I recently finished reading The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown. It is an improbable account of the University of Washington’s Crew Team and their quest to win gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games in Nazi Germany. This Huskies crew team was a true underdog, not expected to compete in the Olympics, much less win gold. The author paints a remarkable portrait of an amazing conquest and captures what it was like to beat the odds through trust and teamwork.
While I read this story of nine extraordinary young men and their epic quest, I was struck by the similarities of what it takes to be a successful crew team and what is required to be successful in the world of consulting. These young men overcame great challenges and finally triumphed because of their teamwork and conviction. In the same way, SEI consultants are often facing tough trials, which seem daunting when faced alone, but which are ultimately overcome by finding our “swing” through collaboration, camaraderie, and teamwork.
In all honesty, it was not difficult to relate The Boys in the Boat to my experience at SEI. For the most part, each rower on a crew team does the same thing: pull the oar through the water as smoothly as possible. They perform this task as hard and as frequently as demanded by the coxswain. There are, however, subtle differences with what is expected of individual rowers depending on which seat they occupy. The boat is powered forward, like a well-oiled machine, when every rower understands their job and performs it effectively.
Rowing toward the same goal
Our consultants are all in the same boat, and what we achieve working together as a team is far greater than the accomplishments of any individual consultant within our organization. What puts us all in the same boat? Well for starters, we are like-minded, talented people who share the same vision and pursue the same goal: client satisfaction. This is not just meeting client expectations, but exceeding them.
Like a crew team, there are subtle differences with what is expected from each consultant. We all bring different strengths to the boat and occupy different seats based on our skillset. For us to win gold, we must hire the right people for the right seat. It is a task we take very seriously and we spend a great deal of time assessing each candidate for proper fit. Fit is important from a skillset perspective, and more important from a cultural perspective, as our consultants desire camaraderie with exceptional and reliable colleagues.
As with any team, once a shared vision is embraced and pursued with vigor by capable people counting on one another, greatness follows. In the end, this guarantees an award winning consulting organization that our clients sincerely appreciate.
Keeping the “Swing” going
Ultimately, The Boys in the Boat teaches us that the individual reaches his complete potential by being in perfect harmony with his teammates. It is at these moments that the boat finds its “‘swing’ — a thing of beauty with a feeling of elation”. “Swing” can also be achieved within organizations. At SEI, we strive to maintain our swing. When we hit it, that thing of beauty, there is a sense of flow and a relaxed state of comfort and trust among us all. Reaching and preserving this state requires constant effort, but it produces maximum efficiency, productivity, and joy within the organization. At SEI, our desire for collaboration, camaraderie, and teamwork pushes us to be the best we can be as individual consultants and as a team. It drives our boat to reach its swing.