On Responsibility

"Enthusiastically dedicate yourself to leading and try with all your heart to make this day the finest possible.”

How do you decide where to go, with whom? What's required to do it safely? Who is to make which decisions? Are trip goals honest group goals? How do you analyze group limitations?

Is anyone in charge and prepared for emergencies? When are you going to perform an evacuation? How structured are your emergency response modes, search and rescue?

How do you organize a group to act quickly and competently? 

Whether a formal guide or a de-factor trip leader, what are your responsibilities and duties? How do you enhance your companions’ experience? How do you share and teach personal responsibility, the essence of responsible sea kayaking? How do you balance the paddlers, their equipment, and the environment; retain necessary lines of communication, management, and control; involve others in the journey; create opportunities; select trips well within your limits of personal skill, energy, and knowledge; avoid liability...and still enjoy the day?

JUDGMENT     SKILL   KNOWLEDGE      EXPERIENCE

The cornerstones of effective outdoor leadership.

(credited to Ken Fink, Poseidon Kayak, Walpole, ME)

THE TRIP LEADER IS THE CONDUCTOR OF:
  • Environmental Elements
  • Personal Skills                                      
  • Equipment 

When any factor changes the whole trip may need to change. We are:

  1. Balancing the paddlers, environment and equipment.
  2. Maintaining the group theme and purpose
  3. Involving the group
  4. Creating opportunities for personal growth & creativity
  5. Selecting appropriate routes for our own and our group’s interests, hopes and abilities.
THE PROFESSIONAL   

Cares about her guests and the quality of their day. Hesitates to pass judgment. Maintains good relations. Avoids offensive language. Does not argue. Conducts self with maturity and dignity. Always attends to current and future details, details, details. Allows plenty of time. Provides sensitive leadership. Talks about present, not past trips or people. Avoids amorous relationships with guests. Never displays favoritism. (See Tom Bergh article “On Being a Wilderness Guide”.)

ATTITUDE

Positive, friendly, firm, and fun.

Enjoy the day… It’s highly infectious.

MASTERY – EXPERTISE – INFORMATION

 Beginners seek Information

    Workers seek Expertise

         Professionals seek Mastery

WHAT CAN I BRING TO THE EVER-CHANGING SITUATION?

This is the constant attention of the committed professional facilitator:

I am knowledgeable, inventive, decisive, creative, courageous, courteous, communicative, skilled, artistic, stylish, resourceful, determined, clear sighted, a good listener, leader, confident, compassionate, caring, protective, patient.

THE HERO'S JOURNEY and the CRUX

For long trips and courses be aware that each person often experiences his own personal Crux – difficult period, challenge or attitude.

You might gain some insight into this process by reading Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey, which talks about the stages that major life journeys pass through.

BASIC COMMUNICATION & TEACHING THEORY

Most of what we hear we forget,   

    Some of what we see we remember,       

         What we do is forever available to us.

EXPERIENCE

Experience is a tough teacher...it gives the test before the lesson.

FEAR

“We ain’t afraid of Nothing! Its something we’re afraid of.”    Tsunami Warriors

Distinguish useful fear from unwarranted fear.

Is your client a Flight/Fight or Faint/Freeze type personality?

Recognize a known vs unknown fear…a real or unreal fear.

RESPONSIBILITY

For non-commercial trip leaders or club trips you might try and make the trip the group’s responsibility, not yours alone. Commercial operators may philosophically seek to develop shared responsibility but must keep foremost in the mind THAT ALL RESPONSIBILITY IS THE LEAD GUIDE’S ALONE.

One method:

1. Check in: who’s here, where's everyone at, what are the expectations?    

2. What are the possibilities? Consider: gear, weather, friends.   

3. What is the commitment?   

4. Who has the ability to do what ?   

5. Who will take responsibility to do what?    

6. How will you acknowledgment what has been done?

GROUP DECISIONS

Consciousness of the group is somewhere between each person.  How to make decisions? Who is IT? Sometimes friendship needs to take a back seat.

THE TRIP FROM HELL

We all eventually have one (or more) of these. If you are aware of this from the onset, and focus and tune in on its process you MAY be able to reform, retool, or avoid the breakdown. 

  • Why is it happening Here & Now?
  • What can I do about it?
  • How do I break the pattern?
  • Do I have cooperation or assistance?
  • Is this a recurring event? Why?
HMU’s

Without being disrespectful, please realize that some folks require more attention – sometimes too much attention – than others. What do you do about this? How do you handle this? How do you engage them in the group? Break their pattern? Examples:

know-it-alls, psychics, late arrivals, no luggage, no necessary prescription medicine, stressed out, hot shots, victims.

STORIES, SAYINGS, ENTERTAINMENT

What is your entertainment mode? What flavor are you today? Are you about myths, history, ecology, personality, kayaking or what?

EXPEDITION CHECKLIST

You'll relax a bit with solid attention to some lists.

PREPARATION, PREPARATION, PREPARATION

This is of course a life topic but it must minimally include:

  • What are the goals?
  • Who are the people, their abilities, psychological and medical conditions?
  • What are the environmental effects?
  • What is your geography?
  • How plan for medical emergencies, evacuations?
  • What are the effects of your chosen put in, take out, parking?
  • What community  relations issues may arise?
  • Scheduling.
  • Communications & information.
  • Navigation including escape routes and alternatives.   
  • Social and environmental Impact issues.
  • Risk assessment.
WHO’S CLIENTS ARE THEY?

Your employer has gone to great expense to create a job for you. Be loyal to your employer. You are a part of that organization. Any other use of names, addresses or otherwise of any client could be considered theft.

APPEARANCE, CONDITIONING & TRAINING

A clean, healthy, honed individual appearance helps get new guests enlisted on your program. What should you be able to do physically? What is your training regime? Is it adequate for your purposes?

FORM HOLDING

What are you helping to create? Beginners still must focus on the pieces, are going through the motions. Experienced leaders have systems and processes that allow time and attention to the whole, the process, the big picture.