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Leadership Insights From the Beach
People watching at the beach can offer many insights into leadership and offer examples of how individuals choose to deal with problems in their life and their work. The trip my family and I recently took to Hilton Head Island offered even more anecdotal evidence of this, and I came away with two very distinct and interesting lessons.
Let me explain…
The first lesson from observing others on vacation was the importance of just being present.
Summer is an opportunity for many people to get away from the office, but with technology the issues and problems can still find them. While I would agree that in some ways there are no office hours for true leaders, I do believe that when you are at the office you should be fully there. But when you are with your family, they deserve your full attention.
Leaders in any area are paid according to the number and difficulty of problems they can solve for their organization, and I noticed more than a couple of people who, while enjoying the sun and surf, were still careful to consistently check their phone and stay in touch with whatever office they were vacationing away from.
The issue of leaving work at work, and when to say no to certain responsibilities so you can truly relax and recharge your batteries, may be a significant topic for further discussion another day…
But the second and more interesting of the two lessons was NOT from working-age beach visitors, but from their children...
The waves on the beach were rough, and I was enthralled watching the exploits of the children in the group that set up beside our tent for the first couple of days.
In the group were two different families, and their children ranged from around five to maybe ten years old. It was those children, and their behavior in the face of some pretty rough waves, that I found fascinating – and it relates to the behavior of people on your team in the face of difficult or uncomfortable issues that your people are facing each day.
The children displayed three separate behaviors that I thought provided leadership insights about the team personality types found in every organization.
First, there were the kids who were scared by the rough waves. They flirted with the frothy white foam as it crashed onto the sand, running and playing just close enough to get their toes and feet and ankles wet, but never going further than that. They would follow the water as it receded and crept back slowly into the ocean, but repeated their playful squeals as the next wave hit the shore, and remained on the safe sand the entire day.
Sometimes, in the midst of adversity, or the unknown, there are people who want to stay dry on the sand. But it is only through interactions and involvement – by leaving our comfort zone and allowing ourselves new experiences – that we begin to grow and improve and truly enjoy the challenges that life (or work) offers.
Second, there were a few kids – not older or younger, necessarily, but perhaps just a bit bolder – who ventured out much further into the rough sea and turned their day into a physically exhausting competition. They jumped into the rough water, battling the power of it and throwing their backs and bodies into the oncoming waves. Obviously, they tired pretty quickly each time they went out to do this, and accomplished little more than wearing themselves out.
The third behavior I observed was from a couple of the older kids. They had apparently already lived through summers of flirting with the shoreline and battling with the waves. Instead of repeating those experiences, they chose to go out into the rough waves as well – but carried with them a couple of boogie boards, and used the power of the waves to their advantage.
Working WITH the surroundings instead of fearing or competing against it provided them what was without question the most enjoyment of the entire group.
Their behavior reminded me of a teambuilding exercise I have used to illustrate the power of cooperation over competition. I would ask a group to arm wrestle with their partner for one minute, and explain that they would “get one point for each time the other person’s hand hit the table.”
Obviously, most of the pairs would battle against each other and rarely would any pairs report getting more than two or three points in a minute. Then I would emphasize that we are here to emphasize teamwork and collaboration… and again share the instructions that they get one point for each time their partners hand hits the table. On the second attempt, many of the groups would “get it” and work together to gain thirty points or more…
The difference was simply their choice to work together.
If you would like for your team to work better together, or know they would benefit from the lessons and insights that a collection of fun team challenges or an interactive teambuilding speaker could share, it would be my pleasure to help you improve your team culture.