Monday, July 13th, 2015


Reading The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown is a nice way to refresh your leadership idealism about what ‘team’ can be like. As the cover says it’s about “Nine Americans and their epic quest for gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics”. 

The book has many themes and plot lines but what struck me was the description of the teamwork needed for “rowing” an eight person boat.
There is an x factor talked about that emerges that carries the boat and crew (and an organization) to a new and sustainable extra-ordinary performance. I’ve been lucky enough to experience it for seven years out of a 25 year career.  (The rest of the years were good but not with the “swing” of those particular seven.)  Read below for some quotes from this compelling book and a description of ‘swing’:

     When the critical moment in a close race comes upon you, you had to know something 
      your opponent did not know—that down in your core you had something in reserve, something 
      you had not yet shown that would make your opponent doubt himself, make him falter when
      it counted most.  Like so much in life, crew was partly about confidence, partly about knowing
      your own heart. The boys in the boat were good-hearted.

      Eventually if the crew team was to become Olympic contenders, they had to develop that
      rare balance between ego and humility

      No other sport demands and rewards the complete abandonment of the self the way that 
      rowing does.The team effort, the perfectly synchronized whole beautiful symphony that a crew
      in motion becomes is all that matters. Not the individual, not the self.

      One of the first admonitions of a good rowing coach is “pull you own weight”. The boat goes
      better when you do.

      Always be “in the boat”.  You must row with head power as well as hand power.  From the first 
      stroke all thought of the other crew must be blocked out. Your thoughts must be directed to 
      you and our own boat, always positive, never negative.

      When you get the rhythm or the ‘swing, it’s not hard work. The synchronization of heart, mind 
      and body creates a fourth dimension where the ‘run’ (the work) is uncanny and the work of 
      propelling the shell a delight

I’ll stop before I re-write the whole book. Read it and think about your company and your team.  


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