Road Work

As I drove around southern Ontario this week, meeting with clients, I realized that ‘it’s happening’! The cold and snow of winter have receded, leaving roads that have been seriously impacted. There are pot holes, shoulders that have faded into ditches, and lines that are no longer visible.

Twice in one day I was slowed. First, a road was closed heading exactly to where I needed to go. I had to make an elaborate loop – in a strange place – and still try to be on time. Then, nearer to my home, one lane of a double highway that runs through town has been closed for the season as they work on the bridge. This is the second side, a similar pattern occurred last year. It is frustrating and anxiety provoking when you have expectations, a deadline, or work that must be done – and these barriers emerge… it might even seem personal, as you consider how ‘they’ could do this to ‘you’!

Most recently, the road crew set up outside our house, as they shut the bridge down to do some work – that little bridge is our access point to the city, and so we had to do detours. Sometimes roadwork happens very close to home. I will confess to feeling some angst at these disruptions and delays, especially as I was heading to meetings. Yet, I also smiled at my own frustration. “What is the alternative to doing this roadwork?” It is necessary, preventative and ultimately allows us, the road users, to travel at great speeds.

I found myself reflecting because I was driving to do some coaching work with leaders. As I build my business around this privilege of coaching leaders and teams and the belief that we need to put a ‘spotlight’ on leadership, creating space and time for important, proactive, reflective conversation – I also find myself in a position of trying to explain and at times, justify this work. How much time will it take out of the busy schedule? How much will it cost the organization? What are the measurable outcomes? Homework??? When would we have time for that?

These are important and valid questions, and I enjoy these interactions. However, I notice that in some organizations, these questions pave the way for a plan that is thorough and actions that make leadership a priority. There is a deep understanding of the importance of this work. Other organizations are overwhelmed by the cost, the possible ‘slow down’ in what is perceived to be the action of leadership. Sadly, they continue driving the same road – just being more careful of the potholes.

The world in which we lead today is complex – the pace at times feels like it moves exponentially. How then do we get the time to reflect, to be strategic, to create intentions that impact not only our leadership, but the engagement and development of those around us? I believe this is necessary work – crucial to the success of our organizations. As leaders, we may need to engage in ‘road work’, to go a little slower, to really go fast.