An analogy used by one Senior Manager to describe the differences between his team and their Managing Director.
The MD is likened to a speed boat travelling at eye-watering speeds; worlds apart from the larger plodding liner. The team are compared with a ship designed to transport people from one place to another according to a schedule. Liners may also carry cargo or mail, and may sometimes be used for other purposes; whereas the speed boat has a singular motivation which is to go fast!
There are similarities in that both vessels have to be built strong: ocean liners to withstand rough seas and adverse conditions encountered in the open ocean; and speed boats to attain those high speeds without shaking apart.
The differences are striking; reliability and longevity being attributes associated with the liner, which has large capacities for fuel, food and other consumables on long voyages. Speed boats are designed solely to go fast, with a minimal crew; which is great if the only purpose is to win the race; and is not ideal where versatility is a requirement.
Whilst it’s fair to say that going slow won’t win any races; it is a good way to be careful and in an industry where compliance is king, slow and steady may win the day.
When I step on either boat – in my imagination – I can sense the value in each approach. Going so fast feels risky and exhilarating; and there’s excitement in the uncertainty of what might happen next. And yet, standing with my feet planted firmly on the ground is reassuring; the bulky frame of the liner convincing me that I’m in safe hands.
The challenge comes when you ask the speed boat to cruise or the liner to change direction. Neither was built for that and may struggle to adapt. Moreover, in asking them to behave in a similar fashion to their counterpart, you’re diluting their strengths and drawing attention to their weaknesses; and the result is a lose-lose situation.
So, recognise the purpose of the other party and acknowledge their skill; and keep each other honest by flagging over-confidence or extreme diligence.
The message here is that you use your abilities when they are called upon and demonstrate flexibility when a different approach is needed. And remember to look for the middle ground rather than running for the life boat – this was designed for emergencies; not to provide an escape route when the going gets tough!