Categorized | Business Authors

The Rowers’ Code: A Business Parable of How to Pull Together as a Team – and Win!

Marilyn Krichko and Jane Rollinson

About The Authors

In 1998 Marilyn Krichko founded the powerful team building program that was to become The Rowers’ Code™, which has already supercharged performance as such companies as Microsoft, Starbucks and Raytheon. Marilyn’s previous business experience includes responsibility for worldwide strategy and marketing programs, IT solution’s delivery, process improvement and executive/team development – working both in the USA and abroad in intense multilingual, multinational environments, requiring extensive teamwork and collaboration. Marilyn received her undergraduate degree in marketing and MBA from the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida and has a certificate in Total Quality Management from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. Jane Rollinson has selected and led successful teams at the local, regional, national and international levels with organizations such as Price Waterhouse, Humana, United Healthcare and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Jane has spent 30 years building and leading at the operational, executive and board levels. Jane focuses on Strategic Planning and the execution of strategies that help organizations attain profitable growth. Jane received her B.S., Business Administration from West Virginia University and advanced certificates from the Wharton School, Harvard University, the Cambridge Center for behavioral Studies and the Kellogg Graduate School at Northwestern University.

Book Synopsis:

The Rower’s Code: A Business Parable How to Pull Together as a Team – and Win! dramatically portrays one company’s experience in an intensive rowing workshop and presents a simple, actionable set of truths about teamwork and communication that can be applied to every workplace scenario to supercharge performance. Based on an overwhelming response to more than a decade of successful workshops, this book brings to life and underscores the authors’ unique perspective on organizational team-building, drawing on proven, real-world results.

Why to Buy:

Understand The Rowers’ Code methodology so that you can:

  • Tap into the strength of peers
  • Stay in sync with others
  • Work issues out directly with teammates
  • Personalize and powerfully leverage change
  • Unleash the effectiveness of the workgroup
  • Succeed in an increasingly competitive landscap

Why I Wrote this Book:

I wrote The Rowers’ Code because rowing has a huge impact in my life and has taught me many valuable lessons. Not everyone can attend our workshops, so the book is the “next best thing to being there”. The principles are memorable and any team can benefit from them. The characters in the book are people who are on most teams. The interactions and challenges they have are ones most people will have at some point in their careers. The aim of the book was to give the reader a new way of looking at challenges and some tools for working through them in a positive way. I believe in people, their ability to learn, personalize, apply and commit to change and wrote the book to help readers along that path.

The Power of Rowing

It was summer in Philadelphia. A friend asked me to take a rowing class at the University of Pennsylvania. I declined, thinking I couldn’t possibly make the commitment, as I just had been promoted to senior corporate position and has so much to do in preparation for a move to Germany, including several hours of business German tutoring every day. Yet my friend persisted, so after a few days I finally relented and signed up.

The first day of class comes, and after just a few minutes spent in the Olympic-class boat with eight other people, I began to understand the power of the rowing metaphor.

Eventually this revelation changed my life, as I teamed with my sister, Jane Rollinson, to create Criterion Consulting Solutions and a unique and powerful corporate teambuilding program now called The Rowers’ Code, with international recognition and numerous Fortune 500 clients.

Now thousands of professionals have gone out in our boats for an amazing experience that gives each team member immediate feedback about their own performance and the performance of the team as a whole. That is followed by a classroom-style debrief that helps everyone integrate the Rowers’ Code into their personal and professional lives every day. The metaphor of rowing as a team is a strong one, and applying it to everyday business scenarios translates to a positive impact on the company!

The seven principles of The Rowers’ Code include:

1. Always do what’s best for the team. This means putting the interests of your team in front of your own; rowing as “one boat” to gain alignment instead of everyone rowing in their own direction. Commitment is key.

2. Give every seat equal value. The skill of tapping into your strengths and the strengths of your peers is essential for high performing teams. Positive behaviors which support this include treating each other with respect, acknowledging and tapping into each other’s strengths and expecting the best from others.

3. Carry your load. With teamwork, even the heaviest load can be negotiated with success. Teamwork starts with you! Accepting responsibility and working hand in hand with accountability helps team members prioritize, focus on “doing the right things right” and actively measure the results of their efforts.

