Push v. Pull: Part 2

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Full of new enthusiasm courtesy of his impromptu mentor Rex, Peter was eager to try some of them out in the next race. He went home and immediately proceeded to write down some ideas for “pulling” with instead of pushing the team, like Rex had advised.

After giving it a little thought, here are a couple of the things he came up with:

  1. I will let people know what I see happening so that everyone on the boat has the same information that I do and can act accordingly.
  2. I will ask for feedback. For example: As we complete a tack, ask the jib trimmer if he feels enough pressure on the sail. Adjust my driving to help compensate.

There, he thought, that seemed like a reasonable place to start.

So when the next race came around, Peter shared his ideas with the team (well, those that came back anyway). The team was cautiously receptive. That was good enough for Peter.

So once more they went back out onto the race course. This time it went better. They managed to get a start in the middle of the fleet, and they even managed to hang on to their position all the way to the windward mark. That’s when things got complicated.

Things got crowded at the mark and Peter’s boat lost a lot of ground. They managed to to claw back some ground against the competition on the final run, but they were still in the last half of the finishers – definitely not where Peter wanted to be. On the bright side, instead of fleeing the boat when they reached the dock, the team decided to join Peter for a beer back at the clubhouse.

After having a round with the team, Peter found Rex. “So how did it go?” Rex asked.

“A little better. We did great on the first beat and managed to keep up with the pack.” Said Peter.

“I saw you were in the game. Nice job!”

“Yeah, but we blew it at the first mark.” Said a rather dejected Peter.

“What happened?”

“Well, we tried out some of the stuff that you recommended. I came up with a few ideas and shared them with the team. They seemed to work, but then things got stressful and I forgot to do the stuff I’d committed to doing. I couldn’t help it. There was just too much going on.”
Rex shook his head, “Actually I kind of expected that. It happens a lot to folks when they start pulling. Don’t sweat it, you’re off to a promising start.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, it’s like this: you understood the idea I was trying to convey. That’s a good start, but what you need to do is to show everyone how it works. You need to set the example.”

“I still don’t get it.”

“Let’s take a concrete example: before the next race, here’s what I want you to do. Switch places with anyone on your crew. It could be the trimmers, the bowman, the pit. Anybody at all. Your job for that race? To dedicate every ounce of your passion to performing the best you can. Bring all the love you have for sailing to the role. Show everyone what that looks like.”

“But if I do that who will drive the boat?” asked Peter.

“It really doesn’t matter. It can be anybody – after all, steering isn’t that hard.”

“Wait a second, I spent a lot of money on a boat so that I could be the man at the tiller.” protested Peter.
Rex nodded his head, “Precisely, and until you learn to share that passion and that responsibility with everyone on the boat, you will never win a race.”

“What if I’m not that good at the role? Won’t people just think I suck?”

“No, in fact you will probably gain some credibility with the team if they see you failing – what matters is that you are working along side them pulling for the win.”

“I don’t know…I just want a good crew that will help me win races.” said Peter.

“A good crew is something that you build together. It has to be a joint enterprise that everyone has a stake in. I don’t know of any better technique to get there than by pulling.”

Peter put his head in his hands and groaned. This really was a lot more than he had bargained for. He just wanted to win a race! It was infuriating!

Peter looked back at Rex, “OK, man. I’ll give it some thought. I’ve really got to wrap my head around this.”

Rex winked at him and replied, “Take all the time you need.”

One Response to Push v. Pull: Part 2

  1. […] Agile, Blogroll, leadership, pull, push. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own […]

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