The use of the nautical metaphor may be really, really overused these days, especially in business, but rowing has specific resonance for me, as a leader at Team Eventerprise. Let me explain.
When I was 15 I learned early how to row together as a team in one boat – literally. Our family has a history in the sport of rowing, so it was logical for my father to introduce me to it after I failed at Judo and soccer (and various others…). Luckily, rowing fascinated me from the beginning (and still does) and as a youngster I loved the whole feeling of belonging and friendship at my club the “Posdamer Ruder Club Germania” in Berlin. The stories of the competitive training teams which I soon became part of was an important inspiration and first real goal I was chasing as a teenager. And, let me tell ya, team rowing beats the sheisse out of the hard, lonely season I spent as a single sculler; I realized that my talent lays more in achieving something together with others and the pain feels somehow different then.
During those years I have picked up more about leadership, comradery and sticking things out than during my 25 years studying and working afterwards.
I managed somehow to get made club captain of the coxed four and eight and had to learn fast how to align 8 people for something bigger than the individual ego. The stories of 8 rowers awaiting the coxswain’s call at the starting line of a boat race and winning are my first competitive experiences and bring back very good memories and moments as I am busy writing this post. More importantly, this all had a deep impact on my entire belief system, values, trust and leadership principles till today.
Daniel James Brown, the author of the book “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics”, captures very well the most important element of a well rowed race as a symphony and the individual as just one player in the orchestra. “If one team mate in the orchestra was playing out of tune, the whole piece would be ruined. What mattered more than how hard a man rowed was how well everything he did in the boat harmonized with the other fellows were doing…”. That’s business.
To win a race coming out of a long winter season, with training sessions every dark, cold day, requires all kinds of skills but most importantly the urge to pull together, in harmony.
That’s the most important learning for me and this translates into my current activities as a founder partner @Eventerprise in my current business venture.
Caring about the success of everyone is the essence of teamwork – and – in business and in competitive rowing – it’s the soul of exceptional teams.