Driving Lessons for Canadian Business
By Cheryl Stein
Monster Business Coach
When my second child was little, she always wanted to know who was at the front of the traffic. In her mind, there had to be someone at the front of the line slowing things down for the rest of us. While I used to believe that traffic was the result of a high volume of cars on a road designed for fewer vehicles, I now realize that this child of mine was on to something. The person at the head of the traffic is a student driver. I know this because I happen to have one of these student drivers living in my house and the thought occurred to me, as I cause traffic jams all over the city while trying to make her ready for her license test next month, that there are a lot of things that Canadian Businesses can learn from basic driving rules that can be applied to managing people.
Just because someone has a yield sign doesn’t mean that they won’t hit you
Just like people don’t always notice road signs, and will just veer into your lane regardless of who has the right of way, people don’t always respect your space or position in the workplace. This is a common problem in every office. People will be bullies trying to assert their power or control. People will absentmindedly step on other people’s toes. People like to take the credit when it isn’t theirs to take and they will try to blame others for things that are their responsibility. People will also forget to acknowledge when someone has done something good. All these behaviors lead to a negative organizational culture. Make sure that they are discouraged in your office. Make your organization a place where people feel appreciated and a place where they respect boundaries.
Always remember to check your blind spot
People, just like cars, have blind spots. These blind spots are subjective aspects of people’s personalities that they can’t or won’t examine and manifest themselves as strange reactions to things that just don’t make sense. People have all sorts of issues that they don’t address and that can lead to problems in the work place. Issues like how they deal with conflict, how territorial they are, and how they communicate are often the result of having blind spots. Encourage people to figure out why they are getting so upset or reacting the way that they are and make sure that you are giving feedback so that people can see the parts of themselves that they can’t see on their own.
Go the flow of traffic
When you are driving on the highway, it is the people that are going way too fast, and the people that are going way too slow that make the road dangerous. In organizations, the same thing can happen when you have people who push really hard and expect people to keep up with their pace. Sometimes, that pace is unreasonable and people get highly discouraged trying and failing to keep up with it. If the team leader uses coercive methods to try to increase the rate of work, he or she may find that their efforts have the opposite effect. When you have people that work really slowly and expect others to wait for them to get to the tasks that need to be finished productivity and morale can plummet as well. People can get very frustrated that nothing can get done without the piece that they are waiting for. When managers are the slow ones, an entire team can suffer from lethargy. Make sure to give people all the information that they need to understand how quickly they are expected to work and from time to time, review your organization’s culture, to try and figure out if your expectations are reasonable.
Don’t just check your rearview mirror
Looking out of the rearview mirror does not give you the same view as turning your head all the way around to look out the back window. In cars, as in life, it is important to get different perspectives before making decisions. Too often, organizations don’t have strategic conversations where they take in multiple perspectives before they make important decisions. Make sure that in your place of work, you are including many different opinions and ideas in your problem solving. The diversity of different ideas is what makes a company strong.
Wear your seatbelt
As much as we would like to believe that things are always going to be okay, accidents happen. Wearing your seatbelt can make the difference between surviving and being critically injured in an accident. We also need to take precautions in the workplace to ensure that we have a culture that promotes teamwork, creativity, and productivity. To achieve that, you need to build in some safety structures that will promote trust and allow people to feel comfortable to open up. Strongly discourage people from being judgmental when people come up with ideas and encourage them to examine those ideas. That way, you won’t accidentally miss out on important innovations that often emerge from open and frank discussions.
Good management, like good driving, takes a lot of practice. Although it takes time and patience to learn how to read the signs, and follow all the rules, great organizations can be built on some very simple ideas and great managers can drive great performance. If only great mothers could create great parkers…
Cheryl Stein is an Associate Certified Coach, a credential that is designated by the International Coach Federation. For more information, visit Stein Consulting and Coaching.