Drowning in Leadership and Teamwork Gaffes

leadership and teamwork gaffes

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, and I learned that those things don’t always hold true. I’ll share that story, so you can avoid these leadership and teamwork gaffes.

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 just 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 what happened.

Our leader started shouting instructions, 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! Bruce reached out to me; it was one of those slow-motion memories of our outreached hands drifting apart. And I went under.

After swirling downward in a whirlpool for a minute or two, I swam sideways and finally popped up – right next to the raft. Of course, I lived to tell the story. 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!