Siren’s Call

Posted by jlubans on July 08, 2021

Caption: A future eagle scout on a “postman’s walk”.

It was a Walden-like day in the forest.
A conference center bus had dropped off a dozen or so corporate leaders – middle managers and supervisors - including the boss, all from the same corporation, a plastics company.
They’d contracted with a management school’s MBA training program.
I was one of a group of trainers and this was a truncated version of a “day in the woods”, the experiential segment of the multi-day executive training.
With no time for trust falls or group hugs or zip lines, we’d scaled the adventure down to crossing a river on a “postman’s walk” followed by a two mile hike along a creek bank.
So, there we were, at the trailhead under the tree canopy in the dappled sunshine explaining what was in store.
I was getting mixed signals from the group.
For one thing, the bus stayed parked at the trail head. It would await their return.
For another, a few commented that their tee time was but two hours away. (They were staying in a golf course hotel.)
With some urgency then, we set off into the forest and arrived at the postman’s walk – a wire bridge – across a wide creek.
Not exactly a babbling brook with clear and sparking water. More a muddy stream, slowly meandering between two slick and muddy banks.
One by one, the group got across, even with a little good-natured banter supportive of each other. (I glimpsed a ray of hope, maybe the enticements of the out of doors were having an effect after all?)
The boss was last to cross. He made it but, as he stepped off the wire, he slipped on the muddy bank and slid down, most inelegantly, into the waist-high water.
Instead of capitalizing on his mis-adventure and showing that he was a good sport and that even CEOs screw up some of the time, he appeared angry and embarrassed – indeed mortified that he – the LEADER - was the only one to fall in.
As we moved along, each of the CEOs soggy and squishy steps seemed to admonish those who had crossed over successfully.
Still, I clung to the notion that we were out there in glorious nature and that at least a few, if not all, would relish this break from the office.
I stopped the group on the sandy trail and asked them to listen.
“What do you hear?”
Not a one picked up on the rustling sounds in the tall grass, (no one jokingly suggested snakes – very likely resentful of man’s intrusion) nor the sound of the white water from the creek’s running over boulders. And, the bees buzzing industriously and the bluebirds sweetly singing were missed by all.
Nor did anyone comment on the play of the sun in the foliage, changing the light from shade to a spring-like green.
It was as if they did not want to say anything that might lead to a time-consuming discussion about things relevant to leadership – like the boss’s slide into the creek - and team work.
Usually women – there was one in this group - are more open, intuitive, and willing to consider abstract meanings, but not this time.
She was one of the guys and no way was she going to strut the feminine brain and be blamed for missing tee time.
They made it back to the bus in plenty of time for their golf game.

Bottom Line: Never get between an avid golfer and his tee time.

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© Copyright all text John Lubans 2021

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