Different Boats

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership

Smooth seas never made a skilled sailor.

An Alternative View

A colleague sent me a link to a presentation by Mike Robbins, a mentor, and coach. When I finally made time to view it, I understood why she enjoyed it and recommended it. Mike had several twists on how to lead during change. Of course, he had a lot to work with because of the pandemic.

One of the ideas that Mike expressed was that the saying we’ve all heard so much lately, “We’re all in this together,” is a bit misleading. He suggests that we are all in the same pandemic-storm but that we are sailing different boats.


I like that analogy a lot. My experience is that we do not respond to the changes brought on by the pandemic in the same manner. Those on the introverted side of human nature are not nearly as distraught over the forced isolation as those who tend to be extroverted. Most people in my network are tired of the situation—after all, it has been almost a year now. But the extroverts are more upset.


Intellectually, the people know that once we lift pandemic restrictions, life will not go back to pre-pandemic “normal.” Even with vaccines on the horizon, we will require the use of masks, social distancing, and limiting travel for a long time.

Each of our employees is responding to this massive change in lifestyle differently. As leaders, we must recognize this reality.


I have conducted an unscientific survey and found that most business folks I know are saying they will be cautious in the future. But, they express optimism and hope that at least some activities will resume. For example, many have said that they will occasionally go out to dinner once they receive the vaccine—as long as they can eat outside and the restaurant is still following the COVID guidelines.

Others are looking forward to meeting with friends and family once everyone in the group is vaccinated. And, again, they mention that they will likely meet outside whenever possible. Here in southern California, we have weather that cooperates. But, home improvement projects to make outdoor meetings more enjoyable are the order of the day. And home office improvements are still in process.


To continue the analogy, leaders now find that they are, unexpectedly, Admirals of a fleet of boats with differing levels of skill sailing in stormy seas. Those boats are equipped differently, too. Some have an excellent supporting crew, and some have a crew that requires constant attention.

The Admiral must set the vision for the fleet’s destination and ensure the safety of the individual ships in the fleet. Communication is, of necessity, remote. We cannot visit each boat as we sail to our destination. Thankfully, we have technology that allows us to see and hear each other. We also can collaborate between the Admiral's ship, our ship, and the other ships in the fleet.

Smooth seas never made a skilled sailor.  We are learning new skills and have more to learn. Instead of changing the wind, we know we have to re-set the sails to reach our destination. And, we must take care of the crew. Happy sailing!