Ride the Storm or Steady the Plane

Does anybody actually enjoy turbulence?  I’m willing to bet we’d all say no.  Years ago I took a flight from Chicago to San Antonio with terrible turbulence the entire trip.  It was the only time I contemplated using the barf-bag for its intended purpose.

We’ve probably all heard the captain come across a loudspeaker and say something like “Howdy folks, we’re lookin’ at some nice clean cruising up around 30’000 feet, but we’ve gotta wrangle a tough ride in order to get there.  So sit tight and we’ll do our best to get everyone comfy again as soon as possible.”  (Ok, maybe you haven’t heard that exactly, but you might if you flew out of the South.)  As long as we believe he’s looking for better conditions, we’ll cut him some slack and appreciate the safe landing.

Bottom line is, nobody likes turbulence, but we’re willing to endure it if we know it’s necessary and temporary.  In a manner of speaking, all leaders fly “planes”.

You may not have wings, but you have people, and they’re trusting you for the ride.

More than once I’ve had to key the handset and tell my team “we’re in for some turbulence”.  Maybe it’s a change in direction, an increase in expectations, a compressed schedule, a new system, whatever – it’s all turbulence.  And no matter how necessary and healthy the turbulence is, sometimes you just have to steady the plane.  Even the best get weary of nonstop jostling around, and a lull in the chaos is often all that’s needed to rejuvenate and refocus our energy.

While I’ve never struggled to make decisions that result in a bumpy ride, I DO have to remind myself to steady the plane.  It feels unproductive and boring, but it’s as necessary as the turbulence if we want to lead well and take care those we’re flying.

Are you naturally a turbulence creator or a smooth sailor?  Neither is wrong, but neither is perfect either…

Dear younger self – part 1

I read one time that most people struggle to define themselves during their 20s.  Finally figure out a few things in their 30’s.  Really begin to capitalize on their knowledge in the their 40’s.  And realize the maximum return on their intellectual investment in the decades that follow.  I can only speak toward 2 of those decades, but from my perspective, it seems pretty accurate.

Frankly, I’m hoping this will be the last decade I look into the past and have to admit I knew absolutely NOTHING.

So as 40 looms ever closer, I thought I’d jot down a few things I’ve learned in my 30’s that were epic fails in my 20’s.  Here comes the awkward…

1) Being the leader doesn’t mean I get to be a butt-hole

Yes, yes, I know.  It’s hard to believe, but in fact true.  Somewhere along the line I came to believe that being a leader meant trampling those I was leading.  Whether it was a completely rude approach to a legitimate issue, or just a narcissistic stab at personal servitude, I was in it for myself.  Sadly, this was no more evident than with my family.  During my many loud and aggressive rants, I would often notice the sympathetic glances of onlookers directed at Karrie and the kids (just McKenzie and Mason at the time).  And in true form, I’d play it off as insignificant and bask even more proudly in my great “leadership ability”.

With heavy incredulity and a weighty sense of embarrassment, I gladly leave those days behind.

Not that my baggage doesn’t ever get the best of me, but when it does I recognize it for what it is – a character flaw.  I’ve learned that leadership has more to do with giving up certain rights rather than bankrolling them.  And while it’s an ongoing process, the impact so far has been significant.  My kids are happier, my wife feels more secure, and from time to time folks might even say I’m enjoyable to be around.

Got a similar story?  What was it that made you begin the change?