Leaders Know How to Adjust

Gerwig 2016-08-12

Do you have something that you’ve put aside for a while? Perhaps at one point years ago you were an avid golfer, an accomplished pianist, a budding painter, a gifted writer, or a skilled mechanic. But life came at you and you put it away. The job got busy. Kids needed attention. Members of your foursome moved away. Your piano teacher stopped giving lessons. You lost your temper and swore off the game. Your financial situation changed and you had to give up your “love.” Or perhaps you got burned out. The game became boring, tired. You became disenchanted with your work. In short, “life” came along and in the way of a favorite pastime or hobby. Here’s my story …

Years ago when I lived in eastern Tennessee, I loved to fly-fish for trout. Rainbow trout, brown trout, and the occasional brook trout. I fished on tailwaters and in small mountain streams. My adventures took me all over the Appalachian Mountains in the southeast from Georgia to Tennessee to North Carolina to Virginia. It was great fun. I even caught a trout on occasion.

I enjoyed getting outside, exploring new areas, witnessing beautiful waterfalls and autumn colors, backpacking, climbing over rocks, and catching fish. I got lost, had a gun pulled on me, and lost many flies. It was a great time.

As the years went by, I started tying some basic flies. And I found out that the material to tie flies was expensive, namely animal fur, hair, and game hen “necks.” So I started doing the natural thing (much to the embarrassment of my wife), I started pulling my truck over whenever I saw “road kill” and snipped some hair for my flies. I always carried some scissors and a plastic bag for the fur, hair and feathers I collected along the road. No, I never purposely ran over a rabbit just to tie a “hare’s ear nymph!”

But life came along and I stopped fly-fishing. For 15 years! By the way, I’m in a 3-year hiatus from another favorite pastime, diving. But that’s another story. So after 15 years, I dusted off the fly-equipment and went out on a local river, the Housatonic. Many places I’ve lived in the last 15 years weren’t near trout waters but that changed when I moved to Connecticut last year. Both the Housatonic and Farmington Rivers offer great trout fishing and both are nearby. So after getting my Connecticut fishing license, I jumped in the car and went off on an adventure. Just like old times.

After being on the river a while near Cornwall Bridge, I realized the water was low and warm. Not a great combination for trout (I later learned that because of low rainfall and a modest snowmelt, the Housatonic is at an all-time low and the trout aren’t feeding much). So after getting myself stoked to go fly-fishing for trout, I had a choice to make. I could keep using flies, leaders, and mending techniques for trout or I could tie on a bass fly and try my hand at fly-fishing for the smallmouth bass that shared the river with trout.

I gave it another 30 minutes or so with my trout flies and line before making the adjustment to a bass set-up. Initially, I was a bit reluctant. After all, it had been 15 years since I’d been fly-fishing for trout. And as anyone who fly-fishes for trout knows, there’s something special about stalking a wily brown or catching a rainbow sipping tiny midges. Trout aren’t easy to catch on an artificial, hand-tied fly. But the trout weren’t biting, so I made an adjustment and caught nearly 40 smallmouth bass over the next few hours. It was a great time! Back in the water. Just down river from an old, historic, New England covered bridge. No traffic. No other fishermen. Just me, the bridge, smallmouth bass and a couple eagles. It was a great way to spend a later afternoon and evening.

And as I was releasing the last bass before heading home, it struck me how great leaders in all walks of life know how to make adjustments. Sometimes the adjustment is easy, but many times it’s hard. You have sunk costs that are hard to ignore. There’s peer pressure. There’s momentum. There’s comfort. There’s investment. There’s risk. Adjustments don’t always work out. Yet great leaders know that, many times, due to changing circumstances, an evolving environment or new information, an adjustment is needed. And they forge ahead. Sometimes they catch 40 bass and sometimes they catch nothing. They get “skunked.” But they monitor the situation, assess any new information and adjust their plan and the associated actions. Great leaders develop a skillset, over time, in making the right adjustment at the right time. Do you?

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

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.


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