Kim Shirk

It’s amazing once you have a lens on talent the way the world opens your eyes to unique perspectives. This is exactly what happened for our Co-Founder, Doug Rath. He recalls,

“I was once in British Columbia and saw an older couple canoeing on a lake with choppy waters and was astonished at how adept they seemed to be in this canoe. I spoke to them when they came ashore and asked the man in the couple if he was nervous and he said, ‘If you know how to canoe it's the safest vehicle in not only rough lake water but in rough seas.’”

How often in business do we find ourselves in a canoe, arguably one of the simplest modes of transportation in this day and age, navigating choppy waters? Most often the waters seem choppy when something is not going well. Someone is not a good fit for the company, an individual is not performing with excellence the responsibilities they have, or someone very talented leaves and there is a gaping hole of leadership left to fill along with the institutional knowledge that leaves along with that talented leader.

“Steering your canoe, getting it to go where you want, when you want, will be the most challenging part of learning to canoe for most people. Understanding and applying the basic keys of canoe steering will help you learn more quickly (and with less frustration) once you get out on the water.”(CanoeingBasics.com)

All organizations find themselves in choppy waters at some time whether it’s a management issue, a growth issue or succession planning, but knowing where you want to go and how to get there is half the battle.

“The person paddling in the front is called the bowman. The primary purpose of the bowman is to “provide power.” The bowman also sets the pace, watches for obstacles the sternman may not be able to see, and alerts the sternman when they see an imminent obstacle.”

“The person in back is called the sternman, and their primary responsibility is to steer. The sternman also calls out “Switch” when it’s time to switch sides, and calls out “Right Draw” or “Left Draw” when he needs the bowman’s help to steer.” (CanoeingBasics.com)

How often we lose sight that it takes both the power of the bowman and the vision of the sternman to move any organization forward. The best way to identify those crucial roles is to scientifically assess the potential a person has to be a strong leader. Using The Science of Talent ®, organizations can scientifically identify those leaders who have a strong potential to perform and then select them into their leadership team through a succession planning model. What better way to ensure your company is on the right path and canoeing even when the waters get rough, than to know they have the potential to perform with excellence and they have been identified to steer well and provide power.


Kimberly Shirk is a Senior Marketing Strategist with Talent Plus ® and spends her days communicating the mission, vision and values of utilizing The Science of Talent ® to organizations across the globe. She finds significance in appreciating people above all else and helping companies who value their people be better patient, customer, and guest advocates through art and science.

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