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Course Correction

When I was in my 20’s and in very good physical shape, I was invited to join the LASD CREW. For you land-lovers, that’s a rowing team. I had never been part of a crew, and only knew what I had seen on Television and so in my naiveté, I joined my friend at the USC Rowing Center in Long Beach where I met the other members of the crew. I stood on the dock and watched as one by one the Eight-man team gingerly stepped down onto the low-laying boat rocking on the water and settle into position. I did not know what I was watching required great balance on the part of the entire team working in sync, and this was only the part where they get in the boat. What I learned about the rowing process can only be expressed as “magical.”

I started learning how to be part of the crew by rowing alone on a rowing machine in a small building set at the end of the dock. I rowed, pushing legs, seat sliding back, and arms pulling me forward for about an hour. I thought to myself, “This isn’t that hard.” By the time the team came back to the dock I was spent. I watched again as they methodically exited the boat. Over the next couple years I learned what poetic teamwork looked like as I progressed from a Skull (single) to a double, to a four-man, and ultimately racing in the eight-man teams. It is amazing how sensitive to movement and responsive the boats are. There is a term, “Catching a crab,” which means your stroke (pull of the oar) was “off” and it throws the rhythm of the team off and they must recover quickly or lose valuable time and distance. With the eight-man crew there is a person who sits at the front (or the rear) of the boat facing the crew (called the “coxswain”) and using a megaphone they yell to the crew to “Stroke” so they can have rhythm and strength in unity. It is also the responsibility of the coxswain to tell the crew to make minor course corrections so they do not “drift” off course but remain straight and true. Races are won and lost based on the coxswain’s failure to make a course correction soon enough or a team member catching a crab. There is a lot of responsibility placed on the coxswain and their only ability to affect change is if the team trusts and believes in their ability to lead. In addition to this, it’s the failure of the coxswain if the team looses and the coxswain receives the awards for the team when they win.

Running a company is a lot like being the coxswain of an eight-man crew. The leader must “watch” everything simultaneously, yell out the need for a course correction, help balance through the “crabs,” and watch out of other “crews” who could impact our company. There must be constant “course corrections” made or the company could lose momentum or ultimately fail. It is also the responsibility of each team member to do what they need to do to stay “fit” and practice their trade as well. When one person does not take seriously their personal contribution to the team, in other words, when they have not been disciplined in their training, the entire team can be hurt, become discouraged, and lose faith.

The Bible talks about how we should accept discipline (aka: course correction) as a means of learning to walk straight:

“No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening--it's painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.”

Hebrews 12:11

Parents discipline their children because they are training them to become responsible adults. Leaders discipline those they lead in order to build team unity, to move the unit toward the goal, and to build confidence and security in their stated purpose and mission. Discipline is good for us. Self-discipline is better. Be encouraged when you are disciplined, because if you receive it well and apply it in your life, you will be better for it.

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