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  • Writer's pictureJohn Hightower

/ Paddlers, Passengers, Pirates

// PART 5

John Hightower



When the hull of a ship cuts through water, wakes appear on both sides. The ripple of the wake rolls out into the sea. Dr. Henry Cloud eloquently states “leave a wake of results and relationships.” There’s tension in the wake - a leader doesn’t want to tip over the boat or frustrate the crew.

Typically, leaders feel more naturally gifted with either relationships or results. In other words some leaders are great at connecting with employees, building rapport with colleagues, or navigating political waters. Another leader might be great at measuring results, developing sales pipelines, creating strategic plans and driving organizational goals. However, it is the tension of maintaining both relationships and results that pushes organizations forward in a healthy way and allows your team to all paddle together.

As leaders we all need tools to help us monitor and move the organization. There are practical ways to manage this tension.


Building relationship drives the organization forward. Here are a few ways to keep the pulse of your employees:

  • PERSONALITY PROFILE We believe one way to know your employees at their core is understanding their personality. Each team member is unique and if you can understand the natural tendencies of your team then you can serve them better.

  • SURVEY EMPLOYEES Surveys provide opportunities to engage employees and understand analytically what you may or may not know from anecdotal conversations. A few tips on surveys:

    • DESIGN IS KEY - there is power in what questions are asked. Employees will infer a lot of information based on how and what questions are asked. Be prepared to take action on the results; if not, you may risk losing trust with your crew of paddlers.

    • LONGITUDINAL VS. LATITUDINAL STUDIES - many times surveys are not used strategically within organizations. Surveys can be a strong strategic tool to build relationships with your employees. Longitudinal Surveys measure progression of the same variables over time by asking the same questions each time the survey is offered and measuring the differences. Latitudinal Surveys are deep dives into specific areas.

  • MAKE MEANINGFUL TIME Time is a valuable asset and the biggest gift we can give our team. This may seem obvious, but leaders need to carve out time to meet with their team members, to listen, to adjust. It’s the most important thing you can do for your organization.


Relationships give us a firm foundation from which to work. And, as an organization we’re also looking for results. For some leaders, it’s easy to see and measure results. For our relational leader, the following might be helpful.

  • MEASURES CAN BE MEANINGFUL Team members want to know where they stack up in relationship to their peers. An unhealthy example is social media. People are racing to get likes, shares, etc. and that can come from an unhealthy place. However, with the right measurements, understanding your place in an organization can be rewarding.

  • DEVELOP REASONABLE KPIS Healthy people respond well to meaningful and reasonable KPIs. If people understand how the KPI was derived - via time studies, industry benchmark, etc. - usually they respond wellI. If the KPI is uninformed (usually due to poor planning or unrealistic budgets) then that is when your crew might revolt.

  • REFINE OVER TIME Measures change with improved processes, growth and company conditions. Be willing to refine the measurement, KPI and your approach over time as the only constant is constant change.

Balancing relationships and results can help you lead your team better and maybe, just maybe, you and your team will all paddle with more intention. Imagine how much better your team might be if you chose to be just a little better in several of these areas. It could be the difference between success and failure.


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