This quotation, often used by my brilliant colleague Jim Motroni, is intriguing… it makes the obvious point boats are designed and are at their graceful best under full sail on wide oceans working with tides, wind and waves.
And yet without a harbour, the re-provadoring, mending the rigging, adjusting the motor, etc., would be worse than difficult.
A boat is replenished and tuned in harbour.
The harbour is also where easy moves are made to ensure ocean success. It is also where sailors go to share stories, learning and informally collaborate.
As leaders working at the speed of life, the speed of connection and the speed of dynamic change we often get confronted and confounded with the request for role clarity, accountability matrices and job descriptions all the time. And yet more and more we are seeing ads for jobs with the tag “those who need job titles or job descriptions please don’t apply.”
The notion of people thinking of themselves as a safe harbour for others is worth deep thought. Is this the new role clarity?
As we work in increasingly complex, paradoxical and accelerating environments, maybe it is also time to resist defaulting automatically to reaching for the person who is closest, the person we chat to well and conveniently….
But rather reach out for the one who is the safe harbour for what its time for now.
I have a younger colleague who is my safe harbour for things technological… not just the hardware and social media but questions of possibility …. And I never feel stupid or dumb. I never feel like I’m interrupting. She loves talking about these things.
She is also my safe harbour for sounding out bizarre ideas and searching for unusual research. Her “role” is more “designer, orchestrator and project manager”… yet she always has time for me being in this safe harbour of her making… and more.
I have another colleague in the USA who is my safe harbour for calm and unyielding intelligent practicality when I’m under profound pressure. He always has time for that because that’s when he is at his delightful energised best.
And, yes, his “role” is more to do with numbers and patterns… but that’s not the point.
He takes that role seriously… and yet always has time for being this safe harbour of calm and practicality. In fact I suspect it enhances his connection and capacity around numbers and patterns.
The list goes on.
I have a safe harbour for connection into our system, for presence, for inspiration, for plain old common sense, for purposeful completion…. And more.
I am way cleverer and healthy as a consequence of these harbours. It also means our clients are always assured of having a wolf pack of brilliance in their service even if they are only talking to me.
This is not to say we shouldn’t have accountabilities or responsibilities…
Rather, it’s an observation that as we do run at life speed… having a number of safe harbours that are beyond roles and responsibilities, people who are natural and graceful to go for replenishment, succor and advice… may just be the new frontier of organisations as communities.
In a world of speed and convenience thinking of folks as safe harbours really begins to cause you to reach out beyond the workspace next to you, or the colleague you typically travel with… it starts to be simply smart to think “it’s time for a safe harbour… which one do I need right now”.… and the obvious corollary…”for whom am I a safe harbour”?
And of course real safe harbours know when it’s time to come to you.
In the end this is what a community is. This allows us to be truly global in our presence and our contribution.
Who are your safe harbours? How does your organization benefit from people who carry out their actual role in addition to serving important purposes on the team?