Adopt this Sailing Technique & Keep Your Employees (Not to Mention Kids, Partners—& Dogs!) Happy

Part of my recent vacation was spent on a sailboat (Yep, that’s the boat, pictured above, left.)

One thing I learned from our captain (Yep, that is she—with me—pictured above, right) is that, because it’s a sailing vessel, she doesn’t (can’t) send in an exact plan for our course: it is wind dependent.

Consequently, she would turn in our destination and the parameters within which she expected to stay– rather than an exact route—to the coastal authorities.

This struck me as a good way to manage employees, my partner and—frankly—my dog.

Let’s use Dolly (pictured below) as an example:

Because Dolly is a hound she wanders. If I attempt to control her throughout a walk, it’s hard to say who ends up being more frustrated.

Consequently, I let her know where we will reconvene and the general parameters within which I expect her to stay, and then set her free.

Surprisingly this works. The more I trust her, the more she trusts me and the more we both enjoy ourselves.

Now let’s slot in one of your employees:

Say you have a project you need an employee to handle, and you have been clear about the desired outcome and the parameters

If you then micromanage every choice they make throughout the process, it will be hard to know who is more frustrated at the end.

For the fun of it, now slot in your teenager—or your partner!

Suppose you tell them what you need accomplished and by when… And spend the intervening time second guessing/double-checking/critiquing their ‘route.’

Does this end well? I’m guessing not.

Given that, the next time you get ready to relinquish control, be clear about the destination and the parameters.

And then let those around you move with the wind.


For more on the value of ceding control, look at “Assisting Other is Great—But Leave Wiggle Room”