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Clearview® Performance Systems brings you ... ® ... a Culture of Results & Engagement®

Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions)
to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites Issue #75
(May 19, 2020)

Technically, a One-Speed Bike Can Get You There, but ...

Many of you have asked what stimulates the diverse topics that appear in the weekly CORE Bites TIPS newsletter. I hope it doesn't surprise you to find out that I am—at least for this newsletter—a bit of a 'last-minute' guy. In fact, the topic inspiration for most issues is typically sparked by my client interactions during the previous week. In my mind, this keeps topics very relevant and very timely.

As a case in point, this week's topic was triggered by a senior leader's comment last week that "... my gears are still turning" as he reflected on an intricate strategy he was considering. To help him put things in perspective (and not sweat the 'small stuff'), I responded with, "Remember, the smaller gears have to spin twice to cover the same distance covered when the larger gear spins only once. That's why the small stuff tires us out."

It's this type of serendipitous interaction that ends up being the catalyst behind many of the topics chosen for CORE Bites from week to week. Now you know ...

This week I'm going to take a run at how we can manage and lead more effectively by—you guessed it—better understanding the mechanics behind "gears." But, before we begin, have you ever stopped to consider how the word "gear" has become embedded into the language of business and organizations? Here are a few examples (and I bet you can come up with a few more):

Can't seem to get out of first gear

It's time to switch gears

Get (one's) brain in gear

Give someone the gears

Grind someone's gears

Move into high/full gear

Move through the gears

Gear up

Anyone who has ridden a multi-speed bicycle knows the value of gears. Here's the physics. When riding up a steep hill, it gets harder to pedal, so you shift down to a smaller gear. It's then easier to pedal, but you end up having to pedal more revolutions to get up the hill. Conversely, on the way down the hill it's easier to pedal, so you can now shift up to a larger gear. This makes it harder to pedal, but now you have gravity working for you, so you can get a much higher top speed.

As I stated in the subject line, technically, you only need a single-speed bike. A single speed bike is uncomplicated. It's two wheels constructed with just one speed so you never have to switch gears. Pedal forward, and your bike goes forward. A single speed bike is perfect for leisurely rides on flat terrain.

But the world of management and leadership - especially today - is not flat terrain. In front of you are many hills, some steeper than others. So if you need speed (and you do!) and if you need to climb hills (and you do!), you'll need to understand the when and how to leverage your metaphorical "gears" to move you and your team forward more efficiently.

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Steps

If you only have one gear, your only option is to pedal harder to go faster. That's not a very appealing mental (or physical) image. This week (starting today), let's add a few metaphorical "gears" to your management/leadership approach so you can go faster and climb bigger hills—without having to pedal harder. The HVAs listed below are great points to consider:

  • Is Your Strategy Driving Your Strategy (or are distractions getting in the way)?: A traditional bicycle has two wheels—the back wheel pushes you forward and the front wheel provides the steering. Using this analogy within a business context, the back wheel of your 'bicycle' relates to your needs (financial and otherwise); your goals; your obligations. If you're like most managers, you're pedaling as fast as you can to try to meet those back-wheel objectives and that's what keeps pushing you forward. Conversely, the front wheel of your 'bicycle' relates to your vision; your purpose; your passion. It's these things that guide and steer your bicycle. While the back wheel of the bicycle may drive your bike forward, it's the front wheel of the bicycle that does the steering. The message here is that you can be pedaling hard, and going fast, but if you don't have your hands on the handlebars (your vision, purpose and passion), you might end up going around in circles.
  • Change Gears Before You Need To: If you've ever been mountain bike riding, you know you're constantly changing gears to keep up with the ever-changing terrain. It doesn't take long to realize that you need to get into the right gear BEFORE you need to because if you leave it too late, you lose momentum, it puts additional strain on your muscles, and it makes it much harder to get over the obstacle or hill. As managers, we're frequently guilty of being too tactical (in the weeds). When this occurs we may end up missing the clues and changing gears too late, AFTER the problem or obstacle has happened. To combat this, determine what your leading indicators—your leading KPIs (key performance indicators)—are telling you. Remember, a change in one gear on a bicycle can have a huge impact on the effort needed to pedal up a hill ... what "gear" (small change) can you make that will allow you and your team to move forward more efficiently?
  • It's the Distance, Not the Resistance: Many serious bicycle enthusiasts intentionally add more resistance (higher gear ratio) as they're riding to help build stronger muscles. In the context of exercise, this makes perfect sense. However, in the context of business, we may want to choose a different strategy because unlike physical endurance, adding too much "resistance" can bring on faster mental fatigue that can work against us. Choosing the right "gear" is a smart business strategy because, at the end of the day, it's really how far (or how fast) you go that counts, not how much resistance you made yourself push through.
  • Watch Out for the 'Derailleurs': I know that I'm taking some editorial liberties here so bear with me. The derailleur on a bicycle is the gear-changing assembly on the rear wheel. It moves the bicycle chain from one sprocket to another. If it's not kept in good working order or if the derailleur control mechanism is not used properly, the chain comes off the gear and you are left standing on the side of the street. In business, there are many derailers (notice the spelling difference) that can have a similar impact if we're too busy and/or too distracted. Some of the more common derailers are a lack of focus, a lack of trust and/or transparency, micro-management, arrogance, complacency, close-mindedness, lack of adaptability, and conflict-averse-itis.

I'd love to hear how these HVAs work for you!

Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA
RESULTant™ and Behavioral Engineer

Quote of the Week

"Life is like a 10-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use."

— Charles Schulz —