The Fisherman

Once, a powerful executive went on vacation—his first in fifteen years. As he was exploring a pier in a small coastal fishing village, a tuna fisherman docked his boat. As the Fisherman lashed his boat to the pier, the Executive complimented him on the size and quality of his fish.

How long did it take you to catch these fish?” the Executive asked.

Only a little while,” the Fisherman replied.

Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more?” the Executive asked.

I have enough to support my family’s needs,” said the Fisherman.

But,” asked the Executive, “what do you do with the rest of your time?

The Fisherman replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my friends. I have a full and busy life.

The Executive was flabbergasted.

I’m a Harvard MBA, and I can help you. You should spend more time fishing. With the proceeds, you could buy a bigger boat. A bigger boat would help you catch more fish, which you could sell to buy several boats. Eventually, you’d own an entire fleet. “Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you could sell directly to the consumers, which would improve your margins. Eventually, you could open your own factory, so you’d control the product, the processing, and the distribution. Of course, you’d have to leave this village and move to the city so you could run your expanding enterprise.

The Fisherman was quiet for a moment, then asked, “How long would this take?” “Fifteen, twenty years. Twenty-five, tops.” “Then what?”

The Executive laughed. “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you’d take your company public and sell all of your stock. You’d make millions.”

“Millions? What would I do then?”

The Executive paused for a moment.

“You could retire, sleep late, fish a little, play with your children, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll into the village each evening to sip wine and play the guitar with your friends.”

Shaking his head, the Executive bade the Fisherman farewell. Immediately after returning from vacation, the Executive resigned from his position.


A great parable, highlighting the common mentality of maximizing profits and losing grasp on what is really important.

I encountered the story is in the book “The Personal MBA” by Josh Kaufman. [Full Disclosure: As an Amazon affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]

Coaching Tips

To be a good leader you must know and master multiple leadership styles, from democratic to commanding, affiliative, coaching etc. To know when and how to apply them.

When it comes to “coaching”, I had difficulties seeing this syle in a business environment since I was easily connecting it to sports. The second challenge was to understand and differentiate between mentoring and coaching.

To help others who go through similar struggles and want to improve their coaching skills, I extracted the tips from the book “Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell” by Eric Schmidt.

Check them out and share your experience in becoming a great coach to your team.

