Leadership On the Fly
This morning as you are reading this newsletter, I'm on my annual fly fishing trip. Once a year I head out to the Arkansas River for a week of unplugged solitude. The Caddis fly is hatching right now and the rainbows and browns are hungry.
I started fly fishing in 2009. I found fly fishing to be a lot tougher than I had expected and I nearly gave up after a few unsuccessful attempts. I usually pick things up very rapidly and I was astounded by how much there was to learn. I was hopelessly discouraged, after my initial exposure found me overwhelmed by what seemed to be an endless array of complexities, dozens of casting techniques, and enough knots to hold Houdini captive.
But I kept pushing myself. Tried a new casting technique, tried a new fly, hired a guide to help mend my mistakes. Then one day I realized that I could improve my casting by focusing on my goals, adjusting my techniques and following through with commitment--all things I instruct my clients to do to meet their business objectives.
When it dawned on me that I had found something that was pushing me outside my comfort zone, I got excited. In business, I ask people to step outside their comfort zones on a regular basis. Finding something that did the same for me gave me new perspective, and an opportunity to find some parallels back to leadership.
There are several techniques in Leadership that remind me of Fly Fishing: Focus, Adaptability, Passion, Desire and Continuous Improvement.
Here are a few of my favorite parallels between leadership and fly fishing this week:
- You have to know when to untangle a knot and when to cut your losses. One time I was standing in the river untangling a horrible knot. For some reason I was hell-bent on untangling it instead of cutting off the fly and starting over. Suddenly something caught my eye, and when I looked down I literally had a fish swimming at my knees. Because I was so focused on untangling a knot, I missed the opportunities that were right in front of me. I think we do this in business as well. There are times we spend so much time focused on the mistakes we have made in the past, that we don't see the opportunities that are right in front of us.
- Conditions change--you have to be prepared to change with them. There's a saying in fly fishing: 'Don't fish yesterday's fish.' Just because you were successful doing something yesterday, or if one tactic worked for a week, or a month, or a year, that was then. You have to figure out the now. Tides change, weather changes, fish move. Try to look ahead to the next spot, where you can use the knowledge you gained at your old spot. That's how you repeat success.
You have to want to get better or you will become complacent and frustrated.
The last 10% of your backcast is the most important part of your cast. Most anglers work 2-3 times harder than they need to when trying to catch a fish. Most leaders work 2-3 times harder than necessary. Better results are necessary with less effort.
Have a great week! What are you wading for?
Have fun out there,