Consulting Cliff Notes

E. Ann Hollier, Ph.D.Self Care, Vision

friends hiking

Friends on the TrailHiking alone, as I often do, my destination is Lake Peak, the second highest mountain near Santa Fe. It’s a demanding route, 3 ½ miles each way with 2,000 ft. of elevation gain to the 12,400 ft. summit. Air density is 1/3 less than sea level, making the steep uphill pitches a lung-bursting challenge.

Sitting on a cliff with a forever view, I am overtaken by the charming young couple pictured here. We end up hiking several hours together. They are woefully unprepared.

They chose this route based on his perusal of Google Earth. She has almost no hiking experience. While they are fit and wear sensible hiking shoes, their shorts and short sleeves are no preparation for the cold, wind, and possible rain up top. They have food and water, but nothing for the unexpected.

Unlike me they carry no topographical map, no compass. Also no extra food and water, no knife, no emergency whistle, headlamp, fire-making kit, sun screen, chapstick, toilet paper, extra ziplocs, trash bags, long pants, long sleeves, heavy-duty waterproof windbreaker, gloves, trek poles, or bandana. These are always in my backpack, and hiking alone at lower altitudes I also carry pepper spray in case of bears and mountain lions.

Guiding them, I do everything I can to make our afternoon a pleasurable experience for them. Leading the way, I set a sustainable pace. My topographical map shows our route, and since I’ve been here before when the trail becomes vague I can help them find it again. When we stop to take in the view, I name the surrounding mountains and lakes for them. We discuss their hiking experience and ambitions, and I talk to them about destinations that might match their readiness.

As we climb higher it is obvious the woman is becoming dangerously cold and I give her my long sleeved shirt. When we reach the top of Deception Peak where this picture is taken, I suggest that they head down. Their return route is different than mine, and if they don’t start now they risk being out after dark in much colder temperatures without warm clothing or a light source. They didn’t realize the cold would drain the battery on their cell phone so fast; without me they would have had no idea of the time – or any idea of the time necessary to get down before nightfall.

Continuing alone, I hike along the razorback ridge behind them to the top of Lake Peak. Hiking out I chuckle to myself thinking how much our encounter was like a consulting engagement. Without me, at best that young couple would have lost the trail and turned back far short of their goal. At worst, they might have found themselves utterly unprepared on a bitter cold, unfamiliar mountain after dark, with possibly dire consequences.

The people I work with are not clueless. They are exceptionally talented, capable and accomplished professionals who have decided to take on an ambitious challenge. They have a choice: they can do it the hard way figuring it out on their own, or they can get advice and guidance to pave their way, making it far easier and faster to reach their goals and greatly reducing the risk of failure.

Some of them are in unfamiliar territory and can’t afford to lose their way.

Some are on a tight timeline and can’t waste a single moment if they want to make their deadline.

For some, failure is not an option.

Some simply want to be the best, and seek out every advantage at their disposal to perform impeccably. They are no different than celebrity movie stars, pop singers, and sports icons, all of whom use mentors and coaches to reach the pinnacle of their abilities. Peak performance professionals seek out comparable trusted advisors who help them articulate a vision aligning with their passion and unique abilities, relentlessly improve their game, and accelerate their professional growth by tapping into the mentors’ own experiences, wisdom, and network of contacts.

The days when the appropriate degree was enough to ensure success are long gone. Ongoing content area training is important but it’s not enough. Some large corporations have instituted leadership development and talent development programs to support their own growth needs and retain high potential talent. However, few offer the sustained mentoring necessary to build the soft skills, strategic focus, and ability to deliver that all senior leaders must possess for success and rapid advancement.

How long does such mentoring take, you may ask.

What do you want to accomplish? As with any course, as long as you do your part you can have a powerful learning experience within a few months to a year. But it is worth asking: Do you seek to become the business equivalent of a martial arts black belt? An Olympic athlete? A top boxoffice movie star? A grammy-winning singer/songwriter? Do you want to see how far you can go? If you do, that’s a different level of commitment.

Since growing into the professional success you were meant to become is the work of a lifetime, the most important question is …

What are you waiting for?

Contact me for a free consultation to learn more about how I can help.

E. Ann Hollier, Ph.D.

E. Ann Hollier, Ph.D.
Managing Partner
The Cogent Executive LLC

Ann Hollier provides strategic consulting and performance coaching to high achieving senior executives and management teams. She specializes in change management, strategic planning and implementation, leadership development, and building world-class collaborative teams. Learn more at

E. Ann Hollier, Ph.D.Consulting Cliff Notes