Water Is Life

Water is Life by Dr. Robert Gerwig

Photo by Author

The world is covered with water! Well, most of it anyway. … In a science or geography class somewhere along the way, most kids learn that the majority of the earth’s surface is covered with water. Oceans. Lakes. Rivers. Ponds. Seen from space, the earth looks like a big blue ball because it’s mostly covered with water.

From the moment I “met” water, I liked it. When I was “little,” I’d spend hours in the bathtub playing in the water. As I grew older, I joined a swim team (and spent hour upon hour in the pool), surfed, snorkeled (THAT’s a funny word), hung out at the beach, worked as a lifeguard, spent a ton of time fly-fishing for trout in streams and rivers, etc. I didn’t think much about it, but I clearly loved being around, in and near the water. Recently, I’ve added a new hobby – recreational scuba diving. Water. Water. Water.

All this is somewhat ironic as I was born in the Mojave Desert and saw little rain when I was a small boy. Who knows, maybe being AWAY from water as a toddler is one reason I was so attracted to it later. Regardless, I’ve spent a lot of my life around water and I love it! I’ve even lived on two islands – completely surrounded by water!

As much as I enjoy being in and around the water for recreational purposes, I love it even more when I’m desperate for it. What do I mean? I mean when you’re hiking in the Mojave or Sonoran Desert and your water bottle or camelback is empty, you get thirsty. Really thirsty. … Have you ever been thirsty? Like so thirsty you can hardly stand it. Hour upon hour of thirst. Dry. Heat. Your tongue-sticking-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth thirsty. If so, you know what it’s like to finally take a drink of water. … You probably also know that your body can go a lot longer without food than without water. The body needs water. Water if life. You need water to survive.

Water has other uses. It’s used to baptize believers. It’s used to provide power. It’s used to clean. It’s used to cool. … While the list could go on and on, I’m most reminded of water’s importance to our life, our existence. I reflect back on a trip to Kenya and the tribes’ desperate need for water. They weren’t thinking about a hot tub, or a sauna, or diving, or swimming, or water-skiing. They were thinking about water to drink. Water for their kids for their livestock. As you probably know, clean water is desperately needed by millions around the world. Clean water means life.

The double rainbows were cool to see. I wish the picture had shown their full glory. Rainbows. Water. A promise. Without water, there no rainbow. Without water there’s no life. … Looking at the rainbow and the water, I started thinking about people, organizations, teams, countries, etc. What is the water in an organizational setting? What is the key basic element to organizational health? To world-class achievement and performance. To success? To sustainable organizations?

There could be many types of “organizational water.” But the one that I kept coming back to was – reinforcement. Reinforcement of critical, desired behaviors. Recognizing people. Recognizing teams. Celebrating success. Saying thank you. Providing feedback that is Personal. Sincere. Immediate. Specific.

Most people don’t give their “best” to the organization for whom they work. Most withhold discretionary effort. Only by providing a “drink of water”, can organizations tap into this discretionary effort and achieve sustainable, world-class results. People are desperate for water. For recognition. For reinforcement.

After you’ve communicated the goals (objectives, etc.), look for desired behaviors and reinforce them. Providing feedback and reinforcing individuals and teams will raise the performance bar. It will provide energy. It will release the latent discretionary effort that exists within people and the organization.

Water is life – to you, to me, to our families, to our coworkers, to our bosses, to our subordinates, to our friends. Yes, even to our enemies. Give water. Reinforce desired behaviors. And celebrate success.

Are you reinforcing the desired behaviors you see in those around you? Are you taking the time to give others a drink of water?

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

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