Good management is like the Olympic sport Curling!


Recently I was mentoring a CEO who was having trouble connecting with certain people in his organization. He struggled to give good #feedback.

Here is what I suggested. First, Curling is a winter sport where participants slide a heavy polished granite object, creatively called “The Stone”, across ice to hit a target, similar to shuffleboard. Team members can sweep around the stone without touching it, causing it to speed up, slow down, or veer to the left or right so it lands in the target.

So here is the thing, if you equate the Stone with the employee (or anyone) you are trying to influence or motivate, and you and your colleagues as the sweepers, you probably start to get the idea.

Well, if you imagine that the employee is like the Stone, then you have to figure out how to get them to the target without excessively interfering. You cannot just pick up the Stone and drop it where you like, just like you cannot do this with humans.

You cannot just pick up the Stone and drop it where you like, just like you cannot do this with humans.

I do this by asking open ended questions about the topic and allow the employee to reflect and perhaps self-critique their own perspective. I.e., make the “start, stop, continue” their idea. You know the points you want to get across so structure your questions so they lead to those areas. I generally start broad to see if there is general alignment. “So, how do you feel about [the topic]?” is a good place to start. Naturally, this sort of question often leads to the end result, were we successful or not? Not a bad place to start but then dive a little deeper, asking more questions in a Socratic manner (aka sweeping) until you narrow down to the actions that need to take place.


I find that these sessions, if conducted with the explicit intent of helping the person improve as opposed to a performance review, will go a long way.

Telling the person flat out exactly what he/she didn’t do well, might take a minute or even 5. It also likely will not resonate or be retained and it is like kicking the Stone, which also is not allowed.

So, my suggestion to the CEO was to spend a good 30 minutes, instead of 5, using the “Curling Method”. While it is considerably longer, it is far more likely to land in the Target.

Since this is a team sport, and an Olympic one at that, you should also consider how those around you and activities you manage can coincide to reinforce the performance improvement messages, but I will save that for another post.


I admit that not everyone enjoys this kind of conversation and people development. Generally, it is more enjoyable when you see it work, as was the case of the CEO I mentioned above. He said not only did it work; both he and his employee were genuinely happy about the outcome and the employee did not even realize he was "sweeping".

Please tell me what you think of this approach and if you have tried it!


about Tom

Tom Lewis

I am a seasoned executive with a passion for driving growth and innovation in the Software-as-a-Service and Tech-Enabled Services space. With a background as a former AI SaaS CEO and Management Consulting Senior Partner, I am at home advising the C-Suite in high-growth, dynamic Software or Tech companies.

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