By Michael Holland –

During a summer evening on the Magothy River, one of the large rivers feeding the famous Chesapeake Bay, I witnessed a beautiful sailing race: 40 or 50 sailboats tacked back and forth along the river, each one maneuvering to catch the wind perfectly and take advantage of a competitor.

From far away they look alike, but as I drew closer I saw that they were all very unique. Sure, they were about the same size, but each sail was vibrantly different, and the subtle changes in the markings and trim were evident from this perspective.

And from up close, I could see the captains of each boat, guiding them with what I knew to be a very small, but critical, rudder below the surface of the water.

At times leaders act as a sort of rudder in the lives of employees. We provide guidance, nudging them gently to direct the course of their work lives.

The rudder isn’t evident: it’s just the coaching conversations we’ve had over time with employees that are hidden away in their hearts and minds.

Those conversations conveyed our values, beliefs, rules, struggles, hopes, dreams, desires, and our feelings.

Ideally, there is such an abundance of these that our employees can leverage them as needed to make the slight adjustments in the course of the day or the season in which they find themselves.

We have to remember, though, that employees are the captains of their own boats.

They are looking out towards the object of their journey.

They are choosing how much wind they want to catch to determine their speed, and how close they’re willing to come to obstacles.

They are deciding how long they want to drift along on a beautiful sunny day to enjoy the moment or season of life they are in.

We and our historical leading well wisdom stay hidden under the surface, awaiting their call to action.

As you lead your team, make sure to have thousands of small coaching conversations so that you can build a strong rudder for your employees.

That way, they will be able to choose how and when they want to leverage that rudder as they propel through life.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • Did you ever have the fortune to have a leader who was your rudder?
  • How many coaching conversations have you had with your employees yesterday?  Over the last month?  Over the last 6 months? Should you have had more? Grab a peer leader and compare answers and thoughts.