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Surfing and High Trust Leadership

Surfing and High Trust Leadership

Posted by Joel Kneedler on

When all the leaves are brown and the sky is gray, you can bet Chris Stovall is “California Dreaming.”

Growing up in Southern California, Chris naturally spent a lot of time surfing. 

“Almost every morning before high school, me and my friends would surf,'' said Chris. “We would hit Lower Trestles in San Clemente or Salt Creek in Laguna Niguel.”

Gnarly, dude.

Back in the day, Chris and his friends shared the water with a number of legendary surfers, like Laird Hamilton.

“Surfing is a risky business. First, you have to learn how to read the ocean and time the waves just right” said Chris.

“Timing is everything, and if you’re in the right place at the right time, you can have a once in a lifetime experience. I love it.”

Surfing also taught Chris a lot about trust.


The Speed of Trust

As the Chief Business Officer at Groove Life here in Tennessee, Chris doesn’t get to surf daily anymore.

He does, however, get plenty of opportunities to lead teams in a high-trust work environment.

“Groove’s sustainable growth has enabled a high-trust environment, where leadership is intentionally developed,” said Chris. “My goal is to create high-functioning, high-morale, sustainable teams.”

High trust. Not a phrase you hear every day, but one vital to the long-term success of any organization.

“Of the many solid business books out there, one of my favorites is The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey.”


“Trust is fundamental to any great company,” said Chris. “Think about it, every day we see companies fail and we wonder why. Somewhere along the way they lost trust.”

Trust is earned, slowly, over time. But once it’s established, then the real fun begins.


Welcome to Groove Life

Speaking of fun, Chris was introduced to Groove Life in January of 2020 through a mutual business connection.

“I was struck by Peter’s high energy and dedication to a people-first culture,” said Chris. “Because Groove’s core values are Peter’s core values, there is organizational integrity and a strong culture—it’s authentic.”

Chris aligned with Peter’s vision for Groove Life and signed up with a primary goal of building trust and high morale into every team.

But what does that mean practically, day-to-day? Chris says open communication is the key.

The Question behind the Question

“At Groove we send out quarterly, anonymous questionnaires to all employees to give them a platform to respond and rate their current level of job satisfaction.”

Chris and his team take those results seriously, reviewing every response and comment , and making themselves available for follow up meetings.

“Oftentimes the solutions are simple, even innovative and have improved our business,” said Chris.

“Other times we discover an issue that needs a deep dive. Either way the communication is worth it and builds trust.”


The Man has Strong Hands

Around the office Chris has earned another name: Handshake champion.

You read that correctly. From time to time some of the guys at groove will grab a timer and see who can hold the metal hand grip strengthener the longest.

Only one man can grip the gripper longer than all the strongest accountants in the room. The man with well developed forearms, the undisputed champion, Chris Stovall.

Lately, he’s been using those man-hands to fix things around the house and climb really tall mountains.



Climbing the Mountain

He may not surf as much as he used to, but not to worry, Chris has found a new outdoor passion: Mountain climbing.

“So far I’ve climbed Mt. Rainier and the Grand Teton,” said Chris.


Like climbing a mountain, companies have to prepare for the long haul. The best way to do that is by intentionally developing skills and building trust along the way.

When asked what other outdoor companies he admires, Chris points to Channel Island Surfboards, Patagonia, and Nalgene. “These are all 50-year brands that have done a great job of staying connected to their roots while continuing to innovate.”

Chris is confident Groove Life can reach the same heights as those 50-year brands.

“When you get the right people in the right seats doing the right things, good things happen.”

Nothing like good vibrations to push your team to the next level.

Groove Life®. Ready for Adventure™.

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