I love this story* because it illustrates that common sense and flexibility are vital components of success.
A battleship had been at sea on manoeuvres in heavy weather for several days.
Though tired, the Captain decided to stay on the bridge of the ship as he was concerned at the deteriorating conditions. Darkness fell and visibility became very poor.
All of a sudden a lookout shouted, “A light bearing on the starboard bow.”
The Captain immediately called back, “Is it steady or moving astern?”
“It’s steady, Captain.”
The Captain’s face went ashen. He knew that this meant his battleship was on a dangerous collision course with the other ship.
He quickly turned to his First Officer. “Signal that ship that we are on a collision course. Advise them to change course 20 degrees north.”
Back came the response from the other ship: “No. Advise you change course 20 degrees south.”
The Captain was annoyed at this response. He shouted, “Tell them that I am a Captain in the Navy, change course 20 degrees north.”
“I am a seaman second class in the Navy,” came the reply, “you had still better change course 20 degrees south.”
The Captain was now livid. He yelled, “Send a message that we are a battleship with guns, missiles and torpedoes at our disposal. We will NOT hesitate to use them so change your course to 20 degrees north NOW. You have been warned!”
Back came the flashing light: “I am a lighthouse…your call.”
The Captain changed course.
Use this story to explore issues relating to changing perspectives, acknowledging different points of view and the need for flexibility:
What represents the lighthouse and the battleship for you in your life or at work?
What cannot be moved? What could be moved?
How could you see a certain situation from a different perspective?
Do you need to be more flexible? If so, how?
In what situations are you, or someone you know, steering blindly?
What represents the bad weather for you? How could or might this change?
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*General source: Tales for Coaching by Margaret Parkin. Original anecdote by Scott Simmerman of the Performance Management Company in US. Publisher is Kogan Page 2001.