Ocean Waves Teach Us…The Most Important Thing to Know About Employees

January 10, 2017

Many of us do a bit of soul searching over the holidays. Time to reflect and think of the past year and the future.

It can also be a time to get away and pause — -away from the routine of work and home responsibilities. For me that means a trip to the Oregon Coast.

A place of respite to relax, and walk the beach.

And I love watching the ocean waves, particularly during a winter storm. The power, the force of each wave as they land is remarkable. But what got me thinking was how different each wave was. There are observable differences between waves, some reaching higher up the sand, while others not attaining the distance. Some stronger, some weaker. And it seems each one breaks at a different place on the horizon.

I spent significant time watching the ocean, and on this recent visit, I wasn’t able to catalog and describe the “typical wave”. They all seemed quite unique, with subtle and not so subtle variances. Yes, there were some common characteristics, but each one was delivered to the shore in a different way, or so it seemed to me.

Ever curious, I wanted to learn more about the uniqueness of waves:

From “Smithsonian’s’ Ocean Portal” website:

“Waves located on the ocean’s surface are commonly caused by wind transferring its energy to the water. A wave’s size depends on wind speed, wind duration, and the area over which the wind is blowing (the fetch). This variability leads to waves of all shapes and sizes. “

Hmmm…This got me thinking. Sounds just like our staff, who come in all shapes and sizes.

Perhaps we treat employees as if they all should fit a certain designated mold with the same attributes….with the same consistency in behaviors. And subsequently, we may apply the same management techniques.

How vanilla, boring this may be.

Perhaps some leaders find it easier to treat all employees the same, under the same standards, using identical tools and processes to manage.

Yet, maybe it is wiser to observe and watch for the differences, as I did with the waves, and honor and respect that each person is different. This is particularly important as we become a more diverse workforce. The same expectations and approaches may not be appropriate. Employees may not all fit into the mold, but rater be a round peg in a square hole. This may actually be a good thing… reflecting more creativity.

And we may even find it fulfilling and magical to get to know the unique characteristics of each employee and create an approach that honors the differences.

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