I have been coaching someone who was placed in a new job last year. The job was big and different than what he had done previously. This guy is like many...he’s had a very good run of moving up through his career based on his natural abilities. But as he headed into this new position, he found himself a bit overwhelmed. Just as he was figuring out the new role, a crisis struck his team. As the leader, he began to lead the team through the chaos, but then another crisis struck and he found himself sinking. Picture him as the swimmer out in the middle of the ocean, searching for the lighthouse, and being asked to lead the team to the shore line. When things were looking the most bleak, he was told by his boss that his job was simply to get his head above the water and swim. At best, his boss said, he could expect to be doing this in six months.
And that is where our stories overlap. It’s happened to you and it’s happened to me. We’ve been in the height of chaos with our head bobbing up and down and we have been told that the best case scenario for us was to have our head above water in six months. For some of us, it’s been in a new role, and for others it’s been a change in business conditions or the loss of a valued team member that created this scenario. Regardless of the difference in circumstances that led us there, we can all agree that we have found time periods like this to be challenging because very few souls were swimming beside us or throwing us a life vest along the way. Most were caught up in their own swim or enjoying sunbathing on the shoreline. They would look up now and then to see how we were doing. If they saw that we looked like we were making our way closer to the shore, they would note it to themselves. It was rare that they would yell out to the water and tell us to keep going because we were making progress and looking good!
Which leads me to the feel good part of my story. This week, my coachee made it closer to the shore. He could be viewed with his head and shoulders above the water. Instead of those sitting on the shore line just noting this to himself, one onlooker stepped forward and swam out into the water to greet him. He shared that he had looked on from the shoreline over the last few months and caught sight of my coachee bobbing up and down in the water. He wanted him to know that it took guts to keep swimming, and that he looked good getting closer to the shore line. This was great motivation for my coachee...and confirmation that the last six months of doggy paddling, floating and doing whatever it took to keep afloat were worth it.
If I translate that last paragraph into plain language, I would tell you that one coworker took the time to cheer another on and say “good job, I can tell you are working hard and it is paying off.” While these two work for the same company, they are not on the same team nor do they even work in the same business unit. This feedback was given simply because it was the right thing to do, and it meant the world to the one receiving it.
I am incredibly proud to work with both of the people I told you about today. I am inspired by the main swimmer in the story for not giving up. And I am incredibly inspired by the guy who voluntarily swam into the water to offer praise. We live in a world where we are so distracted by where we all are currently sitting that we forget to look up from our electronic devices, our careers and our own circumstances to simply say...good job, just keep swimming.
Let’s do our best to be both the swimmer who stays focused and motivated in spite of setbacks, and the one who wades into the water to offer praise and encouragement. The world and our businesses need much more of both.