Skiing Leadership Lessons, Part 1
In this article, I started by wanting to share how my passion for ski instructing is more about helping people push through their fears and limiting beliefs than it is about the techniques and tactics of skiing. Then, as I started to write, I realised there are some nuggets around effective leadership that seemed interesting to talk about. Enjoy! 😊⛷
Aaaand… there’s been so much to say, I’m breaking it into separate articles 😃
Lesson 1 - Building Trust
In Patrick Lencioni’s book The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team he points to trust, and the ability to feel safe while being vulnerable, as the bedrock of a high-performing team.
Out on the mountain we’re a team, much like any other, and we have to start with getting to know one another. I get genuinely interested in where everyone is from, what they do back home and what has brought them to skiing. I want them to feel relaxed in my company and that we’re in this together. And I want to create the right environment - one of safety, fun and learning.
Not only do I want to get to know them and build good rapport, I want them to know that they can say whatever is on their minds without fear of ridicule or being made wrong in any way. I want them to be able to share with the whole group and I won’t tolerate criticism or shaming from anyone.
Building trust in this way has multiple benefits, the most obvious of which is an atmosphere in which people feel free to be themselves and are ready and willing to support others in the group. It creates a virtuous circle of collaboration, encouragement and celebration.
If someone’s going to lead me into the wild, I need to trust and respect them and know I can share what’s on my mind, so it’s important I create that for my gang!
Lesson 2 - Listening and Curiosity
Listening has multiple levels. At one level, we hear the words someone says and rapidly layer our interpretations on top, then make assumptions about what they are actually saying. We are ready to respond, even before they have finished talking.
Deeper listening involves getting out of our own heads and being really curious about what’s going on over there, with the other person.
When teaching skiing it’s a useful skill when people are struggling with technique, or they are caught by fear or frustration. In order to help them, I need to understand what the real issue is and I may need to listen deeply, between and behind the words, to hear what’s really being said. Open questions - those typically starting with “what” or “how”, and coming from a place of genuine curiosity - help me, and my student, get clear on what the problem is.
A common pattern is for someone to say they don’t know how to turn, or, more dramatically, stop! Often the reality is they do know, but are scared to do it. I want to know what’s really going on before I offer my advice - telling someone how to do something when the problem is they are petrified is not going to help! So I’ll remain curious until I’ve really got it, and they feel heard and understood.
One of the counter-intuitive truths in asking open, curious and interested questions, is that the other person will often find their own solution.
Part 2 to come!
This article is part of 100 Days of Creation, my challenge to myself to write 100 articles in 140 days, each taking no longer than 30 minutes to write and publish.