I’ve been a runner for many years now, and I really enjoy biking as well. I’ve even done a few triathlons, but the swimming piece has always been my weakest link. Last fall, I decided to work on strengthening it.
I began to swim by myself, in the mornings, at my local YMCA and noticed the more competitive Master’s Swimming Team nearby. I quietly envied them and kept my thrashing, awkward self out of view—until I finally mustered up the nerve to approach the swim team coach to ask if I could work with her and the team.
The answer was “Yes.” The first several weeks focused on getting comfortable with the group and sharing a lane. I was the slowest “little guppy” as my family kiddingly called me, but I was okay with that. Then one week, seemingly out of nowhere, a breakthrough occurred.
The coach told me that she felt that given my good form, I should be moving faster than I was, and she began to work with me one-on-one in getting my stroke in sync. Using a device called a tempo trainer, the coach had me swim at a certain stroke rate and told me to kick just once each time I used my arms, instead of using my normal flutter kick.
I tried that, but it was like rubbing my belly, tapping my head, and chewing gum all at the same time. It seemed impossible. She gave other feedback. She studied me. Then she said this: “Each time you hear a beep of the tempo trainer, bring one arm down.”
I tried it. And suddenly, it all came together. I felt like I was flying! And what was totally fascinating was that my legs were moving at about one third the speed as they were before, and I was moving faster!
Something happened in that moment that was completely transformational. Thinking she might also have a breakthrough, a fellow swimmer, a woman about a foot taller than me with a wingspan and shoulders like an eagle, asked what I’d learned. But the coach overheard us and said, “NO! What you need and Laurie needs are completely different!”
My next breakthrough was in realizing the same lessons that played out for me in the pool are true in executive leadership. Consider these points:
- We all need eyes outside ourselves because we can’t see ourselves. We do the same thing again and again, expecting a better outcome. If we are sincerely interested in growth or change, we need someone to give us authentic feedback from a unique vantage point.
- Others can often see potential where we can’t. I was hopeful that I truly had potential, but I really didn’t know it. Having someone have faith in my growth built my confidence.
- Moving slower can actually produce increased speed. In the nonprofit world, thoughtful, intentional work; planning; deep one-on-one donor relationships; and outstanding customer service are much more effective than mass donor communications, flying by the seat of your pants, and saying “yes” to everyone.
- Continued coaching is needed so we don’t plateau. I need to also continue to build strength and continue to notice even more subtle distinctions in my stroke and kick Leaders, too, can build on what they learn and keep taking it to the next level.
- What works for one person doesn’t work for the next. Good coaches pay attention. They look, they listen, and they hear what makes you unique, what drives you, and what might be in your way.
- You have to be open and receptive to coaching to actually see change happen. The fact that I sought coaching was what made this breakthrough happen. Had I not been receptive, I’d still be a guppy.
Are you interested in breakthrough results? I invite you to consider getting a coach. Find someone who you respect, who you will listen to, someone who will empower you, and who you trust. Feel free to give Rainmaker a call. We’ll help you swim, not sink.