I had an opportunity this past weekend to participate in the Decatur Morgan Hospital Foundation Dragon Boat Race and Festival…. and y’all, I had a TON OF FUN!! What’s a Dragon Boat Race you might ask? My one word answer is AWESOME! You basically load up in this 46 foot boat with a nice little dragon head and tail on it and you row your heart out for around a minute! You have a drummer at the front and someone steering at the back. There’s this company that you can get to come to your city and help you put on a Dragon Boat Race and it’s a fantastic idea for a fundraiser (especially for a big project). This is the third year that Decatur has had a Dragon Boat Race and it gets bigger every year. This year there were a total of 69 teams! How did I get the chance to participate? Basically, my former co-workers miss me and they still invite me to things like this 🙂 (of course current employees get priority so if there was a current employee that wanted to participate in my place I would be out of luck). The other reason is because I have a big mouth and I’m very loud! See, each team has a drummer. The drummer is responsible for helping keep cadence and giving commands to the rowers from the person steering at the back of the boat and the team captain thought my loud mouth was perfect for that job. Sounds simple enough.
All good teams need practice so we scheduled our practice for Thursday (race was Saturday) and it’s a hot mess. I show up late (sorry guys-I drove the furthest to get there) and the instructor isn’t happy with me. This makes him completely ignore me the whole time we have practice and that makes me less than a happy camper. Let me tell you, sitting my wide ass at the front of the boat on that tiny seat where the drummer is supposed to sit was a little scary! I’m pretty sure I was hanging on for dear life the whole time I was up there, but our instructor gives the commands the whole time so I don’t even get to practice that with the group. After an hour everyone at least has an idea of what we need to do, but our instructor has no problem telling us we aren’t up to race speed. Now here I am thinking this is a charity event and we are here to have fun and this little mean guy is trying to rain on our parade. We wrap up practice and everyone heads their separate ways. We don’t even all know each other at this point, but its late and we all have other things to do. All I could think on my way home is “I weigh far too much to be sitting at the front of our boat.” So, maybe not the best practice ever, but hey at least we got in the boat together once, right?
Race day gets here and it’s like we have a whole new team. Several people show up that were not at practice (turns out you can practice with any team so these guys had been practicing with other teams). And some people were last-minute fill ins (my poor husband, he loves it when I drag him to an event and then need him to participate at the last-minute. He’s such a good sport!) for no shows or late comers. Oh and did I mention that I talked a smaller girl into being the drummer so now I’m rowing? You know, that other thing that I didn’t practice. All this to say we thought we had a plan, but now we had new people and no time to fill them in. Then we load the boat and the back of the boat starts to sink, I mean we were like the bad news bears out there! We get off the boat and re-load the way the person steering wants, only he puts too much weight on one side of the boat and the boat is tilted the whole time we are on the water! We paddle like crap. We clank and hit each other, water is going everywhere and we come in 5th place in our heat. While we all pretended this was okay because it’s for charity we couldn’t fight the urge to get off to a corner and get to work on a strategy for the next race. This event is in all day event so we had different people coming at different times since everyone couldn’t stay all day and this made coming up with a strategy a tad more difficult. We get off to the side we decide to line up, write down everyone’s weight, evenly distribute that weight across the boat, yell together when we row and just have a good time. We remind everyone that it’s not about moving fast it’s about moving together and we try again! The fun thing was once we had a goal and everyone was on the same page everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE had great input. It was like magic. We had a common goal and we started cooperating with each other, what a crazy thought right? Second race comes around and we place second. Man, are we fired up! We remind everyone what our goal is again and evaluate the last run on the boat to identify improvement. Third and final race comes around… first place baby! This somehow or another leads us to win in our division (there were so many teams that they divided us up into divisions and gave out awards to the winner in each division plus a championship for overall winner. We didn’t make the cut for the championship).
It was very cool that not only did we see immediate results by giving each team member some value and using their ideas, we had a freaking blast!! It had me thinking though, how often do we get frustrated at work because we don’t get to the end goal as fast as we want? Is it because we aren’t communicating the end goal and making sure everyone understands? Is it because we forget to give the team some buy-in so they don’t care about the end result? Is it because we aren’t constantly communicating our goal? Maybe it’s because we changed our strategy and forgot to tell the whole team? How much does a lack of cooperation have to do with failing? We can have a team without cooperation, but does cooperation make a team? What are your thoughts?