Monday, July 13th, 2015
THE BOYS IN THE BOAT
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.