We all know that the boat which wins the race will be the one where each person is contributing their most to all go in the same direction. If one person is disengaged, or worse yet, out of sync, progress will be slow.

Or no progress at all. Or even backwards.

Yet this happens all the time in organizations. People are minimally “doing their job,” yes, but not really that engaged.

The leader at the front of the boat is called the coxswain. Yet the only tool they really have is their voice, and it’s all the rest on the team who actually do the real work of propelling the craft forward.

Somebody might be kicked off the team if they’re not performing. But that doesn’t help this race, right now.

So what does the coxswain do? What does the team coach do?

It’s about synchronizing everyone’s motions, encouraging balance and fluidity. It’s about encouraging each person to contribute their best right now.

And you’re not going to have one person contributing double the strength of everyone else unless you planned for it. Otherwise you lose the balance.

That’s very relevant in the work environment. Often we’ll have a mixture of different capabilities, and reward those who are strongest, fastest, and most accurate. But it doesn’t help if that person is always waiting on slower team members.

Your job, as leader and coach, is to figure out how to appropriately balance that dynamic. Sometimes you focus on building each individual up to equal capability. Sometimes you’ll let each person shine in their own strength, and balance things by moving tasks around and changing processes.

But at the end of the day, it’s about finding the balance which lets the entire team, and organization, achieve its absolute best.