M.A.G.E.L.L.A.N! Both inspired, and obvious. And yet it was only by immersing myself in his story* that I discovered all the parallels that could be drawn between the famous explorer and Managers. As we inaugurate our website, I wanted to share some details of Magellan’s life that seemed inspiring to all Managers starting in this role or taking on a new team.
1: PREPARE YOUR MISSION
Magellan did not leave on a whim. It took him two years of preparation, during which he had to convince the King of Spain, negotiate the terms of the exploration, find the necessary funding, prepare his route, choose his crew, before weighing anchor in 1519.
In the same way, becoming a Manager is not a small adventure prepared overnight. Before taking up the position, it is essential to fully understand the mission to be carried out: discover and understand the issues, the context, clarify the structure, and clarify everyone’s expectations regarding this position. With this, taking the time to reflect internally and prepare for this change is also a good way to guarantee success. Perhaps decide to take the time to reflect upon what you could do better in the next steps.
2: PLAN YOUR JOURNEY
Magellan had a well-defined mission to launch his expedition. He left with the goal of discovering the western route that would lead the Spaniards to Asia. The purpose of this mission was precise but also left room for the unknown, since the map of the earth was not yet known with precision. But Magellan knew why he was leaving.
A plan is essential. It will give meaning to your new position in the compagny and therefore the strength to persevere in the difficulties. Take the time to define what is important to you and what is motivating you to take up this role, while keeping the vagaries of business life in mind.
3: LISTEN TO YOUR Intuition
When Magellan saw a cape marking the entrance to the strait that he named Cap Virgenes, it was his intuition which prompted him to explore it, leading to the discovery of the famous passage to the west.
Intuition is the action of sensing, understanding, without going through the stages of reflection. It is immediate and spontaneous direct knowledge.
What place do you give your intuition in the choices you have to make? What would you do differently if you listened to it more?
4: Take risks
This goes without saying! Magellan took extreme risks to carry out this expedition. At the very moment of weighing the anchors in Seville on the Guadalquivir River, imagine the feelings of excitement for the open sea, mixed with the apprehension of leaving the known for the unknown that Magellan must have felt. When you leave everything without knowing what you are getting into, this is a feeling you know well.
When the fear gets too much, reconnect to why you took this job. It is then that you will know with more certainty that you are on the right path.
5: Show tenacity
“The water is no longer drinkable, the rations are dwindling, even the biscuits are running out, the crew must survive by eating rats then cats, by drinking a soup of wood shavings soaked in sea water…”
Fortunately, the starting conditions for a new Managerial adventure are more pleasant than at the time of Magellan’s journey, but do we have the same tenacity as these explorers? When you feel loneliness, estrangement, lack of meaning, difficulties in your new mission, how do you react? What new solutions could you find? Be creative and find allies that will help you get through these bad times.
6: LET YOURSELF BE SURPRISED
When Magellan arrived on the other side of the South American continent, he discovered an “Empty Ocean” which he baptized the Pacific thanks of the great calm experienced during his crossing. It was just another large body of water… and yet Magellan raved about this huge, still ocean. That attitude of wonder, as modeled by the explorer who crossed half the globe by boat, is important for a manager. What surprises you, both in this new context, and about your employees? If you are mentally prepared to experience different things and to be surprised, then you can expect an extraordinary adventure!
7: CHOOSE SERENDIPITY
Serendipity is the art of knowing how to take advantage of unexpected circumstances. Ferdinand Magellan mastered this art to perfection.
Starting as a Page at the King of Portugal’s court, the young Magellan studied astronomy and navigation. He then became a soldier and fought in India before changing careers and joining the spice trade. Forced to return to Lisbon, Magellan studied maps and planispheres in the royal library and in doing so, discovered a map from 1492 which indicated a route to the West in southern Brazil. His idea of leading an expedition to discover that route came from that serendipitous find.
We would be remiss not mention the striking parallel with the work of a Manager who constantly adapts, transforms, changes and in order to discover unsuspected treasures.
Become a new Magellan.
We encourage you to embark on this Managerial adventure with the enthusiasm and tenacity of Magellan. Despite the disappointments, the difficulties of adapting to a new role and new culture, and the heaviness of this responsibility, we believe that management is a great opportunity to put people at the core of businesses and to have a tremendous impact on the world.
*Stefan Sweig: Magellan
Article by Anne de Solages