Back To Reality: Lessons Learned From A Week In Another World

Daily Sunset Reflections Sessions

Another LeaderSurf program is in the books and I am sitting in my office, at my computer wearing shoes, socks and pants for the first time in ten days. Last night was a restless night’s sleep with the sounds of airplanes and sirens as the developed world interrupted the peaceful sleep I had enjoyed while in Nicaragua. Sleeping to the sounds of crashing waves and chirping birds sure beats the man-made sounds that play in the background at home.

Reflecting on the week that was. Six strangers from different cities, companies and even countries converged for a week of learning and development at the Buena Onda Beach Resort in Playa Santana, Nicaragua. Each was sent to my unique leadership development program by their employers in an effort to boost their leadership abilities. They arrived with trepidation. Concerned about being in Nicaragua a country that while the safest in Central America cannot escape the stigma of Sandinistas and Contras, concerned about putting themselves out there to a group of strangers, concerned about learning to surf, and unclear about what to expect from the week.

Step outside your comfort zone

We begin each program by setting clear expectations for the week. A goal I set for all participants is to “be comfortable being uncomfortable”. I explain that the best learning happens just outside of ones comfort zone but not in the panic zone. Through our interactions and learning modules the group begins to evolve as it has in each of our programs. The participants go from being awkward strangers to acting like a family coming together for a reunion. There is an openness that is created when a group is in a relaxed environment and dressed in shorts, t-shirts and flipflops.

Watching the transformation of the group reminds me the power of trust in building a cohesive and effective team. Trust is the foundation for teams. Our group began to trust each other as the week proceeded and as trust was built they exposed more of themselves to each other. With their guards down the real learning occurred. People shared insecurities and provided each other with very candid feedback. There were powerful ah-ha moments had by each participant.

The surfing lessons, we an opportunity to be physically and mentally challenged. Hearing the participants cheer each other on in the water was so rewarding to me. Once strangers and now a close knit group of supporters. Sharing in the failures and successes together made each person more willing to take risks and more confident in their abilities. Yes, every single person learned to surf. Some excelled more than others, but in the end everyone did it. As Aura, our insightful surf instructor reminded everyone, “the best surfer is always the one who is having the most fun.” There was no shortage of fun for our group.

I feel spoiled to have the opportunity to host the LeaderSurf program three times a year. Each time I learn so much about teams, individuals and myself. I get the benefit of learning from each group and having the chance to watch the team dynamic unfold. I have always believed that leadership is about making people better and running the LeaderSurf program reinforces for me that my role as a leader is to help maximize the potential of others.

I will balance my love for some of the comforts of the modern world with my desire for the simple life that exists in Nicaragua. Only three months until my reality shifts to the sandy shores of Nicaragua for the next LeaderSurf program.

If you or your organization is interested in a powerful and unique approach to leadership development, please consider the LeaderSurf program.




Brian is the founder and CEO of Groove Management and LeaderSurf two human capital consulting firms. He believes strongly in the power of experiential learning.

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Brian Formato

Brian Formato

Brian is the founder and CEO of Groove Management and LeaderSurf two human capital consulting firms. He believes strongly in the power of experiential learning.

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