The Wake

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I am grateful that I grew up in a small lake community.  Looking back I recall spending a great deal of time fishing and doing things like wakeboarding and skiing (neither did I ever become very good at).  If you know anything about wakeboarding or skiing you know that a major factor in the ride that you experience is the wake that the boat leaves behind.

As the driver of the boat, the experience of the rider being pulled is heavily influenced by the driver’s actions in operating the boat.  Set the trim a certain way and you get a particular wake,  speed up or slow down and the rider is yet again impacted.

Let’s assume for a second that metaphorically you are driving the boat.  You are always directly or indirectly impacting those around you with the wake you leave behind.  Your actions and the way you operate, like the wake of a boat can be and most often are felt long after you and the boat have passed and are out of sight.

(The results from the wake he leaves behind will not only be destructive and costly  it is likely to result in people being hurt – even long after the boat is out of sight.)

I believe this understanding to be a critical element to consider (and is often overlooked) when attempting to create an empowering culture, productive workplace setting, or even a healthy family environment.

To allow productive people and/or self-serving elements that on the front end create results but on the back end erode the spirit and productivity of an organization and/or its people should be viewed as policy violation number one.   The expense of keeping these people or elements around is far too costly in the long run.

Similarly to the boat wake, as we move through our personal and professional lives we are always setting a wake that is made up of two sides:  The task(s), and The Relationship(s).

The tasks and their results are important.  Are we getting the job done?  Are the profits in place?  Is there projected growth in the business?  Are the bills paid?  Did the kids get to school?  This side of the wake is important and should be regularly considered – Results Do And Will Always Matter!!

On the opposite side of tasks exists the relationships.   Analyzing results based on our ability to accomplish tasks is often easy and straightforward –“Did we earn a profit? Yes.”  “Did the kids get to school? Yes”.  Unfortunately too often overlooked are the results we leave behind in the heart and mind of the people we interact with.  It is my belief that the key to influence, the key to move the needle, the key differentiator in leadership is recognizing the importance of this side of the wake.  The state of your organization, team, department, and even family hinges on this piece.

In closing we have to regularly look back behind where we have been to assess “what does my wake look like?”  Is there a trail of destruction and broken-bleeding people or is there productivity, smiles, and  good times?

-Sean Z. Callahan

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