Using Language to Inspire Confidence

Effective Language for Canoe and Kayak Leadership

We all know that confident leadership can inspire the rest of the group and help canoeists and kayakers perform at their best – but what can we do to come across as being confident?

We need to be confident in our decisions, and confident in our instructions.  We need to have clear aims and objectives, and communicate them effectively to the group.  And there’s a simple way for us to achieve this – we can do what great leaders do and eliminate the word “try” from our vocabulary.

When we use the word “try”, we introduce the possibility of failure.  We plant seeds of doubt in the minds of our group.  And yet “try” is a word I so often hear when assessing leaders for their 4 or 5 star awards.

“We’ll try to get that eddy”, “I’ll try to hit the line”, We’ll try not to capsize” – these are all common phrases, but they don’t inspire confidence in either the leaders or the groups ability.

In fact, “try” does not exist in the real world.  We either do something or we don’t – there is no try.  Many people think of Winston Churchill when we think of great leadership.  For him, trying didn’t exist either.  Imagine the effect on the morale of the people if he’d broadcast this speech before our ‘finest hour’-

“we shall try to fight on the beaches,
we shall try to fight on the landing grounds,
we shall try to fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall try to fight in the hills;
we shall try not to surrender”.

-the effect’s not quite the same is it?  It’s almost as if the word ‘try’ gives us permission to fail!  So when you’re out paddling, let’s stop trying – let’s just “do”.

For more information on leadership, coaching and courses please contact me at

Open canoe, sea kayak and white water courses and coaching, 1:1 and group workshops, BCU Training and Assessments in Northumberland and the North East.

leadership, Positive language

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