There is a leadership concept that I call the wake. One of my favorite things to do is to sit on the aft deck of a boat going across the ocean and just watch the wake. It is such a beautiful, ever-changing creation as the ship continues on its path. You can tell a lot about a ship as you look at its wake.
If it is in a straight line, you get a feeling that the boat is steadily on course, and that the captain is not dozing at the wheel, or that an engine or a shaft is not somehow out of whack. But if it is wavering, you begin to wonder. Also, if it is smooth and flat, you know something about the speed of the boat, and if it is steep, you can tell something about its drag. In other words, what the wake looks like can tell you a lot about the boat itself.
With people, the same thing is true. As a person goes through a company, he or she leaves a wake behind as well. And just as with a boat, there are always two sides to the wake that a leader or someone else leaves when moving through our lives or the life of an organization. The two sides of the wake are:
- The task
- The relationships
When a person travels through a few years with an organization, or with a partnership, or any other kind of working association, he leaves a “wake” behind in these two areas, task and relationship: What did he accomplish and how did he deal with people? And we can tell a lot about that person from the nature of the wake.
In terms of the task, what does the wake look like? Is it a wake of goals being reached? Profits being made? New ways of doing things being introduced and perfected? A stronger brand? A stronger reputation for the work and company? Better systems and processes?
Or, is it a different kind of wake? Unreached goals and projections? Misfires? Resources and money lost?
From the wake, which is the real performance and results, we can tell a lot about the person. Results matter. They are the stuff from which we are evaluated and for which we strive to bring our dreams and plans into reality. When we look at results, the wake, we are really looking at ourselves and learning something about our character in the same way that the wake of a ship tells us a lot about the ship.
On the other side of the wake are the relationships. Just as we leave the effects of our work behind in results, we leave the effects of our interactions with people behind in their hearts, minds, and souls. We leave a wake of people behind us as we move through their lives and their organizations. So, we must look out over the transom and ask ourselves, “What does that wake look like?”
On the people side, just as in the task side, there are results. Are they more trusting after working with us? Are they more fulfilled as people? Have they grown as a result of being associated with you? Did they learn from you and feel lifted up and encouraged? Did your relationship cause them to produce more?
Or, are they wounded? Less trusting? Feeling put down, cheated, or manipulated? Disappointed, let down, or lied to? Are they angry and just waiting for a chance to get even? Do they feel inferior?
Which wake period are you in? Find out, today by listening to Dr. Cloud's podcast
At the end of the day, we must look back at the wake of our work. The wake is the results we leave behind. And the wake doesn’t lie and it doesn’t care about excuses. It is what it is. No matter what we try to do to explain why, or to justify what the wake is, it still remains. It is what we leave behind that is our record.
What wake period are you in? Find out by listening to Henry's podcast where he discusses how to grow and learn as a leader. Listen Today!