What mixed doubles rowing taught me about teamwork!

Quite few years ago I was lucky enough to live close to the river Thames. When we moved there, I discovered that there was a skiff club on my doorstep (for those who may not know, a skiff is a wooden rowing boat – not as sleek as the sort of boat you normally associate with rowing but still sleek and beautiful).

I was keen to keen to keep fit and so I joined the club and started to learn how to row.

Once I was safe enough to be allowed out on my own, I regularly took a single skiff on the river and I fell in love with it.

Skiffing is a fantastic combination of being at one with nature, vigorous exercise and mental relaxation – it was as if I left all my worries on the riverbank and they couldn’t reach me on the water. If you get the chance I strongly recommend you give it a try.

Each skiff club on the Thames had an annual regatta and it wasn’t long before I felt confident enough to try my hand at racing.

I started with men’s doubles (as they have a cox who steers the boat) and once I got the hang of steering whilst going backwards as fast as I could, I moved to singles.

In both men’s doubles and singles I used long, slow, hard (as hard as I could pull) strokes as this generated the maximum speed and I could just about keep it up for the 4 minutes or so of a race.

But it was when I moved on to mixed doubles that we really had to work hard to find the “sweet spot”.
My skiff partner, Sheila, who was much smaller and lighter than me, was very successful in the ladies singles races and I was no slouch either. Together we should have been well above average but to begin with, we were disappointingly slow.

We persevered and asked one of the more experienced members to coach us and see what we could do to improve.

The coach was able to make us aware of how our rowing styles differed and made suggestions of things we could try to make the boat go faster.

We got there in the end – after trying many different combinations we found that if I increased my stroke rate and pulled at about 80% of my max, the skiff would move beautifully through the water.

By matching Sheila’s faster stroke rate and balancing the power we were both applying we achieved the optimum result.

We didn’t win any races but we came very close and what I learned about teamwork I was able to take back into business.

By being aware: – firstly of my own rowing style and then Sheila’s rowing style I was able to adjust to get the best result.

It’s exactly the same at work – by being aware of my own behavioural style and then the behavioural style of other members of my team I am able to adjust my approach to get the best result.

Is this something worth doing in your organisation?

If you would like to know more take a look at this short video.

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