On the Path

The sun was already up at 6:15 am as I ran along the beach in my hometown of Vancouver, BC. My mind was on auto-pilot as I followed the beach along Spanish Banks where I have run, walked, and biked hundreds and hundreds of times. It felt good to just follow the well-worn path that was so familiar to me.

We often follow our own well-trod paths, especially when we are leading others. Many of us have discovered these paths through the pain of hard won experience. We know what works, what doesn’t, and if we follow the path everything will turn out all right.

Single File

Getting those you lead to follow your path can often be the best way forward. If you chose this way, there are still a few things to be aware of. For example, how do you all walk the path?

If you walk in single file, no one can go faster than you. Even if you get ahead of the group, those behind you will be limited by the slowest person in front of them. I have often felt that when I am leading in single file it feels like there is a massive rubber band around me and all of those I am leading. No matter how fast I run, that elastic band can only stretch so much and the combined mass of everyone behind me inevitably slows me down or stops me in my tracks.

Spreading Out

If your goal is to lead 25 people who are searching for a pair of glasses in a field, it is much more effective to spread out in a line 25-people wide and then carefully work from one end of the field to the other keeping in step together. If your team is spread out, they could block the progress of others, unless they make conscious effort to let people pass. If everyone marches at a different pace, they will be all over the place.

A One Degree Shift

If you are following a path and get everyone to make a one degree shift to the left, it is amazing how fast you will end up in a new place. If I had done that on my run this morning, I may have seen a completely new route, explored a different neighborhood, and possibly found an even better running route. A one degree shift sounds tiny. When you follow the shift over time you end up somewhere completely different.

The most powerful paths are the ones that work for each person. As leaders, our task should be to set the vision and end points for what defines success. Then we hire people better than ourselves and let each of them follow the path that works best for them. The key is ensuring we are all pulling together in a similar general direction to the same goal.

My goal this morning was a beautiful run along the spectacular Vancouver waterfront. Following my usual path was perfect for where I wanted to go and the experience I wanted to have.

What path will you choose for yourself and your team?