Ever get frustrated you haven’t arrived yet? You’re peddling as fast as you can, but the destination still seems so far away? Me, too. As far back as I can remember. “Are we there yet?” “When will we get there?”
Perhaps you’re starting your career, building a business, planning a mid-career change, leading a transformation, learning to play the piano, exercising to lose weight. Do you get impatient at your speed? Frustrated others are ahead of you? Overwhelmed at how far away the destination seems?
Those you lead experience it, too. The team launching a new product. The kids on the soccer team you coach. Your own children working to get a college scholarship and make you proud. They experience the same frustration and get just as overwhelmed by the journey.
Whether it’s you or those you lead, trust the journey. Results do matter and you want to keep your eyes on the destination, but see the progress and celebrate it. Help those you lead do the same.
While your eyes are on the prize, encourage progress
Journeys are often measured by distance (how far traveled), speed (how fast you traveled), and destination (where you end up). But when you’re in the thick of it, the journey can seem too big (unconquerable) and too scary (unknown), and therefore overwhelming. These can lead to disappointment, distraction, and discouragement. Some even give up.
At these times, keep an eye on the destination, but look for signs of progress and encourage them. Not only is this helpful advice for us personally, but as leaders, we can keep our teams focused on the daily actions required to overcome obstacles. If you’re a parent, teacher, or coach, it’s also a great way to help the children in our lives develop valuable life skills.
To create momentum, observe for these in your own journey and coach to them for those you lead. These make a difference in achieving goals and arriving at the desired destination:
- Movement. Don’t be paralyzed by fear. Get started. Take action. Take a step, even if small.
- Direction. Make sure that step is in the right direction. Will it get you closer to the desired destination? It may not close the gap, but does it reduce the gap?
- Sequence. Get your steps in the proper sequence. Crawl before walking. Walk before running. Grow into it. Do you need to shower before you get dressed? Fuel up before getting on the road? Get a good night’s sleep before beginning the trip?
- Frequency. Some tasks only need to be done once. But many must be repeated, even daily. You go to the dentist twice a year, buy a new toothbrush once a month, but brush your teeth at least once a day. Doing something too much or too little could have significant impacts. Watering your garden requires the right frequency; Too little water and plants will die; Too much water and plants will die. Get the frequency right.
- Pace. Establish a sustainable rhythm. Don’t endanger continuity by exhausting yourself but push yourself enough to maintain creative tension. Consider riding a bike: There’s a speed that’s too fast, and a speed too slow to keep the bike vertical.
- Rest. The journey is always about movement, but you need to refuel yourself along the journey. Just like a car needs to be refueled, so do you. You need to stop at rest areas to refresh. Those you lead need to renew.
Avoid these dangers
Be careful. Watch out for these progress stealers.
- Comparison. You are not racing others. Don’t compare yourself to them. Their journey is not yours — Different starting point, vehicle, route, passengers, destination. Remedy: Compare yourself only to yourself and where you were yesterday.
- Fear. Journeys overwhelm when the destination is so far away, and the path filled with uncertainty. This can lead to fear and procrastination. You’ll be tempted to put off the start. Remedy: Take that first step. No matter how small, a single step builds confidence. Then, just take one more step. A journey of a thousand miles is always conquered one step at a time. Along the way, those steps begin to create clarity to see ahead.
- “Recalculating.” Journeys can change. Routes change. Wrong turns, obstacles, and debris present challenges requiring detours. A flat tire creates a delay. As you make progress, you change, too. You realize you want to visit a friend along the journey or perhaps you decide you want to change destinations. This can lead to discouragement along the journey and you’ll be tempted to give up. Remedy: Be flexible. Set expectations for journey changes so you are not surprised or disabled by them. Sometimes, detours reveal unexpected advantages.
When we lead an organization through change … When we are going through our own personal growth … When we guide others through their growth … progress matters. Know which progress to emphasize. Recognize and celebrate it.
Author: Kevin D. Phillips is a consultant, executive coach, and leadership developer helping clients increase profitability, improve customer loyalty, and navigate challenges of rapid growth. As Build Them Up® founder, he is on a mission to help leaders improve organizational results by investing in the people who create them. Connect at www.KevinPhillips.com or on social media at www.HowdyKevin.com. Subscribe to his community at www.NeverUnderestimatePeople.com for his newsletters and other resources.
Copyright © 2020 Kevin D. Phillips. All Rights Reserved.
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