Life lessons from boat racing – keep your eyes on the prize

This is a follow up to an earlier post about roles – you can read it here but it is well worth expanding on, and it is the simple fact that when there is a lot going on you tend to get lost in the details.

The old saying “when you are up to you ass in alligators it is difficult to remember that your task was to drain the swamp” is very true, both on the water and off. Where I get tripped up on the water is allowing all of the things going on around me to distract from my job of managing the race and making good tactical decisions. I get to the end of a race and in the post race analysis that runs around in my head, I can always manage to do better and can always see where the wheels fell of the wagon (or prop fell of the boat), but in the heat of battle it is a lot more difficult.

The trick is to limit the number of things that you are responsible for to a manageable number, and then get people around you that can do the other things and then let them do them. Easier said than done, as you have a built in tendency to oversee, and that takes up cycles, which you may or may not have, and if you don’t it will come back and bite you at the most inopportune time. It is difficult and goes against all of the ethos of the “skipper” who is responsible for everything.

Off the water, this is also the same challenge faced by most small business owners, and is probably the biggest (well next to the economy) limit to growth. It is self limiting on both your business and your sanity if you can’t let go. So, plan and structure. Define the roles you need to have performed, give people their roles and then discipline yourself to a reducing amount of oversight. Once you trust people to do their jobs, let them get on with it and hold yourself to just enough oversight to ensure that things are proceeding well and no more. Your stress level will thank you and your results will astound you.

Life lessons from boat racing – perform your role

I’m really guilty of this on the boat. I do my job and then I do everyone elses too.

In the middle of a race, I’m calling tactics, calling trim and a host of other things too and it doesn’t work that well. I lose focus on the things that I have to do, and then those don’t get done as well as they should. We get into tactical situations that we should have avoided, and usually the reason is that I didn’t focus on the tasks that were my main reason for being on the boat, which is to manage a good sound tactical race.

I know there are reasons that I do this, and what I need to focus on as part of the new season is to give  everyone else the freedom to do their job without me looking over their shoulder. Will there be a few missed assignments, yes, of course there will be, but it is only by letting go of the responsibility that others will step up and take it. I need to act as a coach, and help others do their job better, but not try to do it for them.

Away from the water, this is the first trap that new managers fall into. Usually they get the role to manage because they were very good at the job, and it is so hard to let others do tasks that you know that you can do better, but it is part of growth to allow others the freedom to make mistakes and learn and maybe offer a few helpful pointers when asked..