Every September I have the pleasure and privilege to be able to sail with a trusted group of friends. It is a time that is always inspiring and uplifting and conditions this year reminded me of a chapter from my LID Concise Guide – The “Keep It Simple” Book – called “Downwind”.

Whilst enjoying the North Atlantic conditions around the Azores the wind was again behind us and blowing stiffly in the intended direction. Whilst it might appear perfect natural support- offer a push for great speed, full sails and a straight line course-  the wind directly behind can be high risk and create many unwanted outcomes.

This is a dangerous ‘point of sail’ and difficult for the boat to maintain course safely. The powerful push of the wind in the tail places immense strain on the sails, the mast and the potential widow-making gibing boom which holds the mainsail. 

The best advised setting was away from the wind, first to the north-west, then across to the north-east, extending our journey in distance but using the sailboat more efficiently, the way it was designed, safely (and more comfortably) and still maintaining a good speed.

I love this as a metaphor for life.

How often do the conditions in your work seem absolutely perfect (the wind is behind you)? Perhaps you have been given a new role, broad scope, permission, budget, a capable team - but with events happening so fast around you- randomly ranging requests, lack of clarity and indecision can ensue. The reckless, who stay on that course, may indeed finish fast but often attract damage – to relationships, to projects, to workloads, to quality and sustainability. The worried turn off course, slowing down too much, underutilising or avoid the conditions completely, missing the opportunity for pace, growth, improvement, change or project progress.

The wisest choice would be to adjust your course slightly, in effect to tack left and right. At work this might be in the form of frequent rapid reviews of your short and long-term goals, exploring the potential that may lie left or right from your original destination. 

In this situation, good organisations and leaders will build in opportunities to review the goals and the direction:

- Are the goals the same? 

- What opportunities might now be in range?

- What standards could we improve or reduce in this period?

- What are we open to or should we be open to that is on our horizon?

Perhaps, set some short-term goals that you would not normally consider and engage in more frequent, rapid reviews and re-evaluations of the situation, your speed and progress, assessing what’s important (quality, communication, relationships). Pause and tune in to your intuition. It may also mean shifting roles within the team for a few weeks, changing the focus and challenging ingrained habits.

Whatever the conditions for you in the weeks ahead, consider where you’re heading and where the wind is coming from or taking you. Are you in a downwind phase? What short-term changes could you make to maximise your safety, enjoyment and results?

Most of all, reflect, enjoy and keep it simple.


P.S. If the wind seems to be in your face maybe that is not such a bad thing. But that's another Simple Note for another day!

P.P.S. I have a number of exciting speaking engagements in the next 6 months but am always eager and ready for more. I’d love to work with your teams and speak at your events so please do get in touch – Shifting attitudes can have an incredible, positive difference to your course.