Don’t Lead With a Lead Foot

Stop for a second and picture yourself cruising down the highway behind the wheel of your dream car. The window, or perhaps the top, is down and the wind is blowing through your hair. The engine is purring like a kitten. At the moment, everything is running smoothly, as it should. You then decide you want to see what this high precision automobile can do.

So you give it a little more gas. You can feel the power as you accelerate. Sure, you can hear the engine working a little harder but it’s nothing to be too concerned about. You give it even more gas. Now you’re flying. The faster you go, the more exhilarating the ride. The engine is revving hard to perform the way you want it to, but there still doesn’t seem to be any immediate concerns. Now, the ultimate test…you push the pedal to the floor.

At first you’re impressed at how well the engine is performing and how much ground you’re able to cover. However, the longer you keep your foot to the floor, the more “normal” it seems. You think to yourself, “the engine is working hard but it can handle it so I’m going to drive like this all the time!”

You continue along with the pedal to the metal. The car makes you look and feel like a rock star. But you begin to notice some warning signs. You glance at your tachometer and see your engine is redlining. Then you look at your gas gauge and realize you’re depleting your engine’s fuel reserves much faster than normal. That once proud roar of your engine is beginning to sound more like a lion with bronchitis. In the beginning, the smell of burnout was caused by tire rubber, now the smell of burnout is a result of failing engine components. The engine hasn’t completely failed you yet so, despite the warning signs, you keep your foot to the floor.

The incredibly high and unsustainable demands you’ve placed on your engine finally catch up to you. The engine completely gives out and stops functioning. Even though you had all the warning signs, you still seem surprised. Your initial response is to go on a tirade placing blame on individual engine components when in reality you should be acknowledging the role your driving style played in the engine’s breakdown. The cost to replace the engine is tremendous and it will completely destroy your budget. All of this could have easily been avoided had you placed reasonable expectations on your engine and paid attention to the warning signs when your rising expectations started to become unreasonable.

Every manager dreams of leading a team that runs like a well-oiled machine. But even the most finely tuned, high-performance engines have limitations. Leaders, are you leading with a lead foot?

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  • Comments (3)
  1. Great analogy Adam! I know that I’ve lived this experience in my own leadership journey. Just as cars need regular tune-ups and maintenance to keep them running well, your team needs regular maintenance, through education, fun team days, a little levity around the office, etc., to keep them running at optimal levels.

    Thanks for the excellent reminder!

    Randy

    • Milad Rouhana
    • June 29th, 2012

    I love this example, as sometimes we tend to ask more and more as long as the team is delivering, but we should always keep in mind that there is a thin line between getting the maximum of the team and breaking them down.

    • Buddy Schwartzwalde
    • February 27th, 2013

    Bronchitis is a serious but common inflammatory condition of the lungs. Inflammation of the lungs causes redness, swelling, mucus production, and pain. There are two types of bronchitis: acute and chronic. In acute bronchitis, inflammation occurs as a result of a cold, sore throat, or viral infection. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a dry cough that progressively becomes productive. Prolonged acute bronchitis that continues for several weeks often develops into pneumonia. In chronic bronchitis, inflammation occurs as a result of exposure to tobacco smoke or other irritants. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, severe coughing, and phlem. Prolonged chronic bronchitis with coughing that lasts over many years can lead to permanent damage of lung tissue causing disability or even death.,

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