Skiing Leadership Lessons, Part 3
These are my final thoughts, which also have me wistfully reflecting on when we’ll be allowed to go skiing again!!
Lesson 5 - Intuition
Leading people around a mountain is quite a responsibility. There are real dangers to physical well-being, although generally not what many of my students imagine. They look up to the top of the mountain and imagine that they might just ski right off and fall from a great height to an unseemly demise! This isn’t really a danger when skiing on the marked runs but there obviously are dangers - colliding with other people, trees and pylons, or simply falling and hurting yourself.
As their leader, there’s no way I can calculate all the risks and take into account the skill level of every student to come to the “right” answer on where on the mountain we should go next, or even what drill might be appropriate. You’ll be relieved to hear that I am well trained in how to help people improve without needing to call in the heli too often. But it’s hardly an exact science, especially when managing a group. So beyond my training, I have to tap into something else.
Our brains are great at parallel processing multiple inputs and past experiences to give us an answer - but that answer comes through the whisper of intuition, and we have to learn to trust it. In skiing terms, if we don’t, we’ll get stuck on the baby slopes! More generally, we’ll miss the game changing opportunities or get stuck in analysis paralysis.
We actually do this all the time - taking the course of action that feels right. Great leaders hone and trust their intuition.
Lesson 6 - Teaching
The last lesson I want to share is around how to make effective use of specific skills and expertise to teach others. Putting this one last as it’s not as important as you might think!
When I started ski instructing, my ego had me make it all about my skills and expertise. The mantra was: I’m the expert and you need to listen to what I’m saying. If you end up skiing well, that’s down to me. If you end up skiing badly, you weren’t listening!
I now understand that what I know about ski technique is a much smaller part of the picture of being an effective ski instructor than I had originally thought. Obviously knowing how to teach the techniques of skiing is fundamental. That said, I also believe that most of my students would learn to ski if I did the following:
Create a safe, positive and nurturing environment
Provide lots of encouragement and have the group support each other
Describe and/or show them the outcome I want
Turn everything into a game
Let them play, fall, laugh (and sometimes cry!), get up, learn, try again
Good leaders use their relevant knowledge and expertise to teach others and direct them towards a goal. Great leaders see a bigger picture - they share a vision, specify outcomes then create the conditions where people feel safe to try, fall, learn for themselves and get back up.
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.