Category Archives: Fear

Business Lessons I Learned (or Re-Learned) When My Son Started to Drive.

I am now entering one of the most difficult stages of my life. My teenage son is starting to learn to drive. This is not a process, or a stage of life for the faint of heart. There is really nothing in life that can prepare you for this eventuality. All children do grow older, and eventually ask you for the keys to the car. It is a rite of passage for you both. Them the asking for the keys and the stepping across a metaphorical threshold into a new freedom and you granting the keys and then being cast down into a previously unknown dark world of fear and discomfort.

With all that being said I have searched for methods and experiences that I can use to help him and me cope with this situation. I think it might be better said that he does not really see a need to cope with this situation. It is obviously I who must cope with the fact that he does not see the need to cope with the situation. I think I may have come up with a few corollaries.

I am choosing to treat his beginning to drive in much the same way that you treat a new employee when they first come on the job. New employees have such high hopes of what they can achieve. Hiring businesses have such high expectations of what the new employees will accomplish. The reality of the situation is somewhat different for both of them.

Now my son has never had a job. He much prefers playing video games to working. However, I have had several jobs and have brought on many new hires into their first jobs and I do see some parallels. If a company ever adds a CVGO – Chief Video Game Officer to their executive suite of CEO’s, COO’s and CFO’s, it is possible that my son could conceivably be considered over qualified. Until then, we’ll go with the new hire analogy.

My son and I were driving along in my car when he started the conversation about which type of car he would like when he gets his driver’s license. I drive a rather non-descript car that is just large enough for me to transport my upright bass to Jazz gigs when I am asked to play. It was the deciding factor in my car selection decision. Car options and coolness factor really didn’t come into play for me. It does for him.

He on the other hand is more interested in how he will be perceived in his car by his female peer group and how fast the car will go. This is where the setting of new hire expectations comes into play. Most new hires are looking for positions and work that is commensurate with their opinion and vision of their own capabilities. They in effect want to go fast and look good.

We all think that we are capable of trading paint with any of the Sunday afternoon NASCAR drivers, but in reality we know we can’t. The same goes with my son, and new hires. I needed to tell my son where the light and windshield wiper switches were in the car. Aside from this he is ready to go. NASCAR here he comes. Step on the gas and turn left.

However it has been shown that new drivers and new employees need to learn how to handle their cars and responsibilities before they get to go fast. My son will get a “learner’s” car that will be able to absorb some abuse as he works to perfect his capabilities. This is also usually the way that new hires gain experience in an organization as well.

My son has told me a few times that he has observed me while I drive and that in fact it looks like a relatively simple operation. I told him that I once observed a juggler while he juggled running chainsaws. The juggler was very adept at juggling and it appeared as though anyone should be able to juggle chainsaws. However, I chose not to try. The same thing goes for driving if you haven’t done it before. The same thing goes for business as a new hire.

This is why there are such a large number of Driver’s Educational institutions in our area. The law here (Texas) states that there will be a specific number of class hours (training) and a specific number of supervised driving hours (practice) before a driver’s license will be issued. Who would have thought that both training and practice would be required in order to successfully obtain a goal, be it the proper and safe operation of a car on the public streets, are the successful integration of a new hire employee into the proper conduct of a business?

Newly minted drivers, like newly minted employees feel like they are ready for anything. After all, they are fully licensed. New drivers have a driver’s license; newly hired employees usually have a diploma. Both documents are designed to confer and bestow privileges and capabilities upon the owners of them. The truth is that these documents confer the capability; they do not provide any assurance of success.

This is why there is insurance. For those of you that have already bought insurance for a new driver, you already know what I am about to say. For those of you with future new drivers, please take note.

Insurance for new drivers is unequivocally expensive. Start saving for it now, regardless of how old your children are. Like college tuitions, chances are that whatever you save for new driver insurance will not be enough.

The reason that new driver insurance is so expensive is because the chances are very good that despite all the training and practice, the new driver is going to make a mistake and have an accident. Again, I think the same goes for new hire employees, and just about anyone else trying something new for the first few times. There is nothing like the first few live fire business events. This is where they gain experience, and as I have noted before, experience is what you get when you don’t get what you wanted.

Unfortunately