The acrostic DREAMS can be used to describe the change process.
So far we have covered D - Determine the Destination, R - Read the River, E - Execute Excellent Leadership.
The next letter is A which stands for All together. This is where we discuss the critical role that the team plays in successful change.
While the leader must take responsibility for the outcomes of change the great leader realizes and discovers the strengths of each team member and brings that talent together to achieve results.
When my family ran Vessels For Honor Rafting Co. we catered to families and small groups and as such, I never knew exactly who I would end up with as part of my crew.
I had to make an assessment and get everyone working as a team very quickly.
Over time, however, I discovered a pattern of 4 distinct paddler types, that when placed in the right positions allowed us to have a lot of fun and get through the rapids safely.
Let me describe them to you.
Paul was an ex-military officer and he was super excited to get his family out on the river. During our safety talk, I could hear him saying to the kids “Listen up”. He pulled the lifejacket so tight on his wife she could hardly breathe. One on the river he wanted to get everyone in sync. When I would give a command he would repeat it to the crew only twice as loud. PULL - PULL - PULL - PULL he would say. In fact he was so loud that no one could hear me yell stop. That resulted in our raft overrunning our line and hitting the opposite river bank a couple of times until we worked out a better communication system.
Generals are great because they bring a lot of energy and are not afraid to sit up front and get completely soaked when we hit big waves. They paddle hard and help get the boat where it needs to go.
The Lilly Dipper
Once I was on a raft (not as a guide) with 4 other women and they were hilarious. The guide went over all the safety protocols and they were ready to have a good time. One of the instructions the guide gave us was “Don’t stop paddling until I say STOP”.
So the ladies were cracking jokes non-stop while we floated down the river. They barely dipped their paddles into the water along the way.
However, when we got to a rapid they would get serious but the problem was that every time we hit a big wave they would all fall into the middle of boat. While they were laughing hysterically they also kept paddling even when they were all on their backs.
While that wasn’t exactly what the guide had in mind it did make for a very interesting and fun trip.
Lily Dippers may not be the best paddlers but they bring life and fun to the trip. They turn a basic 2-hour rafting trip into an epic adventure. They will tell stories that make everyone laugh and those that didn’t come will be the first to sign up next time.
The Reliable Rafter
I typically get concerned when I find out that one of my crew members is a canoeist. They tend not to listen to the paddle portion of the talk and sometimes throw in extra strokes that through the boat off course.
Well, one day I ended up with 6 female canoeists. They were on a girl’s trip away and wanted to experience some adventure. I went through my pre-trip instructions and got everyone placed on the boat. Much to my surprise, they paddled exceptionally well. They were not the strongest crew but they were balanced and paddled in perfect unity. As a result, I was able to take on lines with bigger rocks and waves with no problem at all. We all had a blast. They were by far the best crew I ever had.
Reliable Rafters are important to have on the crew. They form the core team. Easy to work with they are willing to sit in any position and do anything to be helpful.
The Reluctant Rafter
I was at a trade show one time and we had our raft out and were letting kids climb aboard. I would simulate a rapid and the kids would fall down, laugh, and say “do it again”!
Well, one mom came by and when the kids were distracted with something else asked if she could sit on the raft. I said, “sure climb aboard”! She sat right in the middle thwart in the middle of the raft. “Is this where everyone sits?” she asked. I told her that paddlers actually sit closer to the edge. She slides over a bit - “like this”. “Let me show you” and I slide over to the side of the raft.
As she starts to move closer to the edge of the raft she begins to tremble. Her kids returned about that time and jumped up on the raft resulting in her getting a little push forward at which point she said “I’ve had enough rafting” and exited the raft and gathered her kids and left.
This dryland rafter was extreme but the Reluctant Rafter is great because they look out for the safety and well-being of themselves and the group. They read all the information on the website, double-check ratings, research the number of fatalities and ask lots of questions. It is important to listen and communicate clearly. Trust will increase as you navigate each rapid successfully.
