Miami, FL – Automotive Leadership Roundtable connects the top industry leaders through a series of high-impact experiences where the best and the brightest leaders share strategies that help each other grow professionally and personally.
Brian spoke about breaking barriers and how to push through quitting, avoid camping and being content, and always strive to climb and reach your full potential. The conference had 9 auto manufacturers present and represented 1000 automotive dealerships.
Day 3 from Dale Pollak’s site. See full story here.
A Different Kind Of Ski Lesson: A No Barriers Approach To Business
I’m still reliving and re-appreciating last week’s No Barriers ski adventure in Beaver Creek, Colo.
Over the weekend, as I was replaying the experience in my mind, I found myself asking questions again and again: Why did the entire experience feel a little like magic? What made this adventure so special, beyond giving me the opportunity to live my dream to ski again? And, why couldn’t every day in business feel as good as the ones we shared on the mountain?
These questions came up for a couple of reasons:
First, the trip had a clear business objective. Blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer has inspired the Cox Automotive leadership team to embrace his No Barriers philosophy as a way of doing business. The opportunity for me to join Erik in Beaver Creek is but the first sign of this commitment, and we had a film crew on hand to chronicle our adventure and create a documentary that might inspire and drive innovation throughout Cox Automotive.
Second, even though we were there to work and achieve a business objective, it didn’t feel like work at all. That’s no small feat considering our group had nine people (including two blind guys), going up and down the mountain all day long, and we couldn’t get any work done unless and until we were sure everyone was always safe. Our film crew and guides deserve incredible props for making the work feel effortless and fluid. The crew would essentially hop-scotch down the mountain on snowboards, setting up cameras and tripods up ahead to film our descent. As we passed, they’d pack up and film us as they raced to set up the next shot. All the while, the guides relayed our progress and helped the crew pick shot locations that fit the pitch of the slope and our skiing abilities. I’m still amazed at the artful nature of this complex, coordinated choreography.
On top of all that, there were a myriad of other logistical details—getting breakfast and gear in the morning, making it up to and off of lift chairs, coordinating hotel rooms and transportation, etc. Put simply, a lot could have gone very wrong. But nothing did.
Third, our group started as mostly strangers. Some of us knew each other, but we’d never worked together before. Yet, we functioned as a cohesive, tight-knit group for three days. I now understand why this previously disconnected group proved to be the perfect cast for our trip. Each individual had his own personality and special talent, both of which circumstances called upon at some point. No one complained or hesitated when his turn to set up arrived. No egos got in the way when someone else’s suggestion proved to be the best idea. My friend and protector, dealer Brian Benstock of Paragon Honda, aptly observed, “The worst guy on this team is a great guy.”
Finally, we had a highly successful trip without much advance planning. The trip itself came together in roughly a week’s time. Our group only met once, on the night before our first day, to plan the following three days. Everyone quickly understood our mission and objectives, and then we went to work. On the mountain, we made decisions on the fly, trusting the instincts, judgment and talent of each team member to execute his responsibility and role. We assessed our progress and adjusted course in the moment, focusing on the challenge ahead while heeding lessons learned from behind. In many ways, our largely improvised experience turned out to be harmony on the hill, with the radio chatter of our film crew and guides providing the melody.
As I continue to reflect on how my “No Barriers” experience might translate to Cox Automotive and dealers, I’m reminded of the great things that happen when you assemble the right people, commit to a shared mission and empower each individual to perform to his/her potential.
A recap from Dale Pollak’s site about our trip. See full story here.
Our final day here at Beaver Creek started as soon as the slopes opened. It’s been another picture-perfect day on the mountain, with mild temperatures, plenty of sunshine and relatively uncrowded runs.
As I rode the lifts today, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the opportunity to take part in this life-changing experience with blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer. It’s a gift that ranks among the most precious I’ve received in my lifetime.
There are a lot of people who merit a public thank-you for making my adventure in Beaver Creek possible:
Our ski guides. Jeff Ulrich and Rob Leavitt truly are the “secret sauce” that enables two blind guys to repeatedly and successfully ski black diamond slopes. Both are top-shelf individuals, the kind who would sacrifice themselves if it meant keeping us safe. They also lead interesting lives—Jeff is a golf pro in Colorado Springs, and Rob is a ski instructor at Aspen and councilman for the nearby city of Basalt.
Our can-do creative crew: We had two guys from Boulder-based Buck Ross Productions—Ryan “Buck” Cross and Matt Silton—filming us as we rode the mountain. They seemed to defy gravity on their snowboards as they shot in front of us, behind us, off to our sides…their movements reminded me of ballet, except these two were heading backwards down the mountain at 40 miles an hour.
Our Cox Automotive leadership, support teams. I owe much to Cox Enterprises executive vice president Alex Taylor and CEO John Dyer, as well as Sandy Schwartz, head of Cox Automotive. They instantly embraced the idea of adopting Erik’s “No Barriers” approach to life and business within our organization, and they encouraged me to join Erik here in Beaver Creek this week. I’m also indebted to Cox Automotive’s events team, including director Christina Zara and senior event planner Thais Toro. They provided invaluable support in arranging our activities and accommodations.
Our ski group. I’m grateful that Alex Taylor, dealer Brian Benstock of Paragon Honda and Lou Laste from Cox Automotive’s PR team could join us. In particular, I’m especially thankful to know that Brian Benstock always had my back on the mountain, helping steer others clear of a blind guy who’s rekindled a need for speed on the slopes.
Our inspiration. I’ve never met anyone like Erik Weihenmayer, and I’m ever-thankful that our paths crossed, and we had the opportunity to be and ski together this week. I also owe a great thank-you to Erik’s assistant, Skyler Williams, who has that behind-the-scenes knack to make things happen, often before anyone else knew they would be needed.
I’m looking forward to seeing how our “No Barriers” experience in Beaver Creek will serve to inspire others throughout the Cox organization and beyond in the coming months.
In the meantime, I’m heading back to my skis. We just finished lunch and Erik said, “I’m exhausted. Let’s take it up a notch.”