Upon occasion my Dad took his boys fishing. I never knew Dad to go fishing by himself. It was always a family affair. When I was young, we used cane poles. Eventually as a Christmas present, I received my own rod and reel.
One early weekday morning, Dad took my older brother Joe to a nearby lake to catch enough bluegills for the students of his biology class to dissect later in the day. My disappointment was heavy because I was not included in their effort. Dad needed productivity and thought I would be more trouble than help.
A couple of times we went with another family to Seneca Lake where the fishing was amazing and we all caught our limit. Years later when I returned to Seneca Lake my success was not repeated.
Joe caught the champion fish of the family when he was ten years old at a neighbor's farm. He was reeling in a black-spotted yellow spoon lure and as it approached close to the bank he was startled when a large-mouth bass suddenly rose and engulfed the lure. In his surprise Joe flipped the pole over his head and the 19-inch bass was launched over his shoulder into the pasture behind him. We were all proud of his amazing catch.
With good reason, Joe was not keen to fish with me. At the same pond where he caught the large bass, I accidentally pulled a hook he was baiting for me through his finger.
My younger brother, Jack, and I often walked over to a pond owned by a man in his latter years. We always asked permission and he always responded, "Yes, but if you catch a turtle, its mine." I guess he loved turtle stew. We never caught a turtle but a number of large bass were retrieved from that little pond.
Mom often became scared when Joe was out fishing and darkness fell. Mom's youngest brother drowned while fishing at a young age and that tragedy led to her experiencing panic attacks when her sons stayed out too late or a fast moving thunderstorm caught us unexpectedly during fishing trips.
One memorable day, Dad took the whole family to the Ohio River to fish. We found a clear spot near Fly, Ohio and unloaded our gear. Mom and my sister Sylvia prepared a picnic lunch. Given Joe's expertise, we all assumed he would catch the biggest fish. With a nightcrawler-baited hooks and homemade lead weights we fashioned with a mold, Joe and I cast time and time again with no luck. Finally, Jack with a spirited fight caught a 14-inch carp and then a 16-inch one that was equally challenging. Jack was the only one who reeled in a fish that day.
Joe and I were competitive in most things including fishing. He usually won our various competitions. However, at Fly that day, Jack was the winner. Joe and I were both proud of him and congratulated and encouraged him. Competition can be good at work also if people don't hold grudges when others win or engage in dysfunctional behaviors to get the prize. When good leaders design competitive events, they make sure the guidelines are clear, everyone enjoys the contest, and the results enhance morale and the bottomline.
R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray's new book, "Tons of Stone above my head: Coal Mining Stories with Leadership Lessons," visit his Web site www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.