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Abby’s Angle - June 2020

03 Jun 2020

Keep your head in the boat

By Abby Crawford

I, like so many I talk to, think we are really very lucky that Australia has survived the COVID-19 pandemic as well as we have.

We are in the very fortunate position that we have the headspace and time to be focused on the inconveniences – the difficulties, frustrations and yes, financial losses – that restrictions have brought. This is, indeed, a far better position to be aggrieved by the inconveniences that actions to save our lives have caused, than it is to be grieving the inconceivable loss of life that was forecast.

A conversation I have found repeating itself, is the one around JobKeeper.

The frustration that I am seeing as I continue working, often unpaid, to support my clients and ensure we have the best path out of restrictions and into a successful business landscape, is from the employees. And it’s a simple gripe, but one that is heard often. It’s around the fairness of some people having to work for their pay, while others are at home receiving JobKeeper. It is such a petty and short-sighted gripe, and it infers that those at home are in some way better off. As though there has been some choice, rather than businesses just trying to survive and support staff anyway they can.

Keep your head in the boat.

Culture is such an important component to how people feel, whether they believe in the shared values of the business or team or are merely using them as a façade while looking sideways to try to secure the upper hand, to accelerate their own path. The right culture embraces not only the core values, but the individuals who are the very essence of that team. Culture starts from the top, and great leaders take enormous care to understand their teams and what drives them. When each person knows their purpose, their value and their path, then comparisons to others fall by the wayside, gripes are rare and people genuinely engage and deliver. And then some. Loyalty, comrad- ery, trust all equal results. And when there are results from a team whose members value each other, there’s no stopping them.

Keep your head in the boat.

It’s also true in all walks of life. There are always people who compare themselves to others, griping that they didn’t get the same result as someone else, complaining that someone else succeeded over them, inferring there’s some form of favouritism or unfair advantage. There are also companies and teams that behave like this, constant complaints and excuses as to why they aren’t where they thought they’d be. As they scrutinise other business and individuals, and throw rocks at their successes, they rarely consider the damage they are doing to themselves. They are simply robbing themselves of opportunities to succeed.

Keep your head in the boat.

My son has been rowing for his school club for more than six seasons. In that time, there have been three rowing directors, and all have said the same thing. “Keep your head in the boat”. At first, at the tender age of 12, this advice seemed logical. Not really possible to leave your head on the bank and row a one-kilometre race. It was only with more time on the river, more involvement in racing regattas, more time spent observing not just who was winning and losing, but HOW they were doing it, that it really be- came quite profound advice. You see, whether a boat was winning, coming middle of the pack or just trying to finish, if a rower looked sideways to see what the competition was doing, it was all over. The oars would crab, the forward motion of the boat stagger, the crew move from being synchronised to disjointed and their path is lost.

And, as the maturity sets in for these young rowers the double meaning of “keep your head in the boat” starts to be realised. That it’s not just the physical importance of keeping your head in the boat and not turning to look at the competition, but also the psychological importance of this. That you literally focus only on your team, on each stroke and make sureyou row the race past the finish line. Whether your goal is to win, or train a new crew at a capped rate, whether your goal is to take out a hard-won gold or to simply get down the river without falling in, the important thing is to keep your focus, keep your head in the boat, and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing.

As restrictions slowly ease, there are still many frustrations. But let’s remember it’s a race to save so many lives and we need to focus on that. As individuals find themselves still working, or on benefits for the first time – remember, you are part of a team and if you don’t feel that then ask for support. As businesses face having to reinvent to win the race to survive, remember your culture is what brings everyone together and if that’s a struggle then get a coach. And to those who are finding that criticising and throwing rocks at others to upset their race is making you feel better about yours – get your head back in the boat and row.

I hope that calmer waters reach us all soon. Until next month,

Abby x

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