical or industry-specific skills. It’s a chance to savor the great moments you can create for others.
We Believe in the Value of a supportive network.
The higher you go in an organization, the lonelier you feel. Ironic, isn’t it? Yet, it kind of makes sense. You’re carrying around a lot of complexity, confidential information, politics, and assumptions. And stress. And you have personal responsibilities. And you have kids. And your dog is sick. And you feel guilty when you work late. And you feel guilty when you leave work early to catch the soccer game. High Peaks Group clients find and rely on a support network of friends, colleagues, family, and their executive coach. Without a supportive group, the stress of modern business life can have a huge negative impact on your health and the wellbeing of those around you. High Peaks clients have safe spaces to reflect, sort out their challenges, discuss worries, celebrate wins, create plans, and practice.
We question everything.
Similarly, today’s leadership research is an evolving landscape. Just because Emotional Intelligence is popular now, doesn’t mean it’s the best answer for you. Just because Seth Godin or Simon Sinek post a blog about something, doesn’t make it true. And just because you read something on High Peaks Group’s site doesn’t make it true either.
The methodologies and practices we discuss and recommend are ones we use ourselves. Our executive coaches have their own executive coaches. Our curriculum developers and facilitators are constantly refining their craft. And we work hard to avoid the “to a hammer, everything is a nail” problem. We get to know you as a leader in your context in order to best serve you.
Leaders have been through training programs before. They’ve seen and done a lot of things in service of themselves and their career. They have gathered data from self-assessments, performance reviews, 360s, etc.
While we encourage data-gathering, we also know data can send us spiraling down a path of negative self-talk. That one comment at the end! People tend to overlook the positive data (even when it’s overwhelmingly positive) and focus on the negative. It’s just what people do. So, we want you to question it, and we will help. Punch holes in the data. Look for confirming and deconfirming evidence. We’ll help you constructively question the data, take control of the narrative you create around it, and build a sensible plan to keep doing the great stuff and improve areas that make sense to change.
We assume the best about you.
We assume you’re a competent person with some motivation to succeed. It’s a given. We also assume you want to do at least something differently. That’s why you’re reading this. So, when the time comes for you to make a choice about taking a call from your executive coach vs. paying attention to the kid’s soccer game, it’s ok to pick the soccer game. You have to do the things that are truly important. If you text us to say you can’t make the call, we’ll just assume you’re doing something even better for yourself!
We keep you focused on your best self.
It’s a tough world. Organizational politics can be brutal. The expectations can be intense. Reputations and livelihoods often hang in the balance. It’s easy to grow bitter, disillusioned, and cynical. We may want to blame everything around us for what’s going on. While many things are outside our control, we can focus on the one thing over which we have exclusive control – ourselves.
A very successful executive told me about a dinner meeting he had with the CEO of a large company. Basically, they were assessing each other to see if they would want to work together. So, it was a recruiting dinner, and it was assumed that the CEO was talking to other people. The defining moment for the executive was when the CEO said, “Look, you’re very successful, you make a lot of money, but why aren’t you further along in your career?” The executive was stunned. Insecurity flooded in. “Am I good enough?”
At High Peaks Group, we believe you’re pretty amazing. So, we will help you avoid comparing yourself to unhelpful standards. We will help you define your own success. We will help you work towards ambitious goals, but those goals will be in the context of who you want to be, not who the world thinks you should be.
Our standard coaching offering is a 6-9 month engagement with an experienced, certified coach. He or she will work by your side to create and fulfill key learning objectives that will help you become more effective in your role. You can expect prompt and personalized service, a safe and confidential environment, and the opportunity to learn new things and freely discuss your challenges. Your coach will help you identify and leverage your strengths that will form a positive learning platform for your growth.
Perfect for Leaders Who:
- Need to get re-engaged, re-focused, and recharged
- Are new to an organization and need to "figure it out"
- Are preparing for a significant career advancement
- Want to take on bigger challenges beyond work
- Are considering their legacy and contributions to others
- Proven methodology
- Choice of coaches
- 360 feedback
- Learning plan
Before coaching starts, we first work with you to identify the right coach for you. Ensuring you are comfortable with your coach is a critical step in the coaching process. High Peaks Group has an outstanding network of experienced, certified coaches.
Then, we follow the path below that leads you to greater
- Deciding on Goals and Outcomes
- Identifying the outcomes you want from coaching
- Understanding your current challenges and work context
- Identifying expectations the company has for coaching, if any
- Identifying and Building Strengths
- Taking assessments such as StrengthsFinder or others
- Identifying moments of peak performance
- Focusing on Values, Passions, and Vision for Your Future
- Contemplating what drives you
- Distinguishing the "real self" from the "ought self"
- Analyzing Data & Identifying Growth Areas
- Generating insights and data from self-assessments and other activities
- Gathering objective 360 feedback on Emotional Intelligence competencies
- Building a Learning Plan
- Creating achievable "ripple" goals that start small and grow from successes
- Engaging supporters to help maintain momentum and keep you on track
- Experimenting and Practicing New Skills
- Designing experiments and documenting your learning
- Practicing new skills through role playing
- Adjusting the learning plan
- Pre-coaching expectation-setting meeting with manager (if needed)
- Up to 12 in-person coaching meetings
- Phone coaching as needed between in-person meetings
- Homework, readings, self-assessments, and activities between meetings
- 360 assessment and feedback report