MORE Leadership Lessons Learned in a Canoe


DATELINE:  Ontario, Canada and Minnesota, USA We battle 30-knot headwinds across Lake Saganaga. I dig into the water, trying to force my upper body to add more power to each stroke. My husband controls the direction and there are times when I have to shout that we're headed toward a submerged rock. Our progress is slow until we turn into a bay. Now the wind is at our back and we literally surf into safety. Ahh. Rest for a minute. There's no time to think of the lessons I just learned. I'm the 'front line' employee, working hard to make headway. Thankfully, I have a leader who is willing to listen when I see trouble ahead. Communication has to be quick. The leader has to trust what I say and make a decision to respond. How many times have I heard managers say, "I want no surprises." Yet, when an employee comes to them with information, it's discarded. At the same time, what if I hollered "rock" when there wasn't one? I too have an obligation to speak the truth if I expect my voice to be heard. The next day, I claim the leader's role at the back of the canoe. Surely I can take this position as easily as my husband did. Another lesson looms. I discover that I need skill in turning a canoe paddle into a rudder. It was not as easy as it looked. I couldn't get the motion right. I expend far too much energy with few results. I don't have the know-how to quickly change the direction of the canoe. I need training and more experience. How many times do we criticize leaders and think that we could do a better job? What looks simple is only made so by training and experience. If we want the title, we'd better be willing to take the time to learn what it takes. Something to think about.

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