Change in the Wind? Remember Your Compass

Imagine the boat we’re sailing still coasts ahead on the last breath of the old breeze. We know there are ripples of new wind advancing across the water’s surface ahead, but they’re obscured by a wispy layer of fog, and we can’t yet see the new wind direction. Two fingers on the helm, a glance at the telltales on the jib. It’s a moment to be patient and remain alert.


If there’s one thing I have done consistently over the years, it’s been to write when I’m trying to work out what I think or what I should do. That’s why, after a long silence, I’m recommitting to this monthly letter. Going forward, you’ll again hear leadership ideas based on my experiences and those of other leaders. I hope you’ll find them thought-provoking, useful, perhaps even entertaining.

Last fall, I wrote the paragraph at the top after completing the final edition of the Phlotilla newsletter, which I’d had the privilege of editing for two years. I wasn’t sure what was coming next for me business-wise, but I knew as a sailor I should rely on all my senses to sniff out the next wind shift.

Telling our story, even metaphorically, forces us to draw on our senses and gives shape to the course we set, guiding us forward in the face of unpredictable events. I think of it as a handy compass that I carry around in my personal toolkit for moments of change.

Not everyone gravitates toward writing, but our stories in a spoken forum are also powerful. When I’m partnering with leaders in discussing their leadership and their businesses, their stories take on a reality between us that is just as useful to them in providing context, clarifying their vision, and finding next steps.
Simply put, even when the fog of life creates uncertainty, bringing your story to life establishes where you are and helps you set a direction you can steer with confidence.  Of course, circumstances will change, but in both team and individual coaching practices, I’ve seen that this three-step discipline helps people stay on track and creates space to make headway in surprising and sometimes magical ways.

  1. Tell your story to someone in any form that works for you.
  2. Express your vision for where you want your story to lead you.
  3. Record measurable objectives and return to them regularly to recognize progress.

For me, writing a vignette about sailing in fog and a dying wind reminded me that I was still steering, even though my “boat” was barely moving. In the moment, it also allowed me to appreciate the enjoyable, creative experience I’d had creating a unique publication with my friend Anson Stookey.
Most importantly, I found space and time to reaffirm my vision, which is to support leaders in developing mastery on the path they have imagined, while sharpening my own tools to offer them as coach and communicator.
My objectives were to grow the different facets of my business, particularly team coaching, and to reduce personal stress levels. Writing this letter was another. To date, I’m happy to report progress despite a speed bump or two.
I hope you have a great month ahead. Remember that the best way forward isn’t always in a straight line.


As the fog begins to clear, the wind shifts noticeably. I turn the boat and it begins to heel in the freshening breeze. I’m savoring the memory of yesterday, and I’m already enjoying the next leg of my voyage.

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