The Board in the Boat, Part 1

By John Pearson

With apologies to Daniel James Brown and his amazing bestseller, The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Question for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics (click here to read my review), over the next few blogs I’ll be addressing strategy alignment with “The Board in the Boat.”

Imagine—if your board had the elegance, the unity, and the team harmony of a precision rowing crew, the world’s finest!

Here’s a keeper from pages 234-235 in The Boys in the Boat. Listen to the wisdom as Master Boatbuilder George Yeoman Pocock coaches Joe, a young rower with promise and dreams—but a nasty childhood:

“He suggested that Joe think of a well-rowed race as a symphony, and himself just one player in the orchestra. If one fellow in an orchestra was playing out of tune, or playing at a different tempo, the whole piece would naturally be ruined.

“That’s the way it was with rowing. What mattered more than how hard a man rowed was how well everything he did in the boat harmonized with what the other fellows were doing. And a man couldn’t harmonize with his crewmates unless he opened his heart to them. He had to care about his crew. It wasn’t just the rowing but his crewmates that he had to give himself up to, even if it meant getting his feelings hurt.

“Pocock paused and looked up at Joe. ‘If you don’t like some fellow in the boat, Joe, you have to learn to like him. It has to matter to you whether he wins the race, not just whether you do.’”

Then this clincher about trust:

“He told Joe to be careful not to miss his chance. He reminded him that he’d already learned to row past pain, past exhaustion, past the voice that told him it couldn’t be done. That meant he had an opportunity to do things most men would never have a chance to do. And he concluded with a remark that Joe would never forget.

“'Joe, when you really start trusting those other boys, you will feel a power at work within you that is far beyond anything you’ve ever imagined. Sometimes, you will feel as if you have rowed right off the planet and are rowing among the stars.’”

Board members—have you ever experienced a board meeting where the board was so highly engaged, all pulling in the same direction, praying in unity, trusting God for Kingdom outcomes, that you felt you could have rowed the board boat right off the planet?


QUESTION: Are your board members in sync with Proverbs 15:22 (Amplified Bible)? “Without consultation and wise advice, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors, they are established and succeed.” Or, are your board members pulling in different directions?


This article was originally posted on the “Governance of Christ-Centered Organizations” blog, hosted by ECFA.
John Pearson, a board governance consultant and author, was ECFA’s governance blogger from 2011 to 2020.
© 2021, ECFA and John Pearson. All rights reserved.

This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.