Lessons from the lake

Me, Chris, Pete, Dave

Is two times a tradition?  If so, getting together with 3 friends from high school for a relaxing weekend is now a tradition. 

What is also a tradition is for me to come away from the experience with a few lessons to share. This time I have three.

1. Riding a jet ski

This was my first experience riding a jet ski. I was nervous and probably looked pretty silly at first. After a few laps around the lake, I got more confident.  I started to go a little faster, made sharper turns and actually enjoyed it. Turns out skimming across the water at 60 mph without so much as a seatbelt is pretty fun.

As the lake got busier throughout the day, the waves that I had to battle became larger and more frequent. My initial instinct was to slow down, but I found that was actually more unsettling. So I leaned into the waves and actually sped up. I ended up gliding over them for the most part and getting through the rough patches much easier. 

The lesson: Often in leadership we have situations that, at first, seem to feel better if we slow down or change course, but actually the opposite is true. How often have we had a conversation with someone, they push back or deflect, and we end up giving up or giving in? Like the jet ski, those are times when you actually need lean into the conversation, stand your ground and make your point. When I slowed down on the jet ski, the waves treated the machine and I like a little cork and I could have capsized easily. How many of us have had a conversation capsize, leaving us reaching for something to keep us afloat? It may be a little scary at first, but leaning in and continuing to move forward will get you through the rough waters.

2. Stand-up paddle board

Another first on this trip was riding a stand-up paddle board. Full transparency, this was the result of a late-night bet from my friend, Pete. “I’ll bet you can’t do the stand-up paddle board”.  When I asked why he said, “because I can’t do it.”  And a wager was born.

The next morning, after watching a YouTube video, I strapped the paddle board to my ankle and gave it a go. It was tough. I felt it mostly in my calves. But I did it. Our friend Dave was deemed the judge and he said I went far enough to be able to say “I did it”. (For the graceful dismount, see the video below.)

The lesson: While there was a little money on the line, what ultimately drove my desire to succeed had more to do with a smidge of competitive spirit and the drive to be able to say “I did it”. Money as a motivator has gotten a lot of attention recently as sign-on bonuses and higher-than-ever wages have been needed to fill many positions. Despite this, I still contend that money is not the be-all-end-all motivator for peak performance. You have to provide a competitive wage and good working environment, but those are just entry stakes. Getting people to dig deep and perform at a level that they never thought possible takes more than just moolah. We must challenge them and give them reasons to succeed.

3. Wisdom from Dave 

Many of our conversations throughout the weekend centered around our families and how things have played out over the years. At one point, Dave said, “If you spoil your kids, you’ll raise your grandkids. If you raise your kids, you can spoil your grandkids.”  For the grandparents I know, they say that being able to spoil their grandkids is one of their greatest joys in life.

How does this relate to leadership?  For starters, parenting IS leadership. Second, I can tell you from first-hand experience that if you don’t take care of and lead your direct reports, you’ll have your hands full having to lead and manage their direct reports. To bring this full circle, if you avoid important conversations (slowing down on the jet ski) you will have a lack of accountability, trust, and willingness to even try to achieve peak performance. 

Likewise, if you are firm and fair with your direct reports, they will likely do the same with theirs, which fosters trust at all levels. 

So there you have it! A few observations and lessons that I hope you find helpful! If you have thoughts or questions on any of these lessons, I’d love to hear them! Call, text, email, or shout out on the socials.

Thanks for reading!

Cell: 407-435-8084
Email: matt@performanceoptimist.com
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