A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of sailing with two very distinguished sailors and business men now in their mid-eighties but looking much younger. I enjoyed listening to them talk about their sailing exploits and their business deals of the past – what they learned in life and what they have been able to contribute to others as mentors. Both men relayed how frustrating it has been of late to really get the attention of younger, less experienced business owners despite their membership on company boards and 1-1 coaching. They wondered if business owners today were discounting advice and guidance from veterans due to age, or if the business community as a whole is moving past mentorship and using other ways to build better decision making and leadership.

I thought instantly of some physician friends who sometimes complain about patient use of Dr. Google and how misleading it can be for the lay viewer. Perhaps a similar situation has developed where online research and available information is pushing experienced voices to the back of the room. I asked my sailing friends what they thought was a good discipline to use when seeking executive leadership advice. Here are some of their key points:

  • Listen to the experience in the room, using good active listening techniques to glean the wisdom available to you
  • Act now and take some calculated risk – well assessed and understood, risk has many benefits to leaders
  • Decide which mentor, if using more than one, has the most experience for the task at hand
  • Don’t always think that success comes without failure. Some of the best advice you will get is from executives who have tried and failed
  • Ask questions and be frank about your concerns with advisory boards or members

The crew remembers that day on the water as a windy and event filled evening. I, however, will remember a great pre-race discussion and the gift of experience I have received over the years!

David Rankin

Operations & Project Management