In working with company leaders at different stages of growth, I’m constantly impressed by those who are authentic, open, and curious about people and how things are done. Their genuine interest in learning is contagious and encourages openness and excitement around inquiry and solution building. They are also often good communicators as well as listeners. They’re comfortable sharing their thought process and reasoning as well as their faults and mistakes. This inspires others to join them as they navigate change.
I recently read an article by a local leader Jeff Lockwood, Global Head of Communications at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR). In “Leadership Lessons from Surfing Badly,” Jeff makes the analogy of balancing the waves while surfing to balancing one’s role as a leader. The lessons were simply stated but a reminder of the importance of perspective and learning from our failures.
Here’s a summary of the 3 lessons Jeff learned.
Jeff describes paddling frantically on his surfboard to catch the first wave, then quickly pivoting. This led to disastrous results more often than not. Too often leaders feel a constant sense of urgency. As a result, they neglect to take the time to scan the environment and set things up properly. Heavy workload and tight deadlines can be some of many factors. Taking the time to assess the situation, re-prioritize, develop a plan, and line up the team and necessary resources allow us to set things up properly for enabling success.
To successfully stay upright and ride a wave you need to be one with the wave. As the wave changes in speed and size, you need to continually make adjustments with your position, weight distribution and angle of attack. Leading a team is like riding a wave. It requires being present, aligning resources, being able to anticipate challenges, and making adjustments as needed moving forward. Leading means checking in regularly with team and stakeholders, getting feedback, and clearly communicating why decisions were made—even if there is a lack of certainty around outcomes.
“Sometimes you can do everything right and still get knocked off your board. The ocean is humbling that way, constantly reminding us who is the real boss…I always pop up with a smile, climb on my board, assess what went wrong and head back out—confident that I will catch the next wave,” shares Jeff. Failures are teaching moments. As a leader, there will be times that you get things wrong and will have setbacks. But if you can embrace these moments as learning opportunities, a chance to become a better leader, the ride will be more enjoyable. You’ll become more resilient and confident facing your next challenge.
Read Jeff’s full article.
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