Leading an entrepreneurial venture is hard, which is precisely why you're always on the lookout for insight that gives you an edge. And there is plenty to be found in the sport of rowing.
Some lessons are familiar, like teamwork. In rowing, you can't move an eight-person shell if you don't do it together. Then there's adaptability, where, just as in business, no two days or even hours on the water are alike. Wind, water, equipment, and competition can never be fully predicted, so being able to adapt at a moment's notice is vital. But there's another lesson that gives an edge in business as it does in rowing: free speed.
True free speed in rowing would be having a lighter boat, which requires less energy to move, freeing up energy to gain speed--a real advantage. In contrast, false free speed is the rowers' joke about everyone in the boat needing a haircut, as if the loss of a few grams of hair could provide a similar competitive advantage. The difference seems clear, but it's remarkable how hard-working rowers, just like busy entrepreneurs, allow the lines between true advantage and wishful thinking to blur.
Here are three ways to ensure you're gaining the advantage of free speed in your business--and not just fooling yourself.
Share your knowledge, don't hoard it.
It's a fact: the more you know, the better equipped you are to achieve, adapt, innovate, and excel in business. If that's what you want, you can't hoard knowledge. Yet many entrepreneurs do. The rationale they hawk is one of control. In truth, hoarding knowledge is wishful thinking. Rather than speeding you up, inevitably it slows you and your team down. And think about it--if you can't trust your team with the knowledge they need to contribute to your collective success, then far bigger problems are looming on your horizon. Shared knowledge is power, and it's the power you need to speed up the entrepreneurial success you seek.
Create a shared purpose, and practice it daily.
While powerful, knowledge is at best misguided speed if those you share it with aren't all rowing in the same direction with a shared sense of purpose. Believing you can state the mission and just move on is effectively the business equivalent of choosing to row in circles, never actually achieving the bigger goals of ongoing success and growth. In contrast, having a shared sense of why you do what you do and linking it to your decisions and actions every single day builds the habit of advantage. The key here is applying shared purpose as a daily filter--something few entrepreneurial teams do, and the main reason why they never tap the power of shared purpose. By working shared purpose into every thought and action in your business, it become a fine-tuning tool that helps you gain advantage. Doing so is simple, cumulatively powerful, and, best of all, free.
Empower your team to lead.
The greatest example of entrepreneurs mistaking wishful thinking for free speed is their reticence to allow leadership to be shared. Not sharing leadership is the equivalent of sharing knowledge and purpose, and then telling those you share it with not to act. Talk about weighing a business down.
At the end of the day--and every day--entrepreneurial success is a team sport. And you can achieve that success faster, and more often, when everyone is empowered to grab an oar and contribute.