Natural Leadership

Paddling through it


Kayaks instead of conference tables. MOLLY NECE is embracing that change of scenery by offering leadership training while paddling along coastal Wilmington waterways.

“Leaders, I’m finding, are so packed with meetings,” says Nece, a human resources director of leadership development in education. “It’s really difficult to find a place to breathe and to make the time. So, I’m making it easy by putting it out there for them to invest in themselves and their well-being.”

Nece (above right) recently launched Trails End Transformations, a program aimed at helping people work through leadership issues while out in nature. It’s the newest part of Golden Age Leadership, a private business Nece founded about five years ago that offers leadership experiences to help motivate people in reaching their highest potential.

“The ideal client is anyone leading a team of people who sometimes feels overwhelmed, sometimes stuck, but also someone who just wants to recharge their well-being and make time for themselves so that they can go back in and continue to persevere and not burn out,” Nece says. 

MARI CARL FISHER, Rise Up Community Farm’s manager and executive director, recently joined Nece on the water near Trails End Park.

“It was so refreshing,” says Fisher (above left). “Not only to be able to get some coaching around leadership but also just to be out on the water and in nature. We saw a ton of ibises and pelicans and all sorts of fun wildlife.”

The pair talked about work-life balance, self-care, and management style, Fisher says. 

Inspiration for leadership kayaking excursions came during the recent pandemic, when Nece and friend HEATHER FAY met regularly to go stand-up paddleboarding, decompress, and talk about life and work. 

“Rain or shine, we went for it, and it was recharging,” Nece says. “It allowed you to get in a space where no one can call you, no one can email you, and the only thing that was there was you, your colleague, and nature.” 

Paddling with Nece allowed for connection and natural conversations, says Fay, a human resources director in the life sciences field. 

“It just gave us a space to talk about what could be and think out of the box,” Fay says, adding, “When you’re not looking directly at each other, you sometimes feel like you can ask questions that you might not have asked otherwise.” 

Nece’s leadership kayaking sessions, which take place on Fridays, cost $120 and include a free consultation beforehand so Nece and her clients can determine what areas to focus on while paddling. 

Clients might talk about communication plans for people who telework, employee morale, team motivation and dynamics, strategies for goal achievement, and future career planning, Nece says. 

“Sometimes we just do what’s called free flow,” Nece says. “Get on that water, get centered, and just let it flow, and whatever comes through is what we talk about and move through.” 

Nece also hopes to work with leaders who may be apprehensive about kayaking.

“I believe that if you want to face your fear on some things it will build resiliency,” Nece says. “It’s really engaging with it, so it leaves an imprint so that when you go into the workplace you’re going to remember that time that you faced that fear and you’re going to face it again in a new way and be stronger.” 

While the leadership kayaking sessions are still new, Nece hopes to expand the program with Lost at Sea team-building retreats on outrigger boats through a planned partnership with Wrightsville SUP. 

Being out on the water can move people out of their comfort zones and get them to open up, says Wrightsville SUP owner JARROD COVINGTON. 

“You can connect with a person on a much deeper level,” Covington says. “You can really figure out what drives them and what they are motivated by and ultimately help them perform better, in not only their personal life but their work environment. 

“And, nature has a way of speaking to all of us in different ways, whether you’re going for a hike through the forest or paddling through the marshes,” Covington adds. “It kind of just forces you to appreciate where you are and brings us all back to what the most important things in life really are.”

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Categories: Health