From 1973 to 1981, I was a school principal. I was very young at the time. Although I was inexperienced at being a school principal, I had been teaching school for two years and was somewhat familiar with the educational system. I loved teaching and I certainly enjoyed the students. I had a great time meeting parents and still have many wonderful memories from those days.
I think my greatest challenge came in working with my teachers because I was so young and many of them were older than me. Although we were all in the same boat together, it sometimes felt as though things were not being done in an efficient manner. I often felt that some teachers were overloaded with work, while others did not seem to do enough work. I also felt that some days I had more to do than was humanly possible and other days it seemed like I did not have anything to do at all.
As I mentioned earlier, I was very young and inexperienced at having a leadership role that required so much effort. It has often been said that everything rises and falls on leadership and I wanted to be a good leader. It just seemed to me that more often than not, things did not go smoothly. If someone felt that they were not being treated fairly or that the work was not evenly distributed, the circumstances soon began to disintegrate and it was not long until a small challenge turned into a big problem. I was living in “stress city” every day!
Then one day I was looking at a picture of a group in a boat all rowing across a lake together. Beneath the picture were these words, “People who are rowing, seldom have time to rock the boat!” It was at that moment that I realized the key to teamwork in a school environment: everyone had to do their own part and stop complaining when at times things were not fair or not even.
I took the picture to a faculty meeting and showed it to everyone. I said, “I want all of you to realize that we are all in this together. I realize that things cannot be done perfectly every day. Sometimes you may need to take up the slack in a particular area that has nothing to do with what you normally do on a daily basis. However, I am willing to do that too because we are all in this boat rowing across the lake together.” I went on to explain in the analogy that we had departed from the “dock” in late August and we would not arrive at our final destination until next May. I pointed out that we all needed to row together. Each of us needed to do our part. None was better than the other and none of us were worse than the other. We all had different responsibilities. We were all a team and each needed to do his or her part. Some days would be fair and others would be unfair, but hopefully it would all work out on the trip together.
I could feel some kind of “magic” or chemistry in the air at the faculty meeting that day. It seemed that everyone caught the vision of being part of the team. From that day forward, it seemed that we did not have many discussions about what was taking place on a daily basis and how fair or even everything was. The faculty began to say to each other, “Don’t forget, we are all in the boat rowing across the lake together.” It became an analogy that I began to use at the start of each new school year. It is a beautiful picture of how there is no time for backbiting, bickering or in-fighting when each person is doing his or her part. Everyone will be working together to achieve a common goal.
Whether it is in your business, church, family, school or another organization, I can assure you of one thing, if you are not all working together, it will not be long before problems begin to arise. Someone will feel slighted or believe that things are not going their way. They will begin to feel they are doing too much of the work while others are not doing enough. It is just a fact of life that if you are not pulling your own weight, it will not be long before someone else notices and calls you out on it. I do not want to be that kind of person. I am sure you do not either. Have you ever watched Survivor? Lazy, disconnected people are usually voted out of the tribe first!
Whatever circumstances or situations you find yourself in right now, give it all that you have. Be a good team player. Do your part to keep rowing all the way across the lake. It will pay great dividends for the entire team and you will be proud of your personal efforts in the process as well.
Tip: People who are rowing, seldom have time to rock the boat!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm