Last year I ventured into something new and that pretty much changed my perspective in life. It was October 2016 when I planned & booked myself for the Open Water Scuba Diver’s course with PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors). And come December 2016, the weekend of Christmas I set off on my first solo trip (though I had done mini solo trips of 2 days at best, I chose not to count that) with a purpose! There was something very positive from the moment I set foot at the Jetty of the Havelock Islands of Andaman & Nicobar – & I can safely say that feeling continues to hold strong.
Ever since, every now & then at work, I reflect on what I experienced during Diving and see how it correlates so much to my work-life – especially in the context of how ‘world of work’ is changing in the VUCA world. It isn’t that SCUBA taught me something I did not know already but the experience taught me how these basics mattered, & testing these in real practice made me see how critical these learning are and the huge impact it can make in a world that thrives on the need to be agile, focus on the details, collaborate, innovate & have clarity of purpose in anything we do.
I call these the 5 Basics for guaranteed success at the workplace of today –
- Focusing on the Pre-Checks (Preparation & Planning)
Experience often tends to make one complacent and that’s when we increase the chances of errors/ mistakes, leading to poor quality performance. Its human nature that with every subsequent repeat of an activity/ approach, we tend to spend less time on preparation because, of course, we have done it before & so we know it already. That does not happen with a good Scuba Diver – readiness for the dive is the most critical to ensure that each dive is successful & a great experience. And that’s true of even Divers who may have experienced 200 dives or more. Pre Dive Equipment Check (it is recommended that divers assemble their own equipment to be 100% its working fine) and then a Pre Dive Safety Check is something a Diver would do with his/her Buddy for every single dive. We call it the BWRAF check (for checking Buoyancy Compensator, Weights, Releases, Air & Final Okay) before descending. And there is no short cut, even if it is your 100th dive.
2. Understanding that the Team is as Strong as the Weakest Member
A team’s success depends on the complementary skills/ capabilities of each team member and while they may come with differing levels, you know that only the collective strength can achieve wonders. Often, we tend to become impatient towards a team member who is not quick enough or agile enough – leading to oversight of their inputs, which can potentially derail the entire team if the oversight happened to be of something critical. When we Dive, we always dive with a Buddy .. it’s a rule in Scuba that you always ‘Stay with your Buddy’. So if for any reason, your Buddy is running out of air much before you, there is no question that we will plan our ascend to the surface. At worse, in the case of ‘Buddy Separation’ (if you lose your Buddy due to current, visibility or any other reason)- search for your Buddy for 60 second (look around & use your tank-banger, look for air bubbles to locate your buddy) and make your ascend slowly to the surface. Every diver will comply so your Buddy would follow the same procedure & surface.
3. An ‘exploratory mind’ will lead you to discover great things: Be Curious
The world under water is fascinating and never ceases to surprise. If you are open to explore, there is really no limit to what you can see – in my first open water dive, I saw a leopard shark much to my surprise & it only happened because, being a beginner I was constantly curious & on a lookout. And I realized, for a diving this not a ‘beginner’s aspect. The sea is so vast; even if someone has dived at the same place multiple times it is possible that you still have not seen it all. We are now at a stage where everything around us is changing every moment – technology has made change a constant in our lives and in such a scenario, the only way to stay relevant is to ‘stay curious’ because only that will keep you exploratory mind that is always seeking for more, and wanting to learn constantly.
4. Being patient & calm will matter
SCUBA – Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus …clearly, without the gear there is not much a Scube Diver can explore or enjoy under water. Despite extensive preparation, a diver is always trained for the worse – what if I or my buddy ran out of air? And here is where patience counts most – stressing when there is already less air can add to the problem – being calm and patient in the situation will not only help you think clearly about how you can best manage the situation but it will also reduce excessive consumption of your already depleting air. Likewise … stressing over an already stressful situation has never led to anything positive, and while we know this, more often than not, we are guilty of doing exactly that. The experience of Diving teaches how it is possible to practice patience when you need it the most and that can contribute to a much more positive outcome.
5. A common purpose is a key driver of success
When there is a clear & common purpose, other differences do not matter. So you may be aggressive in nature or come from a different culture / geography / age group etc … but if your purpose is aligned, none of that matters. The need to Dive & Explore the world under water is enough for people from different parts of the world to connect & unite. I went alone to Havelock, and left after 7 days with 7 new friends from 5 countries & we continue to stay in touch & share stories. In many cases, Diving has also led to an extended purpose to save the Sharks (Case in Point: Shark Waters) or Save the Ocean (Case in Point: Project Aware). In the corporate world, we find ourselves struggling most when our purpose is either not clear or not shared by everyone in the team – and in that scenario, no amount of management can influence the outcome. Understanding & agreeing on the purpose is the starting point for team & organizational success.
This is my attempt at capturing the parallels I drew between the approach we take when diving and when we are at our workplace. Off late, reflecting on my diving experience has helped me to make clearer decisions at work. Diving is perhaps my calling and therefore I relate to it so much. The point here is also to raise this question for you … what is your calling (or passion) and what have been your learning? Do share your experiences … of your lessons from such alternate paths.
About Rajlakshmi Saikia
Rajlakshmi has over 13 years of experience and has worked with organizations like People Matters Media Pvt. Ltd., Planman Media Pvt. Ltd. & Planman Consulting, T&D. Rajlakshmi holds a Certificate in Advanced Global Management Program HR from ILR School, Cornell University.