I love scuba diving. Between the calmness of the water, the unique experiences, and how you tune in different parts of your body that you normally don’t pay attention to, it’s a wonderful activity to participate in.
Last summer, I attended a Scouting leadership conference at the University of Tennessee. During one of the sessions, we taught scuba basics to scouts in the Olympic pool there on campus. It was a great reminder of the leadership principles that we can model after scuba divers.
Prepare before you jump in
The first thing that you do before exploring underwater is a proper gear check. Does your mask work correctly? Does your tank have air and are the gauges and hoses working properly? Does your vest inflate and deflate as it should? Do your fins feel right? it could be a bad day for you if you just jump in without doing the safety checks first.
We face the same caution in our professional and personal lives, especially in areas where we are very comfortable. The ability to improvise is a great trait that serves you well in both your work and home life. The issue comes when you overuse that skill. You’re likely to come across as less professional, and your guests aren’t served as well or even consistently. More importantly, in some situations, you can be putting yourself and others in danger.
Don’t shortcut the prep time and attention to detail that needs to happen to be successful in your role.
Go slow to enjoy things
Time just seems to move slower underwater. There is so much to see and take in underwater! If you jump and simply swim around as much as possible, then at the end of the day there is really no difference between scuba diving at a coral reef or an Olympic swimming pool.
Life moves fast. In a few short months, we’ll dive into our time management series that gets at a core challenge: How do we manage time for ourselves and others when everyone is so busy? Run! Run! Run! is how many people operate their day (I’m guilty of this at times as well). One of the most important lessons that my mentor taught me early in my career was to slow down and spend time with my people. The work will always be there, if you finish a task another one will be right behind it. Your people however will not always be there. It’s one of the few guarantees of work. Slow down to enjoy and invest in your team. Admire the hard work and progress that the team has made. Taking time to slow down, also gives you a better appreciation of your job and the role that you play.
Keep close to your team
When diving, you should always have a partner, and your group should always have a team leader that keeps a headcount of where everyone is. Nearly all accidents happen in part because a person was on their own.
There is certainly a balance that needs to happen between micromanaging (Show 314, 315) and undermanaging (Show 325)
In the middle of that spectrum is a leader that gives their people the space that they need, but also the support that they want in order to be successful.
- Have a regular cadence of check-ins that makes sense for you and the other person.
- Listen and learn about things going on outside of work.
- Observe how they interact and accomplish their work.
- Coach in the moment instead of letting things escalate.
Keeping close to your team is important for the health of the team and the individual.
Panic = more problems
Sometimes things can get weird while diving. Perhaps the air regulator malfunctions, you get turned around or disoriented, or you have an unexpected encounter with wildlife. The worst thing that you can do as a diver in those moments is to panic because it only agitates the situation further. Divers are trained to remain calm, signal for help, and surface in a timely fashion if it is safe to do so.
It is guaranteed that things are not going to go your way every day. In those moments of chaos, others will look to you to set the tempo and demeanor. Panic and surely they will as well. Remember to remain calm, and let the initial emotion wash through you as your brain needs a moment to catch up and then react. Your initial reaction is often not the best one.
Be like the scuba diver. Prepare for your week, take some time to slow down and enjoy the work, spend time with the team, and don’t panic if things go off the rails.
Make a better tomorrow.