Snow Skiing – Lessons in Leadership #2

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On the slopes, Rich demonstrated what to do and then asked me to follow. Upon observation, he didn’t bombard me with everything that I had done incorrectly. Each time down the slopes, he identified one thing that I could do differently (he never used the word “wrong”) to help me control my speed or perfect my turns.

Rich also used my name to offer praise and encouragement. “Great, Jill. Much better that time.” He would also call my name out when he wanted to get my attention to stop bad habits. “Jill, look up. Jill, stand up.” Apparently, I was crouching over so much that he said that I must have been looking for money.

On the chair lift, Rich and I talked about our careers. He had been instructing for over 45 years and told me that he was forever learning. That was his secret to success. As a ski instructor to ski instructors, Rich said, “Although they were full of energy and enthusiasm, they were too ambitious, wanting to teach their students everything all at once. And, fact is, students will only remember 1-2 things at best.”

Let me tell you, when I hit the higher slopes later that afternoon, I could hear Rich’s voice, “Jill, stand up. Jill, look up.” The two things that he wanted me to remember and focus on, I did.

How many times do we point out all the wrong things that employees do all at once? Do we really think that’s motivating or inspiring them to perform correctly? How many times do we compliment or praise employees for the subtle changes in behavior that we notice? Upon seeing the difference between Day 1 and Day 2 skiing performance, Keith and his wife, Tammy, both remarked upon the improvements. They made sure that we knew that they could see the difference even if we couldn’t tell yet. Encouraging? Yes! Motivating? Yes! We gained confidence to extend our reach to the top of the mountain, practicing, and perfecting our lessons learned.