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11 min read

10 Leadership Lessons

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This post is long and several of you will not read it all.  That will be ironic as part of what I learned is everyone's voice is important and you may just be the person that needs to hear what is being said even if you think you are the one that is supposed to be talking.  


Recently, I had the absolute honor of being the drummer for AMOREM's dragon boat team. The drummer sits at the end of the boat and literally hits a drum to set a cadence for the rowers.  We had a short practice the day before with a guide that provided lots of information at a quick pace. All our team was not able to attend practice.  


Lesson # 1: Not everyone learns at the same pace.  


Training cannot be cookie-cutter. We should always differentiate. Several rowers got the concept quickly. Some others and I needed to hear the information slower and repeatedly. I eventually got it, it just took me longer. This is the same for our team. Give guidance in different ways at different times.   

Lesson #2: It is extremely important that your team hears the same information at the same time.  


Saturday morning, we had to jump straight into our first qualifying race. We had not practiced as a team all together and we had not heard the same instructions. We went to race not all knowing what our plan as a team would be.  

As we ended our race, everyone was exhausted, including myself. I could not catch my breath from screaming at such a fast pace.  As we hit the beach, our captain said I had some observations. The drummer was calling too fast and the team simply could not keep up. So, we were not in sync.  


Lesson # 3: As a leader, you are responsible for the pace of your team. If you are too fast, push too much, have unrealistic expectations, allow some to slack, and overutilize your hard workers, your team will never be in sync.   


I was shocked when I heard I was too fast.  Is the drummer too fast?  Never! They just could not keep up. As I watched the video of myself, I looked like one of those monkeys wildly hitting the cymbals together. Oh my gosh! I was too busy worrying about calling loud and quick I never paid attention to my front 2 rowers. I, as the leader, caused my team to be completely out of sync!   


Lesson # 4: Slow down and pay attention to your team. 


 Stop the back-to-back meetings all day, open your doors, and make time to connect with your teams. SLOW DOWN.  


I began to talk with the rowers asking opinions about what pace we should try next time. We practiced going through the motions and developed a plan.  


Lesson # 5: Leaders make mistakes.   You must be self-aware and place all pride to the side as you work to make corrections for the betterment of your team.  


Our second race was to decide what teams in our division we race. We did not have a full team for our first race so obviously that was a disadvantage. We had an unexpected surprise of "fans" that saw Kerri's post and came down with paddles to join our team!  These awesome human beings had experience. They quickly gave us some advice and we made several adjustments including slower, steadier pace. We won our 2nd race and shaved off several seconds.  


Lesson # 6 New team members may be new, but they often have lots of knowledge that will help your process.  


As a leader, we have to be willing to listen to new ideas and suggestions for improved processes, especially from those who have knowledge, experience, and an understanding that there is a better way.  


We had a taste of victory and our eye was on the prize. As we loaded our boat for the final race, we had a different guide from the last 3 times we were in the boat. I was disappointed and nervous. Why a different guide now?  Nooooooo!  


As we were heading out to set up this guide gave us new ideas and suggestions.  I was counting 1-2-3-4, I slowed down my pace the last race and we won. Why would I want to change it now? The guide states a simpler cadence is easier and will be more efficient. 1-2-1-2. I of course was obligated to give it a try. Several practice strokes later, it was working. This guide was much more encouraging, challenging the rowers to always look forward, row with all they had, and never worry about what the other boats were doing. He actually made the prediction we were going to shave off 10 seconds.  Ten seconds? No way! I as the drummer said Yes! 10 seconds, we as a team can do this if we all are in sync and encourage each other.  


Lesson # 7 Keep it simple  - Don't overcomplicate things.


Hospice and PC are already very heavy. Don't make our work harder. Encourage your team to always see each task, each patient, each document as a way to emphasize our mission, vision, and values. That simple.  


Lesson # 8: An encouraging guide can make all the difference in the world.  


Be the leader who is at the back of the boat encouraging, looking for improvements, steering the team in the right direction. Stop looking for recognition as a leader, give recognition.  Lead from the back by steering your team to improvements.   


Much of his guidance focused on looking forward, listening for the drum beat, and always reaching as far as you can with your body to pull the paddle through the water with greater force.  


Lesson # 9: Keep looking forward and always reach as far as you can. 


Did we win?  No, but we battled for a photo finish in 2nd place!  The greatest ending to the story is we didn't shave off 10 seconds.  WE shaved off close to 20 seconds from our original qualifying time.  In three short races, we accomplished so much.  

Britt Abernathy, 10 Leadership Lessons blog


Your last and final lesson...


Lesson # 10: When you row together, you can accomplish amazing things!  


 We were an inexperienced team of all different abilities, strategies, philosophies, and strengths.  We were a team that does not work on the same campus, in the same positions, or even in the same buildings.  We had brand new team members we never met but had experience and wanted to join us.  We were a team that started out as individuals and ended up as ONE.  


Draco Mortem was ONE on Saturday and your organization must function as one team with every stroke to move ahead.  Be a leader. Lead your teams with these lessons in mind and watch how quickly you can propel your team forward just like a rookie dragon boat did on Lake James this weekend.   


Congratulations!  You made it to the end.  Now go out there and continue being a great leader.  


 Britt Abernathy, AMOREM

Britt Abernathy
Director of Learning and Engagement, AMOREM




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