Tuesday, August 17, 2010

One Match

The Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana is considered the crown jewel of the American west. It is over one million acres of pristine, wild and rugged terrain in the Rocky Mountains. This was the backdrop for many childhood vacations planned by my father; a man who believed that exertion, awe and trepidation were essential to any family holiday. My first trip occurred when I was five years old. 

It was in this setting that I was taught the rule of “one match.” My father’s thinking was simple: if you were lost in the wilderness and resources became scarce, the ability to start a fire using only one match could someday be the difference between life and death. He was the instructor and the pressure to perform was exceptionally high. “This is one of those things you must get right.”

We all groused and as we grew older this “life lesson” became a joke told at family gatherings. Of course, in hindsight, my father was right. If you want to enjoy the isolation and adventure of the American wilderness, there are a few essential skills where aiming for perfection is appropriate.

As business leaders, it is important to know your “one match” skills. Which skills demand close to perfect performance? Listening fits into this category. Without exceptional listening skills, you will perish in the wilderness. Information is like heat from a fire; active listening gets the fire started and keeps it going. When it comes to listening, “practice does make perfect” and perfection is the goal.

Take some time to consider your “one match” skills. Consider the implication of your unique environment and business situation. By identifying and practicing these skills, you will enjoy your business challenges instead of being consumed by them.

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