Lean In or Lean Out?

When things get hard, we are sometimes told to lean in, but at other times, we might need to lean out. In last week’s webinar, I was describing the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, and how there are different classes of yachts that participate, and winners for each class.

When they start the race, each crew knows their aim is to reach Hobart as quickly as possible, yet there is a lot of tacking to get to their destination. Tacking is where yachts swap the sail from one side of the boat to the other, and at the same time move the crew to the opposite side to ‘lean out’ as counterbalance to the wind in the sail.

The yachts effectively zig-zag their way to the destination, responding to the wind direction, swell, and obstacles such as other vessels, the coast, or storms.

The navigator plots a course based on the long rage forecast for weather and other conditions, but there is also constant adjustment of sails and ropes and rudders for the immediate conditions.

Sounds a bit like business, doesn’t it?

The crew are trained and practised in their individual roles to pull sails up and down, including swapping from one side to the other as the skipper decides to tack.

Skippers need to keep one eye on the destination and the potential obstacles to reaching it, and the other eye on the immediate conditions of the boat. Perhaps that’s why we think of pirates using telescopes, not binoculars!

Ideally, in business, we are able to regularly focus both eyes on the future, and then shift back to the shorter term and relate what we are working on this quarter to achieving our long-term goals. Sometimes, another pair of eyes can help with this process.

We don’t want our people leaning in when they should be leaning out!