The SCARIEST Shortcut!

Last week I took a scary shortcut! 

Last week I was invited to go speak at Edwards Air Force Base in California. It was really fun and the people were so nice. I learned a crazy lesson that I think you might benefit from this week and I thought I would share. 

I decided to take an extra day on the front end my trip to visit Los Angeles. On Thursday I took a 6-hour tour and saw as much of the city as anyone would ever NEED to see, and then it was time to drive. Edwards AFB is LITERALLY in the middle of nowhere in the Mojave desert and the closest hotel is an hour away. Since I had to be on base at 7am I had no choice but to do the drive even though I was tired. Then I realized something horrifying... 

I was in LA at rush hour about to drive the same direction as everyone else leaving the city!! <insert horror movie music here>

When I plugged in the hotel address to the GPS it showed me an alternate route that would cut 30 minutes off my drive. A SHORTCUT! That wouldn't involve driving on any of the major freeways in LA!!  Boom! Sign me up. 

I ended up on Angel Crest Highway in the Angeles National Park. Which just so happens to be one of the MOST TERRIFYING drives in the country because it looks like this:

Ok but you do not understand HOW MANY hairpin turns we are talking about over 40 miles as we are INCREASING elevation and are RIGHT ON THE EDGE of the mountain. To say I had white knuckles is the understatement of the year. 

I wasn't sure how much longer the crazy drive would last.
I wasn't sure what my options were if I didn't continue.
I wasn't sure if I could KEEP driving this for much longer.
I was sure that if I did one thing wrong I would be dead meat. 
I was also sure I was up really really high! 

Luckily there were these things every half a mile or so called turnouts, which was basically a little off-shoot parking lot that I took probably every 2 miles at minimum. Anytime a car would get behind me I would pull off and let them all drive around me so I didn't feel the intense pressure to go faster than I was ready to.

In all my "shortcut" COST me an hour in time and about 2 years of my life in fear.  

I started thinking about this later when a client sent me an email asking about what to do when an employee wants to move up the hierarchy too fast. 

You see, what often happens when someone moves up the leadership line more quickly than they should is that person quickly discovers they are "in over their head". Time introduces you to experiences and gives you knowledge that helps you navigate the twists and turns of leadership. For example, just looking at the map I had no clue what I was getting into because I had too wide of a perspective, it wasn't till I was ON one of the curviest roads in the country that I realized I was in to deep. 

I am NOT saying that people who can handle the tasks shouldn't move quickly. I'm not saying that you should only move people based on how long they've been at a company or how many years of experience they have (DEFINITELY NOT THAT!) 

What I am saying is that sometimes moving up the corporate ladder too quickly causes employees to not be ready to do what is asked of them and terrified to ask for help. They often feel like they can't go back now because a backtrack is 1) embarrassing to admit 2) more work 3) in direct contradiction to what culture tells them which is you should do all you can to move up & make more. Some may even feel that it would be ungrateful to decline taking a promotion they're not ready for yet. 

I would argue what we create is "white knuckled leaders". People so afraid of making a deadly mistake that they take very little risk, coach and correct employees even less, and spend all of their time just praying they can get off of this road soon. Instead what we COULD be doing is coaching people into leadership roles a little bit a long. Instead of throwing them onto Angel Crest Drive, maybe we could start with a nice drive over a hill instead, and then slowly increase their skills while showing them frequently what they are working toward. 

Sometimes faster IS NOT BETTER. Sometimes sitting on the interstate in LA is the safest, smartest choice. (Gosh I hope you get this metaphor at this point). Just giving young employee a map of where to go is not enough, they need some practice before they take on the mountain. HELP THEM UNDERSTAND that the practice is good for them and explain HOW it will make them better, smarter, more experienced leaders long term.  

Trust me, it's a lot better than spending your "shortcut" terrified! Take this lesson and share it with others this week and give yourself some grace to move slower at times!

Kristin Scroggin, genWHY Communications

Kristin Scroggin