6 Lessons to Avoid Leadership and Teamwork Gaffes

leadership and teamwork gaffes

I’ll share a true story, so you can avoid some common leadership and teamwork gaffes. You probably know that leaders should lead, teams should work together, and preparations should be made ahead of time. Well, Bruce and I took a “relaxing rafting trip” down the Rio Reventazon in Costa Rica – a trip we thought would be like so many other rafting trips we had taken. That day, I learned that things don’t always work out the way you think.

Leadership and teamwork gaffes on a guided rafting trip?

We were assigned a raft with an apathetic guide who didn’t seem to want to be there. Our team consisted of Bruce and me, and two elderly couples out for a pleasant sight-seeing excursion. Once aboard, the guide went through a half-hearted, abbreviated summary on maneuvering and safety, and we set off downstream in the gentle Class 2 rapids.

It had rained a lot the last few days. The river was turbid and muddy. Little did I know what was around the next few bends. Some leadership and teamwork gaffes were about to become clear. The Class 2 rapids became challenging Class 3’s, and then suddenly turbulent Class 4’s and more. This would have been fun with a good guide and a team that worked together. But that wasn’t the case that day.

Our leader started trying to shout instructions through the noise of the turbulent water, but our teammates panicked, dropped their paddles, and cowered down in the middle of the raft. The rapids and their screams were so loud, that we couldn’t hear the guide. Bruce and I were left to paddle. We hit a hole and suddenly I was tossed overboard. I grabbed for the perimeter line that usually surrounds the outside of a raft, but there wasn’t one! The leadership and teamwork gaffes were adding up.

Bruce reached out to me; it was one of those slow-motion memories of our mutual gaze as our outreached hands drifting apart. I was pulled under.

After swirling downward in that whirlpool for a minute, I suddenly remembered to swim sideways and finally popped up – right next to the raft. You know, when you increase retention when you repeat a lesson over and over. My past rafting experience paid off.

So, I lived to tell the story. But, the lessons I learned from that trip can help you avoid these leadership and teamwork gaffes in your business:

  • Make sure your raft is safety-ready with perimeter lines, etc.
  • The time to prepare your team is before you get in the river.
  • The leader looks downstream and warns the team ahead of time of what’s to come.
  • In turbulence, keep your voice calm and steady so your team maintains confidence.
  • Everyone on the team should play a part (but that doesn’t always happen either.)
  • Ultimately, you have to depend on yourself – so make sure you are ready.

Remember what I learned from my near-drowning experience and you’ll avoid these leadership and teamwork gaffes. You’ll be ready for the turbulence ahead. You haven’t peaked yet!

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