And the best ever advice is……

As 2017 closes, we invariably think of what was or what could have been. Often, we are frustrated because we did not achieve what we set out to do in the past year. Or maybe we feel we are just in a rut, and all is quite mechanical.

We could reflect on a lot of successes, or maybe a heap of difficulties. Or maybe both. And then we feel that the new “normal” is quite daunting, not sure what we can expect next. Senior Executives are required to “get things done”. Often with little time to reflect. Confronted with a disruptive environment, a leadership team that needs to be agile, and a personal to do list that is quite daunting. This together with a requirement to look to the future with vision, but still keep a laser focus on today’s results.

With all of this, the best advice I ever received was – “do not run up the escalator, it will take you there”.

My first senior executive position found me young, energetic and highly motivated. I had a lot of ideas and wanted to get going, implementing all of them as soon as I possibly could. Working in an Industrial environment would never be easy but I was determined to make the impossible happen. I was driven.

It was during the first weeks in this position that I received pointed advice from my mentor – “it really is not necessary to run up the escalator, it will take you there. You are in the process, you are doing the right things and now it requires patience and no amount of pushing will get the job done. Take one step at a time.” To this day, I regard this advice as some of the most valuable I have ever received.

This photo of a “frustrated” African Jackass penguin made me think of my younger, impatient self and I had to smile. I thought of the phrase, “one step at a time!” Jackass penguins appear to “fly” while swimming in the sea but once back on land, they appear more cumbersome and slow. Walking takes a lot more energy and I could just feel this particular penguins’ frustration, as he had to lumber his way over rocks when really all he wanted to do was fly!

Taking a “one step at a time” approach has the following benefits:

  • Measured approach – delivering on a Company vision is not possible without breaking down the vision into measurable deliverables. Focus on the ultimate vision as well as on the detailed actions required to get you there.
  • Tackle your fears – we all have fears – fear of making a mistake, of losing what is dear to us and of not being valued. These fears have the ability to debilitate our performance. Courage to tackle these fears takes time and practice. Take one step at a time in dealing with uncertainties and insecurities. Don’t rush it, forward is still forward.
  • Trust the process – as with the escalator, ultimately it will take you there. If it is working, you will get to the next floor. Trusting the process means that we do not try and control that what is not controllable. Let the process unfold, whatever needs to happen will happen.

I often use the analogy of the escalator during mentoring sessions. Everyone I talk to seems to get it instantly. We rush from point A to point B, sometimes not even thinking about what our next step should be, trying to force a decision or result. Stop! Take a deep breath and allow the escalator to take you all the way to the top.

You will get to where you need to be.