  • Your title makes you a Manager. Your people make a leader.
    People are the foundation of any company’s success. The primary job of the manager is to help people be more effective in their job and to grow and develop. We have great things, and come o work fired up to do them. Great people flourish in an environment that liberates and amplifies that energy. Managers create this environment through support, respect and trust.Support means giving people the tools, information, training, and coaching they need to succeed. It means continuous effort to develop people’s skills. Great managers help people excel and grow.
    Respect means understanding people’s unique career goals and being sensitive to their life choices. It means helping people achieve these career goals in a way that’s consistent with the needs of the company.
    Trust means freeing people to do their jobs and to make decisions. It means knowing people want to do well and believing that they will.
  • It’s the people
    The top priority of any manager is the well-being and success of her people.
  • Start with trip reports
    To build rapport and better relationships among team members, start team meetings with trip reports, or other types of more personal, non-business topics.
  • 5 words on a whiteboard
    Have a structure for 1:1s, and take the time to prepare for them, as they are the best way to help people be more effective and grow.
  • The throne behind the round table
    The manager’s job is to run a decision-making process that ensures all perspectives get geared and considered, and, if necessary, o break ties and make the decision.
  • Lead based on first principles
    Define the “fist principles” for the situation, the immutable truths that are the foundation for he company or product, and help guide the decisions from those principles.
  • Manage the aberrant genius
    Aberrant geniuses – high performing but dificult team members – should be tolerated and even protected, as long as their behavior isn’t unethical or abusive and their value outweighs the toll their behavior takes on management, colleagues and teams.
  • Money’s not about money
    Compensating people well demonstrates love and respect and ties them strongly to the goals of the company
  • Innovation is where the crazy people have stature
    The purpose of a company is to bring a product vision to life. Al the other components are in service to product.
  • Heads help high
    If you have to let people go, b generous, treat them well, and celebrate their accomplishments.
  • Bill on boards
    It’s the CEO’s job to manage boards, not the other way around.
  • Coach only the coachable
    The traits that make a person coachable include honesty and humility, the willingness to persevere and work hard, and a constant openness to learning.
  • Practice free-form listening
    Listen to people with your full and undivided attention. Don ‘t think ahead to what you’re going to say next. And Ask questions to get to the real issue.
  • No gap between statements and fact
    Be relentlessly honest and candid, couple negative feedback with caring, give feedback as soon as possible, and if the feedback is negative, deliver it privately.
  • Don’t stick it in their ear
    Don’t tell people what to do; offer stories and help guide them to the best decisions for them.
  • Be the evangelist for courage
    Believe in people more than they believe in themselves, and push them to be more courageous.
  • Full identity front and center
    People are most effective when they can be completely themselves and bring their full identity to work.
  • Work the team, then the problem
    When faced with a problem or opportunity, the first step is to ensure the right team is in place and working on it.
  • Pick the right players
    The top characteristics to look for are smarts and hearts: the ability to learn fast, a willingness to work hard, integrity, grit, empathy, and a team-first attitude.
  • Pair people
    Peer relationships are critical and often overlooked, so seek opportunities to pair people up on projects or decisions.
  • Get to the table
    Wining depends on having the best team, and the best teams have more women.
  • Solve the biggest problem
    Identify the biggest problem., the “elephant in the room” bring in front and center, and tackle it first.
  • Don’t let the bitch session last
    Air all the negative issues, but don’t dwell on them. Move on as fast as possible.
  • Winning right
    Strive to win, but always win right, with commitment, teamwork, and integrity.
  • Leaders lead
    When things are going bad, teams are looking for even more loyalty, commitment, and decisiveness from their leaders.
  • Fill the gaps between people
    Listen, observe, and fill the communication and understanding gaps between people.
  • Permissions to be empathetic
    Leading teams becomes a lot more joyful, and the teams more effective, when you know and care about people.
  • The lovely reset
    To care about people you have too care about people: ask about their lives outside of work, understanding their families, and when things get rough, show up.
  • The percussive clap
    Cheer demonstrably for people and their successes.
  • Always build communities
    Build communities inside and outside of work. A place is much stronger when people are connected.
  • Help people
    Be generous with your time, connections, and other resources.
  • Love the founders
    Hold a special relevance for – and protect – the people with the most vision and passion for the company
  • The elevator chat
    Loving colleagues in the workplace may be challenging, so practice it until it becomes more natural.

Performance Conversations

Questions can be a powerful tool in shaping the performance and behavior of your directs. After reading “Measure What Matters” by John Doerr, I extracted some great questions that I plan to use during 1:1 meetings or performance evaluation phases. Check them out and read the whole book, as it is definitely worth it.

Goal Planning and Reflection

  • What OKRs do you plan to focus on to drive the greatest value for your role, your team and/or the company?
  • Which of these OKRs aligns to key initiatives in the organizations?

Progress Updates

  • How are your OKRs coming along?
  • What critical capabilities do you need to be successful?
  • Is there anything stopping you from attaining your objectives?
  • What OKRs need to be adjusted or added, or eliminated in light of shifting priorities?

Manager-led Coaching

  • What behaviors or values do I want my report to continue to exhibit?
  • What behaviors or values do I want the report to start or stop exhibiting?
  • What coaching can I provide to help the report fully realize his or her potential?
  • What part of your job most excites you?
  • What (if any) aspect of your role would like to change?

Upward Feedback

  • What are you getting from me that you find helpful?
  • What are you getting from me that impedes your ability to be effective?
  • What could I do for you that would help you be more successful?

Career Growth

  • What skills or capabilities would you like to develop to improve in your current role?
  • In what areas do you want to grow to achieve your career goals?
  • What skills or capabilities would you like to develop for a future role?
  • From a learning, growth and development standpoint, how can I and the company help you get there?

Preparing for Performance Conversations

  • What were the contributor’s main objectives and responsibilities in the period in question?
  • How has the contributor performed?
  • If the contributor is underperforming, how should he or she course-correct?
  • If the contributor is performing well or exceeding expectations, what can I do to sustain a high level of performance without burnout?
  • When is the contributor most engaged?
  • When is the contributor least engaged?
  • Over the next six months, what should the contributor’s focus be? Meeting expectations in his or her current role? Maximizing contributions in the current role? Or preparing for the next opportunity – be it a new project, expanded responsibility, or new role?