Taking the Road Less Taken

On page 31 of Launching A Leadership Revolution, Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady wrote, “The right lane is never crowded.  There always seems to be a shortage of leaders, but a plethora of people heading the other way.”

Where is that “plethora of people” going?  Do they know where they are going, or if they will have arrived when they get there?  Do they even know that they are going someplace at all, or are they, as I was, a wandering generality??

Before I met my Team sponsors and leaders, I was a charter member of Orrin’s and Chris’ plethora, vaguely aware my life wasn’t getting any place aside from me getting older every year.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I was raising our children, active in our church and enjoyed my hobbies.  But I knew from youth I was raised for a purpose, and I just couldn’t seem to find it.

Then I met the Team, and started to involve myself in the training system.  My extended family thought I was nuts.  They couldn’t understand why I read those books, listened to the audios and attended the meetings.  At times, I almost agreed with them.  But there was something about what I was reading, hearing and something different about the people involved with Team.

Finally, I figured it out.  What I had been hearing and reading all along was true!  These Team people were people that were going someplace.  They had personal goals, group goals and Team goals.  They wanted to change not just themselves, but the world.  The idea of changing me was uncomfortable.  The idea of changing the world was exciting and energizing!

This realization was just the beginning of my journey.  I had a long way to grow, and a lot of growing up to do in a number of areas.  And frequently, I couldn’t see them.  I needed a good mentor, and my Team sponsors and Team leaders fulfill this need for me.

We all are painfully oblivious to our blind spots in life.  It doesn't matter the arena, whether in personal relationships or business dealings, we all have them.  We see what we see, and do not see what often seems obvious to others.  Whether our faults, foibles and human failings are subtle or blatant, we just do not see them.  In the comfort of our own skin, we are benignly (for the most part) oblivious, unless painful reality comes up and smacks us in the face with circumstances our own ill-conceived behaviors have created, or to which they have contributed.  We don't have to like it, but it's the truth.  

A good mentor sees these blind spots and points them out to us.  They show us where we have run rough-shod over others, hurt people's feelings, not done our best work or whatever it is at which we have failed.  They help us to not only see our faults, but also to help us strategize to overcome them.  They help us to be better, in a process Team’s leaders call "PDCA," which stands for Plan, Do, Check and Adjust.

Years ago, I gave my own mentor permission to do the PDCA process with me when she sees issues I don't.  It saves us both time and aggravation.  As former college classmates, we've been doing it together for over 30 years.  There have been times she has teased that if I didn't listen, she might have to repeat the process with a baseball bat!  I do not recommend that method of PDCA, though I fully understand the temptation for a mentor to resort to it at times.  I have a mentee who I sometimes think needs the baseball bat method on a semi-regular basis . . .

My own mentor gently and none-too-subtly pointed out a couple of my blind spots recently, in the Check part of the PDCA process.  I needed the wake-up call.  I had been completely clueless about them, all the while racing madly through life, not seeing the reactions of others to my own ill-conceived entrenched habits, attitudes and behaviors.

  It was only after she did the PDCA process with me that I became aware the issues she pointed out even existed.  It was only then, with the increased awareness given to me by my mentor, that we could work together to consider solutions.  Now, in the Adjust part of the process, I am at work repairing the damage my own obliviousness to my weaknesses has caused.  As I go about working on these things (the Do part of the process), with the Plan we developed, we set a time not too far into the future, to revisit the issues and see how the Plan is working, and what might need to have a PDCA done with it.

The PDCA process is, as I have illustrated, meant to be ongoing.  It is not an inflexible thing, and adjusts to times and circumstances very well.  It accommodates personality styles for both a Mentor and Mentee.  And it is an invaluable tool, when undertaken with a good Mentor, for human development and personal and professional growth. 

Today, with the PDCA process with my sponsors and Team leaders in my life and the knowledge I get from Team, poet Robert Frost’s “Road less taken” is becoming an exciting reality in my life.  I wouldn’t trade it for being a member of the plethora again for anything . . .

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