As I type, I’m away from home at a conference. In a couple of days my wife is going to join me for a quick getaway in a city we both love.
Because of my conference schedule, I’m not able to meet Merriem at the airport. She’s going to have to fly in, take a shuttle to an offsite car rental location, rent the car, drive across the city through multiple toll stations, and meet me at the hotel.
You should know that my wife is a seasoned traveler. She’s dealt with rerouted flights and unexpected cities on mission trips around the globe…and I wasn’t anywhere close by. I’m not worried one little bit about her ability to pull off all of the steps above without breaking a sweat.
But she is.
We’ve had a few conversations around this great unknown that’s coming up. Most of them have ended with something that sounded a little bit like “If I get kidnapped and have to live with gypsies I’ll never forgive you.” I think she’s joking. Maybe.
So in an effort to maintain marital harmony, I tried to map the route for her.
When I arrived at the airport this morning, I snapped photos as I was getting off the plane. I took note of exactly which terminal she needed to go to, exactly which elevator she needed to take, and exactly which shuttle bus she’d need to get on in order to go to the rental car place. And with all that info in hand, I put together a multi-page document – complete with photos – so that she has step-by-step, turn-by-turn directions to get her from the airport to the hotel with nary a scratch.
(Don’t put me up for Husband Of The Year status just yet…let’s make sure that aforementioned kidnapping-via-gypsies doesn’t happen.)
Let me repeat myself: I didn’t do that because I don’t think she’s capable (she is). I did it because she’s unsure of the destination. It was easy enough for me to go ahead of her, snap a few pictures, and jot a few notes along with snarky husband commentary. Giving her an eyes-on-the-ground perspective reorients her perspective so she knows where she’s going.
Now, that’s easy enough in a marriage, when everything lines up just right and we’re taking the same route two days apart. It’s not always easy in leadership, when you need to inspire your team to get to a destination you haven’t been to yourself. So how do you nudge people into a still-unknown-to-you place? I think there are at least three simple ways:
- Lead with vision. Even if you’re not sure of the exact destination, you can paint a compelling picture. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, If you wish to build a ship, do not divide the men into teams and send them to the forest to cut wood. Instead, teach them to long for the vast and endless sea.
- Lead with collaboration. I didn’t say consensus. Great visions don’t always come with everyone being 100% on board. But do collaborate with your fellow travelers. Seek input and counsel.
- Lead with humility. Be prepared for course corrections. Be willing to admit that you may have misjudged some of the finer points of the journey. That doesn’t mean you cave every time someone disagrees, but it does mean you take a posture of listening.
How do you lead when you don’t know the final destination? Comment below.