I just finished a road trip that took my wife and her sister and her husband through seven states in nine days. I have known my sister-in-law and brother-in-law law for many years, so I did not anticipate any problems.
I love road trips and have been on many of them in South America, Canada, Africa, Europe as well as throughout North America with many people. Some have been great, other a little tough. This was a fun one.
Along the way I discovered that there are some very simple rules about road trips and they parallel perfectly what leading a team in management is all about:
1. Know what your plan is. Your plan can be to take things as they come, or to plan and schedule everything ahead. You can’t do both because you will get frustrated. You either set some goals and make sure you hit them, or you see how far you can go today while seeing if there is anything along the way you want to stop and see.
As a leader I am thinking that you either set goals and push to meet them or go along and see what comes up and then react. The important thing is that your team needs to know what your plan is and how you plan to approach the ‘trip’.
2. Know the people you are spending time with. A car gets pretty small very quickly, and so does a meeting room if you are still discovering things about the people you are with. We have spent a lot of time with this other couple and know them very well. That makes decisions and problem solving easy.
The same is true for a leadership team. Take time socially to know each other. Then, when you have to face a problem you can be honest with each other and work together to solve it.
3. Be patient and flexible. One day the girls decided they wanted to see a particular small town in the mountains. That took us out of our way and made the drive that day 15 hours long. But, it made for two happy women. Well worth it in a small car.
Leadership demands patience and flexibility. A rigid leader will probably get his way, but the joy level may suffer.
4. Come to agreement on everything…even if it is ‘this time we do it your way, next time we do it my way”. We did that with where we stopped, what we saw and what we ate. It worked out so well and everything went so nice and smooth that we are actually talking about doing another road trip together.
Few decisions need you, as the leader, to run over someone just because they have a different plan or idea. Take time to listen and consider what others think.
5. Enjoy what you are doing and show it. Make doing this thing together fun. Be willing laugh at the funny stuff, even if it is something you did.
Leaders, you will make mistakes as you go along. Relax. Regroup. Then get it right. But, along the way enjoy the trip and laugh. It will do everyone on the team a whole lot of good.