Skating On the Edge

Watching the recent winter Olympics reminded me of the 1996 winter Olympics when Eric Mueller was speed skating; it was an electric time. I stopped by the Pettit Center ice rink in West Allis and watched him and other Olympic hopefuls practicing and was in complete awe. The speed, the grace, balance, and sheer power of their skating captivated me. In part, it’s because I have problems walking on my icy driveway let alone speeding along on an oval rink. But it’s also because I always get goose bumps when I see individuals excel at what they do.


The most amazing part for me was when he was rounding the curve, his left hand brushing the ice while he was in a full lean to create the right momentum to drive him through the curve. He was on the cutting edge of his skates. Lean too far towards the ice and he would fall, lean too far off the edge and he would crash into the wall. He was constantly on the edge of victory and defeat and any loss of balance meant the latter.


I see this “skating on the edge” every day with my business leaders. The edge my leaders are skating on is the delicate edge between their strengths and weakness. You see, everyone’s strengths have a dark side; it is a fine line between leveraging your strengths to drive success and pushing yourself to a level of dysfunction. Interestingly enough, the closer you get to that edge the faster and better these results occur. So how do you keep your balance when leaning into a curve your business sends your way?  How will you know if you are leveraging that strength to drive you successfully through the curve? Will you find that subtle balance or will your need drive you harder and push you and your organization into the wall?


Perhaps the answer is hiring me to coach you every minute of the day.  Realistically that won’t work. Even I have issues being with me every minute of every day. The better solution is to study your tells. Yes, we all have tells. These are little quirks that warn us when there is a wall coming our way. If you are married just ask your spouse. Most of the time they can tell when you are ready to crash just by looking at the expression on your face. Truthfully, isn’t it embarrassing that others can recognize our moods before we can?


Eric Mueller was an Olympic caliber athlete. He keenly understood the signals his body was sending to him and his mind was well trained to make the adjustments needed to maintain balance and momentum through the curves. But to skate on your edge has nothing to do with your body and everything to do with how you synthesize information and your emotions through your communications.  Athletes practice 5 to 10 hours a day to perform at a high level.  How much time do you dedicate to ensuring that your Beliefs, Emotions, Words and Actions are in alignment with your intent (BEWA)?  Can you recognize when you have crossed that fine edge of functionality?  You need to. Your people and business are depending on you to keep that balance.  If you are in a leadership position you have the ability to capture the hearts and minds of your people. The more you understand how you do this, the more you can ride that edge of success with purpose and balance.




My goal for this blog has always been two-fold. First, I have the opportunity to share my insights and years of experience with you, the reader. And second, I myself get to hear your thoughts, opinions, experiences, etc. To make this blog a mutually beneficial experience, I would ask that you take the time to post your comments, your questions and your own war stories from your years in the business. Let’s use this blog to generate dialogue on the issues we’ve all faced in our businesses and work together to come to some great solutions.


To see more of my blog and find more helpful tips, you can follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter.


Categories: Executive Coaching, Leadership | Tags: , , , , , , ,

One Response to Skating On the Edge

  1. Barb Woods says:

    I like to comment on this line from your blog:  "But to skate on your edge has nothing to do with your body and everything to do with how you synthesize information and your emotions through your communications."  My sense is that paying attention to your body will tell you when you're "synthesizing information and your emotions through your communications" well and when you're not.  The body's early warning system is what gives you goose bumps when you see someone who is excelling at what they do, Barry!  You feel it first . . . then you process it through the mind or emotions.  So someone's shoulders might get tight or they might not feel right in their gut when they're not synthesizing well. 



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