“Many go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after”
Henry David Thoreau
Not too long ago I was fortunate enough to go on a guided fishing trip with a great group of men. The purpose of our trip was to enjoy each other’s fellowship, unplug from the race of life, challenge & encourage one another in our roles as leaders, fathers and husbands and to have a great time catching some fish! As consumed as I am about leadership and as quickly as really good or really bad leadership ignites me I found myself contemplating what leadership lessons there were in fishing while on that trip. Check out Part I <here>.
As I said before, I am not the first to write on leadership and fishing. Much has been written because the “battle” in fishing is a lot like life. I hope to bring a slightly different angle (pun intended) to the art of leadership that I observed and contemplated while fishing. This article is Part II of my observations and what I think fishing can teach us about leadership.
Stories are a natural fallout of fishing aren’t they? Tall tails often times but always after the day’s events, we gathered around to tell the stories of our exploits and how incredible our fish were! Do you do that with your team? Take time to tell stories, or most importantly, listen to their stories? If you know your team’s story (collective and individual) you will be more engaged as a leader and your team will feel cared for and energized by the leader that wants to know them! That was a side piece…now a few closing thoughts on leadership from fishing.
Leaders Go Fishing With The Right Bait
When you go fishing, you are putting some sort of bait on your hook. Live bait or lures. Depending on where you are fishing and the conditions either bait can work. Sometimes though, a particular bait doesn’t work or might only work for a certain period of time and then you have to switch. When fly-fishing certain nymphs might work better than others depending on weather conditions, time of day, location, etc.. Our fishing guide had live bait and lures. One of the boats in the group tried live bait for awhile – our guide felt lures would work best based on conditions. Again, our guide delivered –we caught a lot of fish! The guide was the leader and knew what the right bait was to catch fish (our goal was catching not just the act of fishing)! There is our first principle today. Great leaders know what “bait” to use and when. They know when to change “bait” and how often to put “bait” out there to get the fish to act. Are you knowledgeable enough about your people and the context they are in to have clarity about what motivates them to action? Are you willing to change when you might not have chosen the right “bait” to lead your team? What steps could you take to improve your skills associated with choosing the right bait?
Leaders know timing is everything
Our guide told us when we needed to be up to get prepped, depart and get down to the Marina, ride out to the spot they thought was best and get ready for action. If we were late getting out the door it would affect how long it took to get out of the marina and then could lead to us not getting his preferred locations. Then during the day I observed him monitoring the waters for slicks, watching the way the currents were shifting and how it might affect our fishing. He wasn’t afraid to tell us to “pull ‘em in” so we could move to another spot or just rest for a bit (catching 33 fish per day that way over 40lbs is tiring!).
As a leader – are you aware of what your timelines really are? Do you know when your team can slow down a bit to catch their breath? Do you know when to tell your team to push? Do you monitor them closely so that you can draw the best out of them? Or do you just push all day, every day?
Leaders are prepared
This one is sort of a “duh” but you what? I often find myself rushing out to do things without having spent a few minutes to ensure that I am prepared. I might have the big things locked up but because I didn’t slow down, think about details, I rush out sometimes and find myself missing little things that can make a big difference. Forget your rain gear on a fishing expedition and you find yourself one miserable bubba when the rain rolls in!! You can see this elsewhere in fishing – if the guide didn’t conduct an inventory of his gear before we depart he might run out of lures, or bobbers, or lead line. This leads to unproductive fishing time…and in the case of the rain – misery!
Fishing is not something that everyone likes to do…but like a lot of things in life there are great reminders from fishing of how leaders can make a difference. Live well, follow when required, teach, and listen…then watch what happens with your team!
Part III is coming…more lessons on leadership from fishing.