By: Kevin Eikenberry
|I love to drive, and I always have. In fact, other than in a shuttle bus or a taxi, I am seldom a passenger. I probably got this from my Dad – he always loved to drive too. And, because driving is a skill that becomes subconscious for most of us, I typically drive on auto-pilot.
Recently, however, I became a passenger for an extended period of time as my son, Parker, took the wheel for a long drive on the interstate. He’s been driving for several months, but this was the first long drive on the freeway. I sat in the passenger seat as his coach, and suddenly my skills weren’t subconscious anymore.
In order to give him assistance, advice and coaching all the things I do from memory had to be converted into conscious thought.
I had to think about things like:
• Where to be looking
• Use of turn signals
• When to change lanes
• What to think about when using cruise control
• What speed to pick to drive
• Keeping a safety buffer around
As a driver, you get the idea. I realized on the return trip, when I was back in my familiar driver’s seat again, that I was driving better and making better decisions than I was before I sat in the passenger seat.
This is critical in developing any skill, including leadership.
Three major things happened during my freeway experience:
• My perspective changed.
• I was teaching what I knew.
• My subconscious thoughts, ideas and habits were transferred into my conscious mind.
Let’s look at each of these for a minute.
When I was the passenger, I saw everything differently, and I looked at the task in a new way. I could explore new options. My mind wasn’t locked in on the task itself, but rather on the process of the task. By looking at the task in a new way, I came to some deeper understandings and rationales for some changes to my existing thoughts and habits. I literally, by sitting in the passenger seat and thinking about the task of driving, learned new things about being a driver – something I’ve been doing for more than 30 years.
When’s the last time you looked at your processes from your team’s perspective? What does the 25-year production veteran know that you don’t?
What does a Customer really experience when interacting with your organization? As a leader, when you consider different perspectives, you give yourself the opportunity to learn at every turn.
Teach What You Know
I end every teleseminar, and most all of the training sessions I lead, by encouraging participants to teach someone else what they’ve just learned.
Doing this “learn, teach” model helps them remember what they’ve learned, but more importantly it helps them begin to really “own” the content. It’s no longer something “learned” from me, but something they “know”.
As a leader, you will often have opportunities to be a coach. The great news about coaching is that when approached in the proper way, you can learn as much from the coaching process as when you teach to others. But that will only be true if you apply this third lesson.
To get better at something/anything, you must move it from a current, subconscious habit and make it a conscious act again. Learning is a conscious act – and when it’s a new skill you probably aren’t very good consciously. As you progress in the skill and things become easier/routine, you seldom get back to a conscious level because your subconscious does all the work.
However until you bring it out, it’s very difficult to tweak, improve and change. Once you’ve taken the time to take those skills you “already know” and reexamine them consciously, then you can send them back into your subconscious and lock in the improvements.
As a leader, it’s up to you to encourage your team to consciously examine your processes, routines and subconscious actions to find those places that need to be tweaked, improved and changed.
That day on the road, I hope Parker learned some things that will make him a more confident, competent and safe driver. I know I did. Remember this when you want to improve any skill in your life. You need to be willing to get out of the task, teach someone (or yourself) about the task and do it all consciously. When you do that you will become more proficient, confident and effective.
Potential Pointer: To learn what you know at a deeper level, you must change your perspective. One of the best ways to do that is to teach others what you know.