Association Leadership and “Ski Patroller Voice”

Written by Amanda Kaiser on August 10, 2017

My husband is a volunteer ski patroller at our local mountain. Most ski patrol work is providing first aid. Responding when a skier is injured. They are also responsible for enforcing the rules, which is the part of the job none of them like very much. While the first aid work is rewarding, rule enforcement is not because every once in a while they get a few bad actors.

Instead of saying, “okay I won’t break the rules” a couple of folks every season start to argue. And it is with these folks, I have noticed that the patrollers start to use what I call ski patroller voice. They adopt a deeper, slower, authoritative, skeptical voice when someone is not telling the truth or is about to give them a big problem. It signals to the recipient back down!

I’ve heard this voiced used by all kinds of folks who work with the public, from police officers, to bank tellers, to doctors, to life guards. I think we all have a bit of latent ski patroller voice within us. It is probably a voice that our kids have heard from time to time.

Recipients of ski patroller voice know the voice and know what it means. The danger is in accidentally slipping into it during a super-stressful time. Stressful times like the middle of a conference, just after someone has given us a hard time. The next person we see may get our ski patroller voice. Or it may come out during a contentious board meeting. Or during a difficult conversation with staff. Or with a problematic member.

But we can keep our ski patroller voice from accidentally slipping out.

Make a practice of checking in with yourself all through sustained stressful situations like the conference or a board meeting or during conversations with staff. Quickly self-reflect.What am I feeling? How am I acting? Am I showing this person a calm, unflappable, friendly leader? What is my intention for this interaction? Am I dumping pent up stress on this person?

Use this self-reflective strategy to clear the decks after each interaction so you can be fresh and ready for the next, keeping “ski patroller voice” firmly in its place.

This article was originally published on SmoothThePath, and can be accessed here.