Steering The Bike

Conference Bike

Our Chaplain at Chaddock shared a picture with me that he had taken while visiting his son in Los Angeles. The picture showed a group of individuals gathered around a bike like the one above. The “conference bike” accommodates seven individuals, six of whom are positioned at slightly different angles around a central core, all with their own set of pedals, and the seventh seat is positioned facing forward and manages the steering wheel. While the bike itself grabs your attention, the best part was what our Chaplain said as he showed me the picture . . . he said, “When I saw this bike, it reminded me of our Leadership Team. Each of the Directors has their own direction they are pedaling, but their efforts all work to move the whole organization forward in a single direction with you steering their efforts.” How cool is that!

While I would not have guessed that this octopus-like contraption would make him think of work (after all, he was on vacation!), I love the symbolism of his comments. It is true, all of our Leadership Team members do focus their energies in a very specific direction . . . be it finance, specific programs, quality assurance, etc . . . yet all of their efforts are built around and contribute to our core organizational goals. And although my primary responsibility may be to keep my eyes on the horizon and steer the organization, I still like to position myself in the thick of things.

That balance between keeping your eye on the horizon while still staying in the thick of things can be tricky for leaders. If you just keep your eye on the horizon without knowing what is happening day-to-day, you are likely to set off for destinations that are so disconnected from reality that it’s likely everyone on the bike is pedaling in opposite directions and the bike (or organization) can’t move forward. On the other hand, if the leader is too involved in the details it is as if he or she doesn’t trust the team to carry out their job and so feels the need to climb into their seat and “help pedal’, which just wears everyone out more quickly, and results in no one steering the bike.

So how do you achieve that balance? Trial and error . . . team members with enough confidence and tact to gently point out when you need to get out of their seat . . . a compelling view on the horizon . . . and just like when you were a kid trying to find your balance on a bike, practice . . . lots and lots of practice!

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