Now Turn Right

True leadership lies in guiding others to success. In ensuring that everyone is performing at their best, doing the work they are pledged to do and doing it well.- Bill Owens

It’s hard to remember the days of paper maps, and going into a new town, driving while trying to figure out where you are. Just one of the reasons I love the navigation system in my Z4 as it “guides” me to places I haven’t been before.
Being that it’s a German car, the Nav voice is very specific and precise. “Turn right in one mile…now turn right.” I’ve been given the instructions and you can hear a subtle edge in her voice that I’d better do it.

But it’s more than being ordered around by a disembodied female voice, if you look on the screen you can see a place for instructions, and a map to give me context. What would it be like if the voice just ordered us around without the ability to glance at the map for that important context? She doesn’t tell me after I turn right I’ll have to immediately turn left, but the map does provide that context.

Somehow, being me, this reminded me of my early days as a Program Director. I was much more apt to tell people what to do without providing any kind of context…the why. Naturally, without the context, I wound up getting precisely what I’d asked for from the other person’s perspective. I’d often be frustrated that I didn’t get the result I wanted. Now I realize that without the context, I was asking people to read my mind…and that wasn’t a part of their job description.
My problem was that I was still managing, not leading.

A leader knows his or her role is one of people, not activities, and can’t afford to ignore the context. No one will automatically understand and you’ll be frustrated. Plus, the individual will never understand how their role connects to the bigger picture and the “why” for what they’re supposed to do. Instead of a team of motivated and challenged people, you’ll eventually earn a group of frustrated, unmotivated, unskilled robots who are waiting for you to do everything.

Believe me, one way is much more productive and fun than the other.