Nicolas Krafft, Former L’Oreal Executive, On Mountain Climbing & Success
While professionals often try to separate their work lives and personal lives, the reality is that nothing happens in a vacuum. Many of the things we learn in life apply directly to our careers, and vice versa. Nobody knows this better than Nicolas Krafft.
Krafft, the former L’Oréal executive and avid mountain climber is an experienced pro in the beauty industry who believes that his decades of climbing experience prepared him to tackle bigger obstacles in the world of business.
Krafft says mountain climbing can help business leaders assess their true attitudes toward speed, risk, teamwork, and motivation in the boardroom. Having activities outside of work not only keeps you physically sharp, but it improves your ability to run a large, multifaceted corporation successfully.
About Nicolas Krafft
Nicolas Krafft has over 20 years of experience in the professional beauty industry. With international brand expertise across Europe, Asia, and the Americas, Nicolas has a proven track record in branding, business development, sales, and marketing. He worked for more than a decade on L’Oréal brands like Kérastase, Matrix, and Biolage, and most recently on the indie brand Pulp Riot.
Nicolas Krafft has been climbing since 2001. He quickly fell in love after taking a climbing class in the Alps of Chamonix out of curiosity. “I never loved vacationing at Mediterranean beaches. They’re just not very exciting. I wanted to try something demanding and challenging,” Krafft says.
The former L’Oréal executive quickly became addicted to the rush of summiting the world’s tallest peaks. With a mountain guide, a group of his close friends, and his trusted companion white Bull Terrier dog by his side, Krafft made it a point to climb every summer. After doing this for several years, Krafft has realized mountain climbing and business aren’t so different.
5 business lessons learned from mountain climbing
Mountain climbing is an accomplishment by itself, but that’s not why Krafft keeps going. He claims that mountain climbing helped him reach his true potential in business. Here are Nicolas Krafft’s five business lessons learned from climbing the world’s peaks.
1 – Trust your team with your life
“I never climb alone. We’re both using ropes to make sure that everyone is safe,” Krafft says.
You never truly work alone in business, either. Leaders need an all-star team on their side to reach the top of the metaphorical mountain, whether that’s a new product launch or a client project.
It’s not enough to hire people who look good on paper. You need a team you can trust. “When hiring someone, I always ask myself: Would I want to go climbing with this person?” Krafft explains.
When you’re on a risky edge in mountain climbing, you trust the people in your group to protect your life.
Business stakes aren’t quite so high, but teamwork is a necessary ingredient for success, whether you’re on the side of a cliff or in a conference room.
2 – Focus on one thing at a time
Are you guilty of multi-tasking? It happens to the best of us. In today’s fast-paced, digital world, it feels like executives have even less time for their to-do lists.
Nicolas Krafft learned the value of focus while mountain climbing. “There’s no time to think about anything else but your next steps on the rope,” he says.
Multi-tasking is a myth. Instead of allowing yourself to become mired in distractions or an enormous pile of to-dos, complete one task at a time. Outsource when you need it, use a task tracking software, or the Pomodoro Method to focus more when you’re at the office.
3 – Meet your limits, but don’t exceed them
Mountain climbing isn’t for the faint of heart. “You have to find the concentration, patience, and drive to push through the hard moments,” Krafft says.
For Krafft, climbing helps him reach his limits, but not exceed them. “It is very rewarding to take risks to reach an ambitious climb, but I also learned to constantly manage and evaluate risk, going to the limit but never of the edge. To say NO if I feel it is too risky to move and take a step back,” Krafft says.
In business, it’s easy to stay inside our comfort zones. But, as many of us have learned through COVID-19, stagnation can be catastrophic. Learn how to evaluate risk and be okay with difficult decisions. Don’t continue climbing if you know it exceeds your capabilities. A dose of honesty could save your business.
4 – Resilience and overcoming physical difficulties and obstacles
Mountain climbing is a great opportunity to learn about the power and resources of the mind when the body is exhausted. Like any endurance sport, it is about maintaining a good rhythm over a long period of time and not over-exerting yourself.
Mountain climbing is very similar to business in this way. Having a long-term vision for success is much more likely to lead to the ultimate goal of reaching the mountain top, both figuratively and literally, than starting too fast and rushing after short-term wins. Knowing when to take it slow and pace yourself is crucial. It can mean the difference between life and death on the mountain and in the boardroom.
5 – Have something that makes you happy
No matter the size of your business or the importance of your corporate mission, you need a life outside of work. You need hobbies and interests that make you feel happy.
“A weekend in the mountains helps me start the work week with a fresh mind,” says Krafft. You don’t have to climb mountains, but you still need something that recharges you in your off-time. Whether that’s time with your children, sports, crafts, or cooking, do something fun and non-work-related every week.
6 – Celebrate your wins
Did you celebrate when you won that large client account? Or when your team worked 60-hour weeks to complete a project on time?
It’s hard to feel motivated if you never look back on your accomplishments. “Mountain climbing gives me the satisfaction of completing something. It proves that I have what it takes to see something through,” Krafft says.
After climbing the Monte Rosa Massif, Krafft didn’t immediately think about his descent. He and his friends took in the early morning air, watching the city of Milano wake up in the valley below.
When was the last time you looked back and appreciated all of your work? Take a moment to stop and survey your achievements. They’ll remind you of the importance of your work, as well as motivate you through tough seasons in your business.
The bottom line
Business is like mountain climbing: you’re working with your team to reach the summit. But your work is never really over; there’s always another mountain to climb.
Nicolas Krafft has applied much of what he learned climbing mountains to his work as an executive. Whether you’re a fellow mountaineer or not, Krafft’s experiences can help us all run better, more fulfilling enterprises. Follow these five lessons to push your limits, trust your team, and reach the summit—together.