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Navigating Corporate Whitewater

On my recent 5 day trip to Blue Ridge, GA, I had the opportunity to go whitewater rafting down the class III and class IV rapids of the Ocoee River. Now, I had been rafting in Colorado and enjoyed it, so I said what the heck.
Heading out to the put in spot, guides give you minimal instructions. Will, our guide, told us to paddle together, look out for each other and most importantly how to save your own ass, so we listened. “Do these things and we’ll all be safe. Above all stay in the damn raft,” Will said with a wry smile.
Reflecting on our trip down the river, I began to think how I could apply Will’s strategies to management. For all intensive purposes, Will was our CEO on the river. Our goal, get down the river in one piece, at all costs. He would bark orders in the middle of rough spots, “all forward”, “all back” and “drift”, imploring us to use our group paddle power to get through the trouble spots. Sitting at the front of the raft with another vacationer, Erik, it was our job to set the pace for the people behind us to follow. As Erik and I discussed our extra responsibility, we decided it would be best to look at each other before paddling to get in to a rhythm.
At the risk of sounding corny, I think the business world could use a few more leaders like Will. Inevitably, in any business, there will be some rough waters to navigate. But how many of these businesses have leaders that implore their staff to stay the course? Especially when there appears to be even more whitewater on the horizon. How many employees have been encouraged to a point where they wouldn’t even think of abandoning their crew? One of Will’s techniques was to not micro-manage, allowing us to adjust our paddle techniques around rocks, near other rafters and along the shoreline. “Do what you need to do to stay in the raft and keep us moving,” Will said. In rough times it’s essential to have the ability to adjust your priorities and further have your leader support you.
At Catch Your Limit, Tom & Melissa are always telling us “This is yours!” In fact our credo states to “learn from your failures”, implying that they will be inevitable. While I’m still working on ridding my mind of the fear of failure mentality, it makes it easier knowing that I won’t be kicked out of the raft having made a few.
There are a lot of companies out there doing it the right way. With the recent downturn in the economy, we’ll be able to see who stayed the course and who’s guide abandoned the crew near the shoreline.

><(("> Kyle Freund

Kyle is a former ><((“> Team Member at Catch Your Limit, a management and marketing firm with offices in Tallahassee, Florida and Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, visit

Posted in Leadership.


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