We live in a world of 8-second attention spans and next-day delivery.
Almost any question can be answered with a few quick swipes of your finger. “Fast-paced” hardly covers it, and it is getting faster every passing day.
In this world of lightning speed, it is easy to see “slow” as a setback. Waiting even a short time for something simple can seem tedious at best, and maddening at worst.
And all the more in leadership.
Years ago, I described leading the way many people do: authoritative and active. And it is both of those things, to a point. But I thought that being authoritative meant taking people to task, and being active meant hurrying the stragglers forward. I wanted everyone right behind me so we could keep moving, and I was quick to chide anyone too far behind.
That is how I saw “slow”… until one day, in the Rocky Mountains.
You know the saying,
“How you do anything is how you do everything?”
Well, just like I was impatient with my team in the office, I was impatient with them on off days.
I would sometimes hike with my team, and when I did, I always wanted to be out in front. I am not an expert hiker, but I am quite active, so I often stayed ahead of my team. I would wonder to myself (a little annoyed, I admit 🙂) why they are so far behind me – why they are taking so long. Sometimes I would even challenge them to speed up.
I was not a fun hiking companion… not even my wife wanted to join me on these outings.
But on this particular day, one of my team members was on his first hike and I could see that he was struggling. He was not used to walking much, let alone keeping up on a four-hour hike, so he overexerted himself. He was in pain on our way back to the base, and he was moving at a very slow pace.
Now, he was not the kind of man to admit that he is uncomfortable. And the last thing he wanted was to become a burden that slowed down the group. So, he just gritted his teeth and pressed onward. But it was clear that he was experiencing severe pain – more than he was willing to share.
If I had not known him, I would have been tempted to catch up to the group ahead of us and “cut him loose.” But I did know him, so I could read the pain written on his face.
My main concern became getting him back to base safely. I used a utility tool to hone a branch into a walking stick, and after walking with support for a while, he made it back to base with the rest of the group.
His pain went away after only a few days, but what stuck with me was how things could have been worse if he hadn’t slowed down. I learned that “slow” is not as much a setback as it is a signal – an indicator that something needs adjusting, for the good of the group and the good that the group works to bring about.
I remember this day and think of that adage:
“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”
But you cannot be a leader if you are walking alone.
If someone on your team is slowing down, they may be “suffering in silence.” Maybe they are uncertain; maybe they are overwhelmed.
Whether you are casting vision for your team, leading a meeting, or just taking a walk, come alongside them and check in.
Meet them where they are.
See the opportunity in the pause.
That’s all for now.
Until next time,
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