What Commuting Taught Me About Leadership – You Hit What You Aim For

by | Oct 3, 2019 | Accountability, Attitude, Blog Series, Change, Development, Execution, Leadership | 0 comments

I recently left a position with a great company, but with a long daily commute. This is the fourth post of an 8-week series on things about leadership that I learned on those long and tedious hours on the road.
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It’s easy to get bored driving the same road every day. To break the monotony I started attempting to avoid the reflectors when I changed lanes (when there were no other cars around, of course!).

After months of trying I had some occasional successes. But truth be told, I sucked at it—which troubled me because I knew I was a better driver than that.

Then one day I had an epiphany: Instead of aiming to miss the reflectors, I needed to aim for the stripe between them. The difference was instant and amazing.

As soon as I adjusted my aim point, I had almost immediate success. I could predict where my wheels were going. I could anticipate when to initiate the lane change and intentionally drive where I wanted to go. Ultimately, getting really clear on my target allowed me to get better.

And Your Point Is…?

You hit what you aim for.

Getting really clear on my target allowed me to get better.

So What?

First (and most obvious), not aiming is the same as aiming at nothing—you’re going to hit something, you just don’t know what it will be. When I first started my game I tried to “feel” my way into the next lane and hope for the best. Didn’t work.

Second, if your aim is off target, that’s what you’ll hit: everything except the target. This was my aha experience with the reflectors: In attempting to miss them, I was actually still aiming for them. The reflectors is what I was concentrating on. In focusing on the challenge, I was blind to seeing the solution.

Not aiming is the same as aiming at nothing—you’re going to hit something, you just don’t know what it will be.

The Big Picture

Consider how your aim comes into play when you compare A) aiming for success (the stripe), to B) aiming for avoiding failure (missing the reflectors). Aiming to NOT fail is NOT aiming for success.

In focusing on the challenge, I was blind to seeing the solution.

Some simple real world examples might be “I’ll be less critical in my feedback” or “I’ll be more aggressive in producing outcomes.” Typically, any goal stated in such squishy terms is likely not to be met. Not only is the outcome not measurable, the path to achievement is obscure. This is a common concept in managing performance (a la setting SMART goals), but for some reason many people have difficulty applying the concept in managing development—especially their own.

Your Next Step

What’s an area you’d like to improve in that you’ve set goals around not failing? How can you reset them so they’re focused on the target? 

Aiming to NOT fail is NOT aiming for success.

Want more leadership insights? Check out: 

Taking the Lead - What Riding a Bike Can Teach You About Leadership

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