Instilling Confidence:  The Tale of Two Ziplines

There is an x-factor when it comes to high performance in any industry at any level, and that is the ability to earn trust.  One way to do this is by instilling a level of confidence in the people you serve (internally and externally).  This allows your team, your clients, your family, and your organization to make better decisions and have a better experience.

Recently, over 3 months, Jess and I traveled to two beautiful and amazing places – Whistler, BC, and the beautiful Colorado Rockies. We enjoy adventure, so signed up for ziplining in Whistler with @ziptrekecotours.

It was an outstanding experience. Our guides, Tracy and Shannon, started us off with a thorough yet not overwhelmingly long and boring introduction to the experience. They had great personalities, were fun and joking around with all of us on the tour, and really knew their stuff. This was important, as we were getting ready to entrust them with our lives as we zipped along from mountain to mountain hundreds of feet in the air.

As we approached the first station, they settled into their routine.  Each one had a part to play, and it was clearly about making the experience both fun and safe. They were asking the group where we were from, and what we enjoyed doing, really breaking the ice, and helping everyone feel comfortable.

And while they were great at engaging the group, there was a clear switch in their demeanor when they started prepping us for each run. They got serious, they got focused. They knew what to do, how to do it, and worked with great intention as they set each of us up to step off the ledge and fly high.

We were so confident in them and the experience, that on the last run, we let go with our hands and flipped upside down as we soared to the final stop. It was an incredible experience.

On the van ride back to the base of the mountain, I told our guides it was clear they had been doing this together for a long time. The driver of the van, which I found out later was their manager, remarked “Wow, that’s quite a compliment.”

The reason? These young women were brand new and only had been on the job for a week.

They were so well trained and prepared, that it never occurred to any of us that they were anything but seasoned pros. We were blown away! For the trip back, we all offered examples of how great the experience had been because of these two.

Fast forward to Colorado. Well, we weren’t planning on another zipline but were traveling with friends who had never done it before. Why not?

We arrived at the location which was in the foothills outside of Denver and right away we could tell it was going to be different than Whistler. The facility was fine, the guides were fine, it was all fine, but definitely lacked the professionalism of our prior experience.

The best part of this experience was also the most terrifying, the ride to the first station. As we rode in the back of a pickup truck strapped to an enclosed cage, we started climbing one of the foothills. As we rounded a corner there was a path in front of us that appeared almost vertical in slope. One of the guides said, “Make sure you are tethered properly for this part of the ride, and hang on tight!”

Meanwhile, I was thinking, “I’d rather not be attached to this thing as it flips over backward tumbling down the hill.” 

The driver of the truck slammed on the gas and we were approaching this hill at a ridiculous speed, I started looking at each of the passengers to gauge their reaction.  Panic would be the word. At the last moment, the driver slowed down and curved off to the right on a more reasonable path that had been hidden from our view. Heart rate still going. Some of the people on the tour were agitated. I thought it was hilarious. It was the best part of the experience.

Then it got weird. And a little scary.

The safety lecture was brief, which I didn’t mind. But I would like something a little beyond, “Don’t grab the wire here you will lose your fingers.”

There wasn’t much guidance along the way. One of our friends was so hesitant to step off the first station he was hanging in the balance for a second, body thrust forward dangling over the edge, feet hanging on for dear life to the platform. His feet ultimately lost the battle as he fell slowly forward, but didn’t have enough momentum, so he had to pull himself backward back to the station before trying again.  “Oh yeah, you need to jump forward to get going,” said the guide.

Later when recapping the experience, our friend lamented, “I really had no confidence in this. I basically stepped up to each ledge, looked over the side, and asked myself, ‘Would I survive this fall?’ before stepping out.”

At one point, when a guide was connecting me to the line, he was talking to another person on the tour.  I had watched him do the connection a number of times by now and this time seemed different, so before I jumped off said, “Hey man, did you do this right?”  He looked at it, “Oh shoot.”  And started redoing it, casually saying “Good thing you noticed that.”  As he was redoing my connection, this other dude kept chatting.  I politely asked him to shut up so my guy could focus.

Then there was an incident where one of the guides was shaking one of the lines on a highwire walking portion of the tour, and he didn’t notice that one of the people (my wife) traversing the line was getting really nervous.  In her defense, I started hollering at the dude from 50 feet away which got everyone’s attention. 

And finally, on the van ride back to the headquarters, it was if the guides knew they weren’t very good.  Said one, “Please give us a good rating.  If you aren’t planning on giving us 5 stars, let me know now so we can talk about it.”


Instilling confidence.  Why do some businesses and leaders get this right consistently, and others are inconsistent or fail miserably?  In this case and in many cases, it’s about how they prepare their front-line employees to interact with customers.  It’s about dedication to preparation.  It’s about a process that is open to improvement.  It’s about focus and execution.  It’s about being so intentional on the little things along the way to make sure employees and contractors are prepared to bring their best every day.  All of these allow for an amazing and joyful experience. 

Takeaway Lessons:

Great Experience

  • Properly trained and practiced
  • Followed a process
  • Professional
  • Focused
  • Made people confident

Poor Experience

  • Poorly trained
  • Winged it
  • Overly laid-back
  • Distracted
  • Made people nervous

Here are some easy questions to ask yourself to understand if you have a high aptitude for instilling confidence in others:

Do they know I am aware?  Of the issues at hand, at my bosses’ challenges, at my employees’ concerns, at my customers needs and wants.  How can I improve my awareness?

Do they know I care?  Don’t skip this, it’s important no matter the personality type.  How can I better communicate that I care?

Do they know I am prepared?  Do I convey, or does my product or service convey, that we have what it takes in terms of skill and quality to get the job done?

Am I good at repair?  When something goes wrong, am I calm and resilient, and do I take care of the matter appropriately?

Trust leads to confidence, confidence leads to long-term success, better relationships, and repeat and referral business.

The result?  We would go back to Ziptrek Ecotours in a heartbeat, and recommend them to anyone heading to Whistler.  So too would anyone on that tour.  Multiply that over and over again and you have a long-term thriving business that gets tons of repeat and referrals.

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