Guide Your Canoe Part 1 of 2 or Maybe 3

Paddling a canoe across the sea takes a team. A master paddler and coach shared his secrets with me. It is about each man or woman on the team as he or she relates to the sea, the wind, the current, the canoe, the moment, and finally the entire team.

James Stupplebeen is a humble and quite man. He fairly whispered. And as he did, his eyes lit up with passion for the art. I had to lean towards him to hear his simple yet profound words.

As he spoke, I realized that not purely about paddling. It was about any group of people working together towards a single goal. It was about any team. It was about you and me as we live and work together in our schools or organizations.

I thought of the hundreds of teams that I work with and coach. And I thought of you in leadership positions who lead and facilitate your teams.

“It is about blending,” he said quietly. “And it’s about trust,” he paused. “It’s about controlling your power and not overpowering.”

Our eyes locked. I could feel his peaceful presence and the world around us seemed to fall away. James was sharing something he loved deeply, something close to his heart. It was as if his soul was trying to translate its wisdom into words.

Our meeting was short. It was right after a training and I had another meeting to attend. “There’s more,” he said quietly. And we promised to meet again after the next workshop.

So here my perspective on what James said to me about team that day:

  1. Paddling is an activity that requires the same energy, alignment and fluidity as being on any high performing work team.
  2. You (as the leader) have to blend and harmonize with the team. And team members have to blend with each other.
  3. You have to trust each member of the team. There must be clarity and transparency within the team.
  4. Each team member, and especially the leader, has to control their power so as not to overpower each other. This balance of power keeps the boat balanced and empowers team members to go with the flow of each other.

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