Teamwork on the water with the Foster School, Ready All!

Harmony, balance and rhythm. They’re the things that rowing teaches and that stay with you, your whole life. — George Pocock

I was inspired when I read Daniel Brown’s ‘Boys in the Boat’ novel, and the epic quest for the gold medal for an unlikely group of so-called ‘lumber jacks’ from UW, who competed in the 1936 Olympic Games. This book brings to our awareness how the awesome legacy the 1936 UW crew team influenced our thinking about what it takes to achieve exemplary teamwork, leadership, and performance excellence. No one embodies this legacy more than Mr. George Pocock, oarsman and expert boat builder.

Over the last 4 years, the CLST has offered a workshop on team building that includes an on the water rowing session at the Pocock Rowing Center. These team-building sessions highlight Pocock’s continuing contribution in building the virtues he advocated for how teams should row together to win!  This work has inspired us to create based on our team research a B.O.A.T. model we use in conjunction with the crew experience. B is for bonding. O is for being organized. A is for alignment. T is for team-mindedness.

Mr. Pocock talks about the virtues of rowing and the emergent feeling of ‘swing’ in a boat when all are rowing together in such a high degree of alignment that it feels as if the crew is floating ‘above’ the water.

As Mr. Pocock stated, “Sometimes it’s pretty hard for an oarsman who has never been in a swinging boat to find out what the virtues are,” so we try to demonstrate in these workshops that it takes A LOT of discipline, focus, motivation, and skills to get into ‘swing’ with your teams.

We have taken many groups through these workshops including our Fritzky MBA Fellows, TMMBA students, Jackson School graduate students in the Masters in International Studies, among others.

We are now designing and developing a game based on these experiences to go beyond crewing on South Lake Union to learning about teams in a virtual interactive game environment.

This blog post was written by Bruce Avolio, a professor of management, the Mark Pigott Chair in Business Strategic Leadership, and the Director of the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking.