Lessons in Leadership from Brandon Childers: Be a Duck

At one point while working for IGS Energy, our Chief Technology Officer (Brandon Childers) pulled me aside to let me know that I would be added to a meeting later that afternoon. This meeting would be the kickoff of a huge project that would impact every employee in the organization. Due to the nature of the project, it was abundantly clear to me that the IT team would play a large role. I was freaking out.

I’ve been told that I have the world’s worst poker face. It must have been abundantly clear that I was already panicking about the upcoming endeavor. I knew it would be a lot of work for us and we were already stretched a bit thin. Brandon easily sensed my discomfort and proceeded to advice me to “be a duck”.

I had no idea what he was talking about. Why should I pretend to be a duck? Brandon explained that a duck may appear to be calm but underneath the surface they’re doing everything possible to tread water. They inadvertently project a sense of calm despite the fact that they’re literally struggling to keep their head above water.

It became clear to me why I needed to project a sense of calm to the IT team members and the rest of the organization. As a leader at IGS, my actions and attitude can be contagious. If I appeared to be panicked or stressed, it could spread to the rest of my team and perhaps others in the company. This conversation with Brandon made me realize that I was worrying about things that either won’t happen or were beyond my control. Instead of wasting time getting worked up, I realized that I needed to take a step back by beginning to understand the project and working with my coworkers to start solving the problems one-by-one.

Over the next few weeks/months we met put together comprehensive plans for the project. I immediately started to feel at ease as we broke down the work into digestible chunks. Once we started to execute on our strategy, I felt even better about our ability to meet the aggressive timelines. At one point, I wondered why I even let myself get so worried to begin with.

When in doubt, be a duck.

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