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Management Lessons From the Ski Slopes         

I’m teaching kids ski school on the weekends this year as a labor of love and have been reflecting lately on the how some of what I teach on the slopes is so applicable to management in organizations.

As a ski instructor. . .

  • I make sure I understand the goals and aspirations of each child in my class. What if they are a little ambitious (a first experience skier saying I want to be jumping cliffs tomorrow)? We break it down into manageable chunks as we do not want to crush their aspirations nor allow them to think something is attainable sooner than realistic.
  • I try to demonstrate and explain things in different ways to account for different learning styles. Some learn by hearing, others by doing or seeing and most all learn best by some combination.
  • Children sometimes have “break-downs” when they become frustrated that they aren’t doing something correct (turning, stopping, etc).  We have to stop, breathe and talk about how the mental aspect of skiing is just as important as the physical aspect (think technical skills versus soft skills in the business world). We turn our focus to having fun and being positive and it is amazing how the physical skill follows.
  • I ask the children to state and show what they have learned in their own words to help them absorb and understand the instruction more effectively.
  • reinforce and praise when they perform a skill just a little bit better than they did the time before.

As a leader. . .

  • Do you understand each employee’s skills, talents and aspirations? Do you work to place people in the project or job that best matches their skills or interests with the needs of the organization? Productivity can soar with just this effort alone.
  • Do you seek different ways to communicate with your employees and teams? Perhaps a meeting is accompanied by a simple PowerPoint that includes pictures, words and charts. Perhaps, interaction is ensured and worked into a meeting agenda.
  • Do you reinforce the importance of soft skills (emotional intelligence) versus technical skills? What do you do when an employee or team member is frustrated or discouraged to ensure continued motivation and productivity?
  • Do you encourage people to seek understanding through listening to them explain what they have heard you say in a meeting or what they have done to solve a business problem? Simply telling someone what to do or sending an email does not ensure understanding of a task or issue.
  •  Do you consistently provide sincere praise and feedback?  Although some people value reinforcement more than others, all people need it and will perform better with positive feedback.

Here’s to good snow and good leadership!

“A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.”

– Richard Branson