Leveraging Others – Teamwork

Leveraging Others -Teamwork by Dr. Robert Gerwig

Photo by Author

Whale sharks! … In Southern Leyte, if you’re lucky (or have a good team) you might see a whale shark (or several). Our group made the trip to Southern Leyte, by boat, for a long-weekend of boating, relaxing, and looking for whale sharks. It was a great weekend! We had fun, good food, laughter, beautiful sights, and, yes, we got to see (experience) a whale shark up-close-and-personal.

Though whale sharks are one of the largest animals in the ocean and one of the heaviest on the planet, they are not aggressive toward humans. On the contrary, they allow people to snorkel or dive alongside them and some appear to be almost as curious of us as we are of them.

Our group was a mix of approximately 26 people from the US, Spain, Germany, Uruguay, Switzerland, and the Philippines. We had the full range of ages – kids, seniors, and everything in-between. It was a great weekend, highlighted by our sighting and swim with a large (~10m) whale shark.

Not everyone planned to snorkel or dive with the whale shark, some just wanted to “see” one on the surface. Most people had cameras to take pictures from the boat or in the water. Not just pictures, movies as well. But some had no camera. They just wanted to swim with the whale shark, unencumbered.

Yet everyone on the boat, including the captain and the boat crew, had one common purpose – see/experience a whale shark. We talked about it for hours on the boat ride over to Southern Leyte and at the hotel that night. Yes, the scenery was nice. The companionship was great. The food was wonderful. And the “chase” was exhilarating, but we really, really wanted to see the whale shark.

For two days we looked and scouted. Finally, just as we were about to give up (and we were running out of time), we spotted a large whale shark. Our adrenaline was high as we departed the boat and spent 25 minutes up-close-and-personal (though we didn’t touch it, we could have) with the whale shark. It was beautiful. Majestic. Graceful. Large. Powerful. Gentle. An amazing testament to God’s creative power.

Afterwards, we talked about our “encounter” for hours. Compared pictures. Looked at videos. Discussed our feelings. What we observed. It capped an already great weekend. We spent hours getting to Southern Leyte, hours looking for the whale sharks, and 25 minutes with a whale shark. Was it worth it? Yes. Would it have been worth it without seeing one? Yes, though seeing one “made” the trip. It was THE highlight.

One “little” detail I’ve left out. We didn’t find and swim with the whale shark by ourselves. Yes, we had experienced divers, captains, snorkelers, and dive masters on our boat. Some members of our group had even seen whale sharks in Southern Leyte previously. Yet we would not have been successful in our search without the help of our “scouters.” These were local guides who knew the waters. Who knew where the whale sharks fed and “hung out.” These guys were a key to our success. … You can see some of them in the picture above being towed by our boat to the whale shark “grounds.”

They would paddle their small outrigger canoes and occasionally dip their head into the water to look for whale sharks. They spread out and were able to cover a lot of ground. They were tireless. While we were in a motorized boat, they paddled for hours. In the end, right as we were about to leave, one of the scouts spotted our whale shark, stood up and raised his paddle – the “sign.” Game on!

Without the scouters we would not have seen the whale shark. We needed them. They were a critical part of our team. If our group had decided we were smart enough or skilled enough to find the whale sharks on our own, we would have failed. If we wanted to save a few pesos and not hire the scouters, we would have failed. Only by understanding our need for them, hiring them, making them part of the team and leveraging their skill/experience were we able to be successful in our search for the whale sharks.

Teams are critical to our success. Knowing how to leverage the skills/experience of your team is a key to world-class leadership. Don’t get stuck in the “I have to do it all” mindset. Or the “I have to know it all” trap. Great leaders recognize the needs of the organization, leverage others and celebrate with the entire team upon goal achievement.

Do you try to “do it all” or do leverage others in your organization, those on your team? What are some best teamwork practices you employ in your organization?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

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