“Patience is the key, patience is the key”, a fellow fisherman says repeatedly as he and I both tried to untangle our fishing lines this last weekend at a local pier. As I was listening to him utter those words, I realized there were some lessons during the 5 hours of pier fishing (mackerels) with my brother-in-law and my two nieces (ages 8 and 11) I could apply at work. It just proves the point, one looks hard enough and there are lessons to be learned anytime, any place. Here are some work lessons I was reminded of:

* Patience is the key when dealing with problems/issues, especially when dealing with others. If you have ever had the chance to go fishing and have your fishing line caught with another line(s), you’ll quickly realize that tugging and just randomly trying different ways to untangle can make the situation worse. As a matter of fact, the more tangled the lines are, the slower and more deliberate you have to separate them. This lesson is very applicable at work, especially when dealing with co-workers and customers. Sometimes, you just have to slow down and look at the issue you’re presented with and deliberately work together to get the issue resolved.

* Heartfelt praises go a long way and it doesn’t take any professional training to learn how to provide effective ones. My nieces were very excited about the fishing trip and all through out the 5 hours we were fishing, they were very vocal in their encouragements. When my brother-in-law and I would catch a fish, they’d yell “Way to go Uncle Joe!”, “Great job Daddy”, “Now we’re in business!” There were times when we didn’t catch fish for long minutes and they’d yell “Don’t give up Uncle Joe!”, “We’ll catch some more soon!” and when we’d catch a fish but would fall back in to the the ocean as we pulled it up, they’d yell “That’s okay Uncle Joe, we’ll get some more!”  I think we could all need more positive feedback at work.

* Collaboration and defined system/role helps a lot to be efficient and leads to high morale. I had one of my nieces as my “assistant” while the other one was helping out her dad. They knew their roles and so when we brought up the mackerels (up to 5 at a time); they were ready to help us out by putting the fish into our buckets. They thought it was “yucky” at first but they didn’t mind holding the fish after awhile and they were more than happy to fulfill their roles.  My brother-in-law and I both encouraged them many times, thanked them for their help and they really accepted their roles. In my career, the two major disputes I have had with my co-workers were because our supervisors did not explicitly define our roles and the ambivalent boundaries created tension because my co-workers and I did not know where we fit in. Actually in one of the case, my supervisor told my co-worker and me separately that we both had the final say in our projects, which we didn’t realize until we finally talked about our issues.

* It’s easier to work with positive people. My nieces could have complained about how cold and windy it was but they didn’t. They occupied themselves by playing; looking at other people’s catches and helping my brother-in-law take the fishes off the hooks and into our buckets. That’s the same way I feel when it comes to work. Workplace is so much nicer when surrounded with optimistic and appreciative co-workers. A big part of why I enjoy my work is because of the positive attitudes of my team and my customers.

If you ever want a place to have fun pier fishing, catching bunch of mackerels and learning some work lessons along the way, try the Gaviota State Beach off the California coast, 20 miles north of Santa Barbara.