Have you ever been late to a meeting and decided to speed through traffic, only to stop at the next red light and notice that in the next lane over is one of the cars you so urgently passed a while back? Speeding does not guarantee that you’ll get there faster! Speed may not get you there faster, but knowledge will. If you know the right road to take, understand where traffic is the heaviest and prepare ahead of time, you can almost always get there right on time. When you take time to reflect and plan your day according to what’s best for the program and the team, you will experience more growth than you ever imagined.
Have you ever made a sharp turn and driven your front wheel up on the curb and have it drop back down onto the road with a bang? At first it seems like the car is fine, but soon you notice a slight pull to the left. As long as you keep your hands on the wheel it seems fine. Six months pass and that slight pull is beginning to make the steering wheel shake. It’s not that bad, you think I can still drive the car. Months later your tires are worn, the wheel bearings are just about shot, the front end shakes and if you let go of the wheel your car veers sharply to the left. When the wheels are out of alignment, it always gets worse.
I’ve seen many leaders work this way. They are good people who have had success, but somewhere along the line their focus shifts, like a car going out of alignment. They begin to compromise their core purpose or belief. Ever so slightly they begin to entertain ideas that shift the company in a self-serving direction. At one time it was about building the team, but now it is about building themselves. They want success so badly that they forget to focus on the core values that got them there. It’s important to continue to ask, “Why do we do the things we do?”
I’ve been honored to spend time with many leaders across the country and encourage them to explore why they do what they do. In one meeting, I asked a group of talented and effective leaders why they used a certain component of their program. What were they hoping to accomplish? A bit surprised by the question, the only answer they could give was that they thought it was cool and other people would think it was cool too. “Well that’s great,” I said, “but why do you do it? What is the message behind your program? The cool factor will wear out if there is no principle. The message is what keeps it in alignment.”
To stay in alignment, we have to continually ask three questions. Why do we do what we do? Where do we want to take people? Does what we do line up with our core principles? A vertical leader is not afraid of the questions, because they know it will lead them down the right road.