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All Aboard

collaboration experience leadership Aug 23, 2023

All Aboard

Our river-rafting guide was exactly the leader our eclectic boat needed. His name was Cole and as soon as he greeted us, I could tell he had a solid combination of authority, empathy, and experience to help us navigate this journey, while allowing us to enjoy the process and learn something from this collaborative experience.

The team Cole inherited to lead down the river consisted of me, my wife Jacky, our 11-year-old daughter Blake, our 9-year-old daughter Bailey, my buddy Mike, and Mike’s 22-year-old son Jackson. This age-diverse and dynamic crew did not lack passion, conversation skills, or excitement, but we had some room to improve when it came to listening, focus, and confidence handling hard-core rapids.

With that said, we needed a good leader who could quickly assess our various personalities, strengths, talents, experience levels, and hard-core rapid response ability, and make sure we clearly understood the rules, and our roles, while also making sure we were safe and sound the minute we stepped onto that raft and were officially…all aboard.

Once we got on board, my daughters had a ton of questions like “what if this happens?” and “what do we do if this occurs? and “what if a giant anaconda eats us?” All valid(ish) concerns, but instead of focusing on hypotheticals, getting weighed down by statistical anomalies, freaking out over random scenarios, Cole had us focus on some simple rules of engagement and he went over those rules with confidence, clarity, and creativity so we could all understand them and apply them, when necessary, in any current.

With that understanding and clear direction, we were able to navigate any scenario we encountered along the way. And as the currents changed, so did Cole’s leadership and communication style. I didn’t get it at first, but by the time we had strategically maneuvered a particularly rough and tricky section of the river, and once we were safe and sound in calm waters, I realized he had delivered a masterclass in meeting us where we were. Depending on the water’s danger level, our skill level, and his familiarity of the river level, he was…

- Friendly when he needed to be.

- Funny when he was able to be.

- Firm when he had to be.

That was it, and it worked! This combo of friendly, funny, and firm was all we needed to come together, lean into our various strengths, forget our fears, work well as a team, and have a ton of fun along the way.

So, as leaders, teachers, coaches, presenters, along that way, let’s be firm when the current is rapid and there’s a need for focus and clear direction. Let’s be friendly when the current is casually moving and there’s a need to work together while also trusting the flow. Let’s be light and find the funny when the current is safe and still and there’s a need for engagement and much needed keep everyone safe, afloat, and all aboard.


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