Trimming your sails – time for a half year review

‘I feel like I’m working really hard but I’m not getting to where I want to be,’ said Mark (name has been changed). ‘It’s a bit like when I’m sailing and we need to trim the sails.’

I’ve been on one sailing holiday many years ago but am in no way an expert so I asked him to explain what he meant by ‘trimming the sails’.

‘It means that you have your sails in just the right position to catch the wind and use it most efficiently. If you don’t get it right, the sail luffs – you’ve probably seen that, when a sail just flaps around noisily and it slows down the boat. You need to keep an eye on your telltales,’ Mark explained.

‘What are they?’ I asked.

‘They’re little bits of fabric attached to the sail and they indicate how well trimmed your sails are. When your sail is set correctly, each telltale will be blown evenly by the wind. If the sail’s not properly trimmed, one of the telltales will be fluttering about all over the place. If it’s the windward telltale, you’re literally sailing too close to the wind. If it’s on the side away from the wind, the leeward side, you’re sailing too far away from the wind. The telltales flag up to you what’s going wrong and then you can trim to sails to make the most of the available wind,’ he replied.

‘So if that’s how you are feeling about work at the moment, are there any telltales which can help you work out what’s not going quite right? How can you trim your sails to make best progress?’ I wondered.

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.

We spent the rest of the session looking at those telltales – those indicators which suggested Mark wasn’t making the progress he was hoping for – and developing an action plan for how to correct them.

We’re halfway through 2017 and perhaps you’re feeling that you’ve drifted a bit off course since you set your goals for the year. Want to get back on track and have a productive second half of the year? Why not spend some time reviewing your goals this week? Here are some questions to help you get started:

  1. Are the goals I set at the beginning of the year still relevant?
  2. What’s working well?
  3. What’s stopping me making progress?
  4. What adjustments do I need to make?
  5. Where should my focus be?

Your answers will act like the telltales and will help you trim your sails.

This week’s pebble for your contemplation: what are your telltales telling you? 

What do you think?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you want to trim your sails to get more from your career, email me  and let’s have a conversation about how we can work together.



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3 Responses to Trimming your sails – time for a half year review

  1. Baz says:

    Great post – we’ve now decided that we have ignored the ‘tell-tales’ long enough and are now consulting our ‘chart’ to set the sails in a new direction. Thank you. Baz & Maz
    p.s. Thank you to William Arthur Ward

  2. Pingback: When you’ve made the big changes, what’s next? | Turning over pebbles

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