Recently I was thinking back to when I learned how to drive a car. I remember thinking that driving would be easy, but when I sat in the drivers seat with the instructor by my side, I suddenly realised that there was a lot that was going to happen at once that I hadn’t previously considered. I learned the acronym S.M.I.L.E. (Seatbelt, Mirrors, Ignition, Look, Engage). “Yeah right! Easy for you buddy! You’ve been doing it for years! Today is my first day!”
The interesting thing is that as time progresses, we learn everything we need to learn, then we become more comfortable with it. It’s second nature to us. We become skilled enough to now sit in the instructors seat and able to teach others. Everything is so easy… but then something goes horribly wrong! We drift into easy mode, and switch off because we just know how to do it all.
It is when we switch off that things can go wrong. We forget some of the simple things like looking over your shoulder before changing lanes… having two hands on the wheel at all times… don’t use your mobile phone whilst driving… and the one I’m going to focus on today, use your mirrors regularly. This one simple procedure in driving is so important, and yet so many do it so little. Why? It’s not difficult. Mirrors are installed in your car to assist you in knowing what’s around you, but unless you look in them, you will be unaware of what is going on around you.
Good leaders always lead in a way similar to good drivers. The have a clear focus on the road ahead, on what is going on and also on what is coming up but they never forget to have the occasional look over their shoulder and in their mirror to see what is happening around them. Sometimes this extra glance will cause us to be aware of something coming up and that making a slight adjustment could mean the difference between survival and being a statistic.
When is the last time that as a leader you looked around you? When did you last make an adjustment? We all need to do it. Nothing survives well without a regular checkup, and adjustment, and your personal life and your organisation are no different. Think of this - an ocean liner that steams ahead on a path that is only a single degree off the mark will in two days be a long way off course.
Remember that a fine adjustment can make a huge difference to your organisation. It’s critical that you look around, learn from your past, focus on your goals and maintain your direction and focus, especially in challenging economic times, but you will need to make occasional adjustments when necessary. This way you will arrive at your destination, but also enjoy the journey in the process.