If you ever get an opportunity to volunteer in your local climbing club; take it. Volunteering is good for you and the community; especially if you are a small business owner or entrepreneur. Being involved will open all sorts of doors to new experiences. The rewards of meeting so many amazing people while you are doing something as fun as climbing is worth your time.
And you will experience many situations where you will be able to hone your leadership skills. Volunteering can help you improve your:
- Communications Skills (in general)
- Public Speaking and Writing Skills
- Listening Skills
- Negotiation Skill
- Collaboration Skills
- Marketing and Promotion Skills
Here are some of the leadership lessons I learned while running the Kansas City Climbing Club
- Surround Yourself With Excellent People
- You Must Have Excellent Listening Skills
- Empathy Is A Requirement To Be A Good Leader
- There Must Be A Support System For The Small Businesses
- No One Is Good At Everything. It Is Easy To Learn From Others.
- Everyone Loves A Discount And A Giveaway: Marketing Savvy
Lesson 1: The Climbing Community is full of incredible people. Surround yourself with exceptional people.
I truly wish I had more time to spend with some of the people that I have met through climbing.
Here are my favorite examples of what exceptional leadership looks like:
I love telling this story of Scottie Mcelroy. Dude is a ripped Greek god and climbs harder than most people I know. And yet, Scottie has this gentle and cool demeanor that is the true definition of unassuming.
I’ve seen Scottie climb the hardest routes that have been set at both Monster Mountain and Ibex.
In this particular story, two new and excited climbers were giving Scottie some spray* regarding a brand new route (that Scottie was soon going to flash). Scottie listened to them, unassumingly, with eye contact, and said, “Yeah, thanks man. I’ll give that a try.”
Scottie didn’t need the beta. Dude is strong. Yet he treated the new guys with respect. Scottie didn’t talk down to them or belittle them.
Scottie is genuine, cool, humble.
These leadership qualities are why his organization, Project Ascent, is such a success.
Project Ascent gives the underprivileged and at-risk youth an opportunity to experience nature, challenge themselves physically and mentally as well as create lasting self-confidence.
Lesson 2: People, in general, want to be heard. You must have excellent listening skills to be a good leader.
I’ve seen it many times: Some people have a natural gift to know and understand when somebody else needs to be listened to. Whether there is a point of contention or misunderstand; a good leader can sense the trouble and help bring about a resolution. An excellent leader can listen without judgement.
I am going to brag on 2 more of my friends: Chris Deulen and Chris Glaros. These are two men, whom I’ve seen, go out of their way to hear somebody out and to extend a kind word. In fact, I have been the recipient of words of encouragement and a pat on the back when I needed it from both of these guys. Thank you, brothers!
Having genuine empathy is a necessity for being a leader. You already know that it is impossible to save the world; but you can have a lasting effect on someone just by remembering their name.
- the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Lesson 4: There needs to be a better support system for small business owners, entrepreneurs, and start ups.
Working with the local gyms and gear shops is a given. But what about the independents or the individuals? Do you know any one-man crews?
How do we band together as a community to support the inventors, the photographers, the musicians, the entrepreneurs, the students, and the aspiring actors? I don’t have that answer–but WE might come up with some ways to try to help each other. Start by getting to know a few more people in the Kansas City climbing community like:
Matt Boulton. He is the inventor of the Backpacker Puck. With all gumption that a entrepreneur can muster, he has produced one of the most flavorful trail bars in the area. Everyone in the Kansas City climbing community should know Matt; and at the very least, buy just ONE of his Backpacker Pucks to try it.
And if you didn’t know, Matt was involved in an accident at his job. He was seriously injured and now, thankfully, is recovering well.
Rob Rice. Rob teaches some of the climbing classes at Monster Mountain Climbing Gym. But did you know that he is a photographer? Creativity oozes out of this guy! Did you know that he is a song writer and a musician? You can sample his music right here at www.iamrobrice.com.
Lesson 5: No one is good at everything. It is easy to learn from others.
Throughout my years of climbing, I have injured all of my fingers (including both thumbs), both elbows, and both shoulders. I did not know how to “fix” an injury. I did not know very much about self-care.
Enter the brains behind The Strength Lab* in Lawrence, Kansas, David Tindle. David introduced me to Voodoo Flossing–which I knew nothing about. I experimented with Voodoo Flossing, had a very positive result, and wrote an article about it. Someone at the UK Bouldering Forum saw my article and it ultimately got picked up on Reddit. Around a dozen climbers have shared their positive experience with Voodoo Flossing.
Look at that. David shared a little bit of know-how with me. I passed it along. And now, I am certain, that dozens (if not hundreds) of climbers are benefiting from David’s knowledge.
Lesson 6: Everyone Loves A Discount And A Giveaway: Marketing Savvy
Matt Lyons from Dynamic Earth has no idea the impact he’s had on the Kansas City Climbing Community.
Here’s the story:
My first outdoor event was a Dynamic Earth event at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Jasper Arkansas. Dynamic Earth set up top-ropes for beginners and provided a hobo-meal. Everyone also received a gift bag. In my gift bag was my first pair of Icebreaker Socks. Those socks immediately became my favorites. What a great brand!
[For a long time, I held the belief that wool was itchy. Icebreaker changed my mind.]
And then, when I became president of the Kansas City Climbing Club, the local Icebreaker representative at the time was Scottie Mcelroy! Scottie and I spoke about a sponsorship deal for the club and he supplied us with socks, shirts, discounts, and stickers.
Easily, a few hundred members of the climbing community were introduced to Icebreaker through the savvy marketing of Matt Lyons.
Kathleen Whistance is the owner of Ibex Climbing Gym. Kathleen possesses excellent marketing savvy. It was awesome to work with her to come up with discounts and promotions whenever we had a Kansas City Climbing Club meeting there. If there is someone in the climbing community who understands reciprocal marketing, it is Kathleen Whistance.
Definitions and Notes
* Spray: Unsolicited beta; not always unappreciated, but usually inappropriate. It can take a lot of self-awareness/control to refrain from doing this, but I believe to do so creates a better environment for everyone. Climbing at its core is problem solving. What fun is it if someone solves your problem for you, especially if you didn’t ask them to?
* Unfortunately, The Strength Lab in Lawrence Kansas was closed and the walls torn down in early 2015.
Read about more amazing people in the Kansas City Climbing Community inside of HCRBeta’s Interviews category.
Jason Clements is the founder of and writer for HCRBeta, Hike Climb Relax: How to… He lives in Shawnee, Kansas and also runs the cell phone recycling company, Cells for Cells, which recycles cell phones to raise money for families battling cancer. You can follow Jason on Facebook or on Twitter @jasonclements.