Are We There Yet?
Remember summer road trips as a child and later as a parent? About twenty minutes away from home, someone from the back seat would ask: Are we there yet? When are we going to get there? How long will it take? What is it going to be like?. The longer the trip, the more often and anxious the questions became. This same road trip phenomenon is happening to leaders today.
Leaders are getting the same questions from those they lead and serve in their work, school, family, or church setting. The significant differences are what those you serve and lead mean by being “there” and what“it” will look like. They are not asking about a resort/campground; it is their future. They want to know when we will ” be there,” when COVID 19, social unrest, shutdowns, and economic challenges are over. Those you lead and serve really want to know what “It “the future will look like. There is one big difference for leaders and their organizations on this particular road trip. There are detours, roadblocks, construction delays leaving no clear routes, no precise destinations, and no reservations.
Much has been reported about stages of recovery and what a new normal might look like. The Development Dimensions International consulting group noted in a recent webinar three stages: Reaction, Response, and Recovery/Transformation.
“That given recent spikes in COVID Infections and renewed business shutdowns that we are not close to containing this disease and the other ills of our society revealed by COVID19.”Dr. Anthony Fauci, Harvard Business Review webinar
How does a leader provide direction and hope for the future during this long road trip to address these same types of questions?
4 Leadership Adjustments to move forward
1. Be Clear
Most importantly be clear on your mindset of moving forward to best serve and lead the organization in the long run. Also, be clear on a transformation vision of a new better normal.
Like being in a traffic jam or a construction detour on the road trip, remember no promised you a clear road. Develop a mindset that we will move forward together. President Abraham Lincoln reminded us amid a significant detour (the Civil War) that “the best way to predict the future was to create it.”
2. Be Honest
Be honest about what you know and don’t know. Communicate what you know about movement with clarity and consistency and often.
Remember during the road trip when your parent (or you) replied to the questions of when will we get there with “soon” or “I will tell you when we get close.” How well did that work? Did you or the kids or your organization feel less anxious? Obviously, it is better to tell the truth as much as you can as often as you can. Saying things such as: I am not sure about, 20 more minutes if no more traffic jams, or I will keep you posted, “alleviates a lot of anxiety in the car and the organization.
3. Celebrate Small Victories
Communicate and celebrate short term success on the way to a long term vision of the road trip.
Remember reporting on the mile markers and distance road signs and counting the red trucks on the road or in a detour. Similarly, when you are stuck by something beyond your control like a railroad crossing, do you count the number of cars and celebrate the last car clearing the intersection. Those you lead and serve will note your celebration of progress and your response to unexpected slowdowns. The organization and your kids will model your response.
4. Seize Opportunities
Create the future by painting a picture moving forward and seizing opportunities along the way to expand the vision of a new better normal.
Firstly, remember talking about what you all would be, have, and do when you got to the vacation spot with the kids. Secondly, remember also the times you found off the road fun places to stop and visit, shop, or eat. Subsequently, they became part of trips from then on. Although you may not go to the same place, you had developed with the family the mindset of looking for extra things to do.
Many companies found ways along their road trip to change their business model to virtual pieces of training. For instance, many began producing masks and ventilators that enhanced the opportunities for the organization going forward.
The many challenges the world is facing today are similar to the many significant unexpected detours on the summer road trip. There are many challenges and hardships; there are many opportunities to serve and lead to create a new, better normal. You, as the leader, are the driver on this long road trip with its unexpected detours and construction delays and traffic jams. Therefore your mindset and your response will set the future of your organization but will model ways to respond to the next detour.
“What can you learn and apply to enjoy and prosper on the detour tour?”John Maxwell, a leadership expert, 7/6/2020
Leadership questions for you:
1. How will you create the future on this long, uncertain road trip?
2. What will that future look like?