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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Magazine Issue 54
Author: Rod Soper Senior Associate Semann & Slattery Relationships always leave a mark - like the wake of a ship! Do you remember that teacher at school who you felt just chewed you up and spat you out? Do you remember that other teacher who inspired you to try and to succeed? We all have stories to tell, some incredibly funny now that we look back, and others, which are deeply painful. One of the things these experiences have in common is the fact that these relationships left us with a lasting legacy and we were powerfully influenced by them. As adults, we have to ask ourselves, what do we leave behind when we exit a space, what kind of 'wake' do we leave? The concept of the 'wake' may be familiar when you think of a boat powering through the water. It is the track it leaves behind. When a boat is travelling in a straight and focused direction, the wake is clear and straight. When a boat is out of control the wake is chaotic. Tornadoes and bushfires also leave a chaotic 'wake'. Our daily relationships are exactly the same. Dr. Henry Cloud (cited in Mertz, 2012) outlines two sides of a 'wake' - tasks and relationships. This dual concept centres around firstly what was accomplished, and secondly, how people were dealt with. He explains, "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 and is our record." I was speaking to a retired CEO of a multinational organisation about this idea of what we leave behind. He told me about his merchant navy days and his first day on the bridge on a large container ship. He recalled what the ship's captain had advised him to remember when checking on whether the ship was on track, "Once the coordinates have been put in correctly and the ship has set sail, turn and look behind you. If the wake of the ship is clear and straight then all the applied effort has been worthwhile." We need to apply this same idea to our professional and personal relationships. We need to look behind us and look at what remains. Do the people you have just interacted with look like they are regrouping after a hurricane, or do they look energised and their actions demonstrate purpose and influence? It is a tough question as it means we have to be brutally honest with ourselves and sometimes it is not always great news. I remember working in an environment where staff members cheered when a particular person went home for the day. The comments highlighted to me that this particular staff member simply did not check his 'wake', leaving a path of broken relationships behind every interaction. 14
Reflections Magazine Issue 53 Summer 2013
Reflections Magazine Issue 55 Winter 2014