Streams like this were a welcomed site during my time on the Appalachian Trail.

On the far bank, a hiking friend from Georgia that I had recently met called out “Joe! You have to try this.” The blissful look of peace on his face affirmed his invitation.

The stream was 8 feet across and 10 inches at its deepest point. Someone had thoughtfully placed stepping-stones in the water to allow weary travelers to cross without getting their feet wet. Appreciative of their efforts, I had no intention of using the stones. I removed my wool socks and hiking shoes and tentatively eased one foot into the stream. It was cold and I reflexively took a quick breath. It was refreshing as the proverbial crystal clear mountain stream.

I waded across and joined my hiking companion on the other side. I swung my pack to the ground and gingerly lowered myself onto a flat rock a few feet from him. I found a deep pool and positioned my feet there. My friend was right; this was exhilarating. We sat there in silence, our feet and ankles submerged in the fast flowing stream. The cold mountain water rejuvenating our feet as well as buoying our spirits. After the many climbs and descents of the past couple of days, my feet rejoiced.

Soon, another hiker came lumbering around the trail and faced us from across the stream. We had met him the day before, a friendly music teacher from Atlanta. He looked as tired as we felt so we motioned to a nearby rock and invited him to join us. That’s when we noticed something unusual, the reason behind his odd gait as he had approached.

To say his hiking boots were not up to the task would be an understatement. His left boot had completely come apart. Dirt encrusted duct tape wrapped around the toe and soul was the only thing holding the two together. Another worn loop of tape encircled the ankle and heal. Paracord reinforced the duct tape in some places. His right boot was only marginally better.

My friend and I gawked at the boot and stole a quick glance at each other. We both thought it was hilarious but weren’t sure that the music teacher saw the humor in it. Not wanting to offend him, we stifled our laughter. He carefully removed his boots and joined us in the stream.

A short while later, my hiking buddy and I got ready to go. Before we left, my friend offered the music teacher some duct tape and I extended him a length of paracord to help patch his ragged footgear. The last time I saw him, he was sitting with his feet in the stream reading a hardback copy of The Barefoot Sisters Southbound: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail. (You can image how hard it was not to laugh we he retrieved that from his pack!)

AT Lesson #8: Have the Right Tools

After parting with our young music teacher, my hiking companion looked over at me and said “I hope Frankenshoe will be alright.”

The young man’s gear failure had left him in a very difficult situation. It was a day and a half hike northbound to reach an outfitter situated directly on the trail. Their gear is very expensive due to their prime location and the acute needs of their clientele. His other option was to backtrack at least one full day to a narrow road we had already crossed and hope to catch a ride to a nearby town to replace his worn hiking shoes. Neither option was very good. And I felt for the young man.

He had the drive to complete his goal. He seemed to have the knowledge and experience required. He certainly had the desire. Yet, he lacked the tools he needed to accomplish his task. Drive, knowledge, experience, and attitude can overcome a lot. These are important qualities to be sure. However, without the right tools, our abilities are compromised and suppressed.

Similar setbacks can happen to our teams. Creativity, drive, and attitude can go a long way toward accomplishing a goal. In fact, without these, little will get done. However, without the right tools, your team’s job will be much more difficult.

Whether its access to the right software and hardware, a subscription to training sites, or availability to external consulting/coaching resources when needed, your team will be put into a really tough spot.

Do your best to give them the tactical tools and strategic insights to effectively do their work.

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