A Tug-Boat nudge and support in the right place frees the stuck – mighty ‘Ever Given’ in the Suez Canal

Where are you stuck and what Tug-Boat nudge and support would free you?

I was watching the rescue team working to free the huge ‘Ever Given’ container ship from its awkwardly wedged position in the Suez Canal and three things struck me:

  • How easy it is to underestimate or even be aware of the importance of a channel, such as the Suez, our health, a flow of income etc, until it is blocked.

  • How the mightiest of vessels; a container ship, a corporation or a situation outside of our control can seem as if their course or position is set in stone – until it isn’t.

  • How a relatively tiny, yet well placed, Tug-Boat nudge can alter a seemingly imminent course and get things moving smoothly in another, more beneficial direction.

I don’t know if you’ve ever watched a Tug-Boat in action, but they are amazing vessels. Some can break ice for huge ships to pass safely through, some have water cannons and can fight fires that would otherwise cripple a vessel. I’ve watched these comparatively tiny boats gently guiding huge and powerful ships in challenging situations such as through a high and tight weir on the Egyptian Nile or manoeuvring HMS Queen Elizabeth through a busy harbour in Portsmouth on her maiden voyage and now, achieving the seemingly impossible in the Suez Canal.

The Suez Canal Tug-Boat team process was to move one small area, then take time to reflect together on safe, dry land before taking the Tug-Boats out to nudge the next key area of the container ship. Trying, stopping, observing and learning from each nudge response before engineering the next.

I’m not sure how I feel about comparing myself or the coaching profession to a Tug-Boat, yet the analogy seems to fit remarkably well with what we do:

  • Partnering and supporting clients through new or challenging waters.

  • Supporting a corporation, team, or leader to recognise new perspectives, try something out, observe, learn and plan next moves in a reflective partnership.

The agenda always belongs to the client. Their goals, needs, aspirations and values are all in their own wheelhouse already and they have all that they need to travel under full steam to their chosen destination, with just a little help to get unstuck, get going and learn and grow along the way. I’m certain that both the ‘Ever Given’ and the Tug-Boat team learned a lesson or two as they worked together in that very tight spot.

Coaching is fundamentally about relational presence. Whatever style of coach you work with, there is a common, relational core and both the client and coach benefit from that close connection and collaboration. Together they create a safe space in which to reflect, see from other perspectives, observe, get curious, try things out, see what happens and design next steps, nudges and support. Together they learn and grow from the rich experience of being joined for a while by a towline.

  • On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being stuck, how is the flow of your own Suez Canal?

  • Where is there a danger of grounding?

  • How much energy are you using to avoid the obstacle up ahead?

  • What is already stuck, what are the consequences already and how might that develop if left?

  • If a Tug-Boat offered you a towline, what would you choose to do with it?

  • Which area of your life or business could really use a nudge in the right direction?


Get in touch, grab a towline and get ready to set your ship on the right course for you.

Gillian (Tug-Boat) Walter

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