We’ve all heard the expression “keeping the ship afloat.” Anyone who has ever spent time on an actual ship knows that keeping a boat afloat and getting it to the intended destination is no easy task. Ships of all sizes require a considerable amount of work from everyone on board, and we in business can learn a great deal from these professionals when it comes to keeping our own companies running and moving in the right direction.
The importance of clear leadership
Ships are not democracies. A captain always leads the ship’s crew and directs activities on board. Captains have considerable experience sailing ships and know what needs to be done to make the trip a success. Their ability to see the larger picture lets them direct their subordinates. They don’t waffle in making decisions and have confidence in their abilities.
Like any good leader, however, a captain also willingly listen. Captains will take advice from their advisers in certain situations, and then balance the advice against their own experience. A good captain is able to take all of these sources of information and synthesize them to come up with the best possible solution.
As a business leader, you must be willing to do the same. Strong leaders unabashedly listen to those around them while also using their own experience and wisdom to make decisions for the benefit of the company. They don’t shy away from making firm decisions, nor are they so concerned for their own power that they neglect to listen to what others have to offer.
Ships have always required dedicated crews to keep them afloat. The ships of old required crews of men who would paddle the ship or control the sails to keep the boat moving. Crews today might man the sails or the engine rooms. No matter where the crew is working, however, they have to be prepared to give the boat 100 percent.
The employees you select for your business must also be fully dedicated to your company. You should be able to trust that their skills and experience will help them move the organization forward. Running an efficient business means not having to look over everyone’s shoulders, but instead establishing goals and having your employees work to meet you there.
Choosing a direction and sticking with it
When sailing a ship, the boat has a concrete destination. The captain and crew might have to adjust their route slightly if a storm comes up or another obstacle crosses their path, but they always know where they’re going and how they plan to get there.
Your business must have the same foresight. Successful organizations don’t set vague goals for success. Instead, they lay out concrete, measurable goals they want to achieve. When the goals of the organization are clearly laid out in front of everyone, it’s much easier for each person to know exactly what they’re supposed to do and how that fits in the broader picture.
Keeping a ship — or business — afloat requires strong leadership, a dedicated staff, and concrete goals. When you manage to keep these three ingredients in mind for your company, you’ll be well on your way to success.