Cox as the Board of Directors


Charles O’Sullivan, Chairman, Hemisphere Energy Corporation in Vancouver,shares a personal story about collaboration:

When I think about collaboration, I realize how it is so important both in business and in sport.

During my teenage years and then again at university, I was very much involved in competitive rowing. I rowed in both 4’s and 8’s, and always had very good rhythm and tempo, so I rowed as a Stroke, which is also called the Eighth. The Eighth sits in front of the Cox. Behind him are the 7, 6, 5, 4, who are heavier and the strongest in the boat. Toward the bow you have the 3, 2 and 1, who are progressively lighter, so the bow rides high in the water. The rowers have their backs to the finish line, cannot see it, and have to concentrate on what the Cox tells them. The Cox calls the stroke rate and the Stroke sets the rhythm and the tempo.

When I equate rowing with business, I think of the Cox as the Board of Directors and the Stroke as the President. The remainder of the crew as the Management Team.  All have to execute to the fullness of their ability, have to maintain balance and pay attention to what they are doing. Rowing races are very competitive and are usually won or lost by less than half a boat length. It takes total team effort to win, and if the Cox is not performing properly, nothing the crew can do can win the race. Though the crew vary in physical size and strength, each has to perform to 100 percent of their strength and ability.

Of all the sports I have participated in, I think rowing depends on collaboration and teamwork more than any other. Nobody can hit a lucky home run in rowing.

An excerpt from Break Through to Yes: Unlocking the Possible within a Culture of Collaboration.

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David B Savage

David B Savage