My husband and I renovated a small antique speedboat that my grandfather bought for my father and uncles when they were teens. Even though the boat was fast for its time, it is not considered super fast now. This makes water skiing a challenge because the skier has to be prepared to get dragged through the water for a few seconds before slowly emerging. It feels a bit like trying to hold on to a submarine that is not sure it is going to surface, I imagine. Once on top the water feels soft and spongy, unlike the feel of water skiing behind a more modern higher horse power speed boat.
Most summers we teach a few kids how to waterski behind that boat. Learning to waterski is not a question of talent. Rather it is totally a question of mindset. There are really only a few instructions I can give the hopeful skiers, “center the rope between your skis, keep your skis ahead of you, hold on….”. I can give them lots of encouragement, “you almost made it that time!” But I can’t stand up for them. I can’t do it for them. They have to do it.
Whether a teen learns to water ski or not is completely up to them. Or is it?
Part of their success is actually up to me. I can smooth their path. I can do things to make it easier for them to learn. I can suggest we go out early in the morning before the lake waves blow up. I can give them time to practice getting in and out of the skis in the shallow water by the beach so they know how to do it. I can make sure they have the right fitting life jacket that doesn’t ride up around their ears.
Not just the physical things, I can help smooth the path mentally too. I can remain calm and encouraging for the kid who has been trying for the last 2 hours but is still determined. I can tell them about others like them who tried, and tried, and tried and then got it! I can remind them it’s just like learning any other sport, hobby, or skill we are not born knowing how to water ski so we have to practice.
Teaching someone to ski is not just them learning. It’s a partnership between me, the coach, and them. It’s not 100% up to them whether they succeed. I play a role in their success too.
In the same way it’s not 100% on the shoulders of staff whether they succeed. Managers, VP’s and CEO’s play a role too. How can you smooth the path for your staff when they are trying something new? Not just helping shape the tactical and strategic plans to smooth the path but helping them with the emotions that are part of the adventure as well?