Everyday leadership: Perseverance, encouragement pay dividends

On the first full day of our family reunion in the Smokey Mountains, we decided to attempt a hike to Ramsey Cascades. It is eight miles round trip with a steady incline and some steep places. I had been on this trail two times before but had never made it to the cascades at the top. It is the tallest waterfall in the park with water dropping 100 feet over bedrock.

We finally reached the trailhead at about ten o’clock in the morning with a troop of 23 family members. The trail was broad for the first few hundred feet and then narrowed. There were trees, undergrowth, fungi, and some insects to identify as we progressed.

At about a mile and one-half some of the younger children and parents started dropping out and heading back to the parking lot. I urged them on with descriptions of the virgin stand of tulip poplar, basswood and yellow birch trees that awaited us a few thousand feet ahead. Some plowed on and others made their way to their cars and back to our lodging.

Around one turn we were faced with a log about 2 feet wide fitted with a flimsy railing that traversed a steep ravine covered by a rushing stream below. I had forgotten this obstacle although I suddenly had flashbacks of my previous trips across it. I am not a fan of heights but the kids seemed undaunted and easily made it across. My heart beat fast as the trail steepened and the size of the trees increased. We gawked and took pictures that couldn’t do justice to the magnificent growth.

Soon we passed my brother, Joe, and his adult crew as they headed down the slope. They had reached the two big poplars, which made the trip worthwhile. We knew my brother, Jack, and his two young children, Jacqui and Jackson, who are 7 and 5 years old, were ahead since they were the only ones we had not passed.

Another hundred feet and we heard the children screaming with glee. In 10 more minutes we approached a clearing where the grandfather poplar trees held court. They were probably 150 feet tall and 10 feet around.

Jacqui came running up to Carol and me and declared proudly, “Uncle Glenn! Aunt Carol! We did not give up and made it to the big trees.” I replied equally proud of them, “Yes, you did.” We took a number of pictures of us hugging those mammoths. Later that evening while we lounged in a hot tub, we reminisced our success. We hadn’t made it to the top but the big poplar trees were a reward themselves.

This is a story of perseverance, encouragement and success. Jack kept telling his children about the trees and what an amazing sight it would be. Although the children were tired, Jack stopped, gave them a granola bar and explained the worthiness of their goal. Jacqui and Jackson will probably never forget the adrenaline of that day. Perseverance is a key behavior of successful leaders and encouragement along with restatement of the goal leads to the attainment of that goal. Also, telling stories about success can help employees reach for additional achievements.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s new book, “Tons of Stone above my head: Coal Mining Stories with Leadership Lessons,” visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.