1. Get the right people in the position on the raft.
While it is critical to understand all of the people involved or affected by your change initiative the project crew is most important. You can use a DISC profile tool or its equivalent to gain an understanding of how team members are wired and how they work best with others.
2. Communicate Effectively
Without clear communication and expectations, there will be confusion and others may question the true commitment from the leadership team. This must be more than a monthly or quarterly meeting. It must be incorporated into daily and weekly feedback. Ideally, each team member will have
A. Understanding - of what and why you are doing what you are doing.
B. Commitment - willing to do what it takes to get things done.
C. Agreement - while this is not mandatory, it really helps to have people who actually believe in the change.
3. Celebrate Success and Learn from Failures
To keep the momentum going it is critical to get some early wins. Don’t get discouraged along the way. Plan for early success, but even if you encounter problems along the way, you can create an environment that supports learning and continuous improvement.
I’d love to hear how your team development is going. Connect with me at www.chatwithdwight.com
Next up is the letter DREAMS. Managing Risk and embracing adventure
I have been working through the acrostic DREAMS to describe the change process.
The first two letters were planning-related, Determine the Destination and Read the River. Now we will move from preparation to implementation with our next letter E, which stands for execute excellent leadership.
Years ago after going through guide training, I decided to buy a 12-foot Hyside raft to take my family rafting in. It was a beautiful boat with no dings or scratches on it at all. I intended to take great care of it so it could be passed on to generations to come! I was so excited that I could hardly wait to get everyone on the river.
We planned a trip and even though my kids were pretty young I figured we would do alright.
Once on the river, I realized that my wife and young children didn’t really give me much power and we were hitting rocks.
“Forward” I would yell. “Paddle Harder”.
“Come on! You need to paddle harder!”
We weren’t in any life-threatening situations. Most guides would have had fun with it turning it into a game. All I could think of were the scratches that were damaging my boat.
I was so obnoxious, my wife finally called a time-out and said “if you ever want us to go rafting with you again you need to figure out how to get down the river without yelling at us”
“This is your problem, not ours.”
She was right!
So I made the changes I needed to make so that we could have fun as a family.
When training new guides I make it clear that it’s never ok to blame your crew or complain about your guests.
The guide is first and foremost responsible for getting the raft downstream safely and efficiently. If the participants don’t have fun it is the guide’s problem, not the rafters.
1. Leaders must take responsibility and ownership for the results whether success or failure of the change.
Change guru Dr. John P. Kotter says that one of the common reasons that projects fail is due to inadequate leadership support. In a larger organization that could look like an executive steering committee made up of VPs or even C-level leaders. In a small company, it might be the business owner and a couple of key staff. Don’t start a change initiative until you are absolutely certain that you have the leadership commitment to see the project through to success.
2. Be committed to removing obstacles or at least figuring out how to get around them and remove distractions.
As we learned from “reading the river” there are many things going on along the way. One of the key roles of leadership is removing obstacles that are or could impede success. This needs to be done in a timely manner and not get bogged down in a bureaucratic process.
3. Move the boat. Set the pace and keep the momentum going.
The leader must be a good example. They need to set the pace and keep the momentum going. Once everyone can see that progress is being made it helps create the critical mass that is needed for long-term change.
4. Leaders must be willing to receive feedback on potential blind spots
Nobody is perfect. A leader must be willing to listen and seek out alternate viewpoints. If there are legitimate issues, then it is imperative that the leader works on making the changes needed.
Next up is the letter DREAMS where we will discover how to use your crew. Optimizing your human resource potential is essential for effective change.
Are you ready to become the best leader possible?
Are you willing to make the changes necessary to achieve excellence?
If so, I'd be happy to spend some time with you to help you through that process. To get things started you can schedule an initial meeting with me at www.chatwithdwight.com
Dwight Grant is a seasoned businessman with over 30 years of leadership experience. He lives in CO where he enjoys whitewater rafting, mountain biking and spending time with family.