S2.E16: Case Study: Communicating Under Stress with Erin Tierney

Case Study: Communicating Under Stress with Erin Tierney

How should a leader communicate to people when they are under stress? One of the hardest situations that a leader can find themselves in, is managing a group that isn’t doing what the leader wants. It could be kids who forgot what their instructor told them, teenagers who are ignoring their teacher on purpose, or adults who misunderstood what their guide said. Regardless of the reason, these situations can be frustrating for leaders and can pose safety risks to everyone in dangerous situations.

In this episode, CSGA Ski Guide Erin Tierney shares a stressful situation from her guiding career where the communication style she chose to use led to conflict with the group she was leading. Using this story, Chris and Jordy then share some strategies and discuss leadership communication styles that leaders can use to avoid conflict.

Key Takeaways

Lead with a soft touch: When we lead this way, we rely on gentle persuasion and selling to start. This can involve including people in decision making, subtlety guiding them towards choices you want them to make and generally being flexible and showing some tolerance for mistakes.

Try to follow with a firm edge, instead of leading with one: If a soft touch doesn’t work, or there isn’t time to be polite, we may need to resort to a more autocratic, telling style.

Explain why we want people to do certain things: When people understand why they are doing things a certain way, there is less chance of there being a misunderstanding or conflict.

Taking ownership of the initial instructions: We need to remember that we can’t always just blame the receiver of the message if they don’t understand. We need to be aware of the fact that if people don’t understand or do what we want, we may not have communicated things as well as we could.

People tend to remember the last thing they hear more than anything else: If we want people to focus on certain instructions, especially ones that relate to directions and safety, we need to position them last.

Investigate why people did what they did: Avoid jumping to conclusions by taking time to investigate why people made the decisions they made.

Guest Links

Whistler Heli-Skiing: https://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/explore-the-resort/activities-and-events/whistler-heli-skiing/whistler-heli-skiing.aspx

Canadian Ski Guide Association: https://canskiguide.com/

The Avalanche Hour Podcast with Erin Tierney: https://soundcloud.com/user-23585762/tah-erin-tierney-csga-10

Guest Bio

Erin is a certified CSGA ski guide and the current President of the Canadian Ski Guide Association. In addition, to guiding in the Heli-ski industry since 1999, Erin is also a guide trainer and examiner with the Canadian Ski Guide Institute. Erin currently works as the General manager of Whistler Heli-skiing.

Erin has worked extensively with teams of guests and guides in a number of roles, which makes her a perfect person to give us some insights on being a leader!

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