Decrease the Pressure = Increase the Traction

Let me begin by saying that I don’t think anyone should drive on the beach for anything less than an emergency.

I recognize others feel differently.

One of these people is my husband, who has all the permits and shovels and chains to do so because he’s a wildlife rescue fella and sometimes that’s his job.

It was in that capacity that I found myself driving along the beach with him last weekend looking for an injured bird. 

If you’ve driven on the beach you know it’s necessary to let some air out of your tires beforehand in order to increase their traction on the sand.

As I stood in the freezing wind watching Keith do this, it occurred to me that this is an excellent metaphor for effective team leadership.

How do I figure?

Well, I’ve noticed that clients with lackadaisical/unmotivated teams often begin by thinking,

“It looks like I need to crack the whip and lash them into shape.”

If you’ve tried this, you know how rarely it works.

If you’ve had it tried on you, you know the resentment it breeds.

Now I’m guessing some of you are thinking, “So, what am I supposed to do, Frances? Draw them warm baths and talk to them about their childhoods?”

Let’s not get carried away.

All I ask is that you consider whether your team has been working in the mental/emotional equivalent of sand recently:

Has terrain been shifting? Have tides been running high? Has blow back from higher-ups (and maybe even you) left them feeling burned?

If so, you’ll get more traction if you let them exhale.

What might that look like?

  • It might be as simple as ending every meeting by saying, “Good work today.”
  • Or taking one week to focus solely on what they have been doing correctly.
  • Or checking in on how things are going with their families, their health, their lives outside the office.
  • Or giving everyone a half-day off to collect themselves.
  • Or offering supplemental training/education – and picking up the tab.

You decide or—bold notion—ask them what will re-inflate them.

That way, when you’re back on firm ground, you can put the pedal down.


For more on how to inspire—or re-inspire—your team take a look at “3 Memorable, Easy, Lasting Ways to Inspire Your Team”