Outside of work, people are highly motivated to stretch their mental and physical limits. They complete triathalons in record time, ride dog sleds across frozen tundra, and climb mountain peaks few have mastered. In 1950, Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal became the first people to successfully climb Annapurna, an 8,000-meter peak found high in the Himalayas. The toll the mountain took on these men was brutal: each man lost a number of fingers and toes during their climb to the summit, and they were lucky to have not lost their lives. Even today, over 40% of the people who attempt to climb Annapurna die on their way to the summit. So why make the attempt? What draws people to spend their own time and money—and risk their personal safety—to reach this kind of target? The challenge. The mountain stood before them, the summit forbidding and nearly unreachable, and they wanted to see if they had it in them to make it to the top.
In order to see the benefits of this same level of dedication at work, leaders and managers need to help their employees find a workplace version of Annapurna. Leaders need to provide their employees with opportunities to be challenged, situations that require them to reach well beyond what is expected of them and truly excel. People love to achieve difficult goals, and they love to up the ante. Once they have reached one summit, they will be ready to move on to the next. Achieving easy goals is boring, no matter what the environment. And inside the workplace, requiring employees to reach higher levels of performance makes the work they do more rewarding, resulting in greater job satisfaction, deeper dedication to the organization, and a heftier, healthier bottom line results. So give your employees the chance to sink their teeth into bigger, better challenges. Search for that next summit, find that next challenge, reward your people for striving to reach the top. They can make it, and you’ll find the proof in your bottom line.