4. Balance the boat: Everything you do and don’t do affects others. Attaining the right mix can be a challenge for both individuals and teams, especially during times of change and instability. Self-awareness and organizational awareness are keys to achieving balance.

5. Stay in sync. Staying in sync is about timing and doing what’s necessary to be efficient as a team. Staying in sync requires the perfect combination of balance and power, understanding that timing is everything, and being aware of those around you. The key is situational awareness.

6. Lead by example. Leadership requires trusting in yourself and others, and sharing leadership responsibility. It’s not about words, but more about behavior because people don’t follow words, people follow people.

7. Keep everything in the boat. Work out issues directly with your teammates using clear and honest communication. This positive behavior builds trust as you engage with integrity and ownership for your own and your team’s issues.

Like anything, fully integrating The Rowers’ Code with your everyday activities takes mindfulness and practice, but even after an initial workshop you notice immediate, powerful changes for the better in how you and your team perform. The business applications of rowing were a revelation to me, and I get great joy in passing this knowledge on to others.

The Best Advice I Ever Got

The best advice I ever got was that I don’t have to solve every challenge and issue myself. That’s why we have teams in the first place – to be there to support and help one another. Trying to do something all by yourself, without any help, often won’t produce a good result.

For the largest, most important projects, we need everyone on a team to contribute and use their strengths to get the best result and be as successful as possible. This concept initially was hard for me to accept because I was used to being successful on my own. Earlier in my career, when I was given more responsibility and really big challenges, I started to burn myself out. Fortunately, at that point my mentor stepped up and explained to me what “teamwork” was really about. Without my team and their strengths we could have never been as successful as we were. Being able to use everyone’s strengths on a team is key.

Communication is the Number-One Skill for Success

Over the years I have earned to listen to people and try to understand why they feel the way they do about the things they are passionate about. Communicating is the number-one skill that makes people successful. I focus on my listening skills every day. The more I do the better it gets and the more I realize how important it is.

Running the Company and Spreading the Word

As principals of The Rowers’ Code, Jane Rollinson and I augment our skills with contract specialists in various disciplines. We currently have a pool of 20 consultants and coaches working with us on various projects in IT, heath care and general business.

Spreading the word about The Rowers’ Code is a full-time job in itself, incorporating speaking engagements, book publicity, a website (, a Facebook page and daily Twitter updates.

I do speaking events on a regular basis with my major customers. They set up brown bags and workshops for one to two hours at a time. At these events I usually talk about the three lies that stop people from believing they can have an impact on others, and how to overcome these three lies using The Rowers’ Code. Then I deviate from the regular “speakers talk” and conduct some “action learning” where everyone shares different challenges and we work on them as a team. It’s a different kind of approach, which keeps everyone engaged. I also share success stories and unique things that happen to me during my regular workweek as a consultant.

Our marketing and PR strategy spans multiple media. Our book publicist is Newman Communications in Boston, which promotes our book to traditional and digital media. We’ve also launched a Rowers’ Code Participant Workbook through Amazon’s CreateSpace publishing system, which provides additional easy-access materials for our workshop participants while giving our company higher visibility overall. Michael Roney of Highpoint Publishing helped us publish our Workbook and continues to assist with marketing and PR for everything we have to offer. My advice is to hire someone who knows what they are doing to help you. Then, you can focus on your respective specialties, which will be a win-win for everyone.

We maintain a Rowers’Code Twitter account and Facebook fan page, both of which raise our visibility further while updating our followers on new Rowers’ Code developments. Our website at is optimized for search engine success using the online tools available through WebCEO, and we are always seeking professional partnerships to further increase our reach and visibility.

Effort Pays Off

As you continue to work on your business, consider this: I was given a huge promotion when I was in my early 30s and moved to Germany. With the promotion, came lots of responsibility. I had to learn business German, new ways of doing business abroad and was challenged to use every skill I ever knew I had, plus some. For a long time it felt like every goal I had was a “stretch goal.” I became very focused and deliberate with my actions. This experience taught me that change happens one conversation at a time and that if you want big results, you need be willing to put in a lot of effort.

My Book Recommendation!

Check out George Manning’s book, Building Community: The Human Side of Work. It’s worth its weight in gold.

Marilyn Krichko, The Rowers’ Code

Facebook: The Rowers’ Code

Twitter: Rowerscode


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