How to Avoid the Crash and Burn: Lessons from Winter Driving

This morning I’m on my way to Atlanta from Colorado where I live.  The beautiful blanket of snow that we woke-up to this morning at 4:00am usually brings a smile of contentment to my face, because the world just seems purer and at peace.  But today it meant adding time and tasks to the normal airport routine.  It meant my hubs shoveling the driveway, leaving sooner, driving slower and navigating early morning road hazards.

If you’re not familiar with driving in winter snow conditions, let me give you a few scenarios.  Not all winter conditions are the same.  Dry snow is good (as good as snow goes), it’s sticky and traction is easy. Ice is bad, ain’t nothing you can do to control your car quickly. Wet snow turns to slush (exactly what you just envisioned from the Slurpy machine).  Slush is my nemesis, I hate it.  Get in it and it has a mind of its own, grabbing you and taking you where you don’t want to go… in the ditch.

This morning, it was slushy and it made me think about leadership and how we can allow distractions or hazards take us off course making us fearful and potentially putting us in the ditch if we’re not careful.  Here are three things that help me stay out of the “ditch” in my leadership:

  • Do what only I can do. When I start to drift into the other lane(s) that isn’t mine to drive in, I start to focus on things that I don’t need to focus on and this can drag me into the ditch or collision.  We can spend a lot of time trying to fix someone else’s problem, doing someone else’s job or fretting over the fact that we could do “that” job better, but when we do this we become ineffective at our own job. What are the things that only you can do?  What can you give away, what do you need to stop doing, or stop freaking out about?
  • Trust the people on your team. If you have people you lead, give them clarity, equip them with what they need and LET.THEM FLY.  When we continually swoop in and take-over in an area that we’ve given people leadership over, we communicate that we don’t trust them and we become thin in our leadership and responsibilities.  When driving in winter conditions, it’s important to stay in your own lane and pay attention to what you’re doing.  Defensive driving is essential (watch the other cars around you), but when you put too much attention on what the other cars around you are doing, you take your mind and attention off what you need to be doing and that can lead you into the ditch. The truth about not trusting the people on your team, reveals more about us as leaders, then about the team. It probably reveals fear and insecurity. Now there are times that we need to come alongside and help, correct, coach and mentor, this is different.
  • Go slow to go fast (or just keep forward motion). Slow and steady wins the race, remember? Most of us learned that proverb when we were kids. In winter driving conditions, it’s prudent to go slow.  It doesn’t matter if other people are whizzing past you like a bat outta Hades, don’t worry about them, keep your eye on the destination and keep moving forward.  This is probably the hardest discipline for me (driving and in leadership). I’m a “charger”, I see the horizon, make a plan, and   I like to see action (and I like to drive fast too, don’t judge).  What I’m learning is perseverance, endurance and patience are attributes that enable me to be a better leader. I’m also learning that there are so many things I miss when I go too fast; I miss relationships (or hurt them), I miss what God is trying to teach me and I miss details.

Leadership without fear and freak-out, requires thoughtfulness and mindfulness. What are the “winter driving conditions” in your leadership that tend to lead you off track?  Where do you find yourself spinning out of control because of side-ways energy? How can you be more intentional to identify the road hazards in your leadership role? I’d love to hear from you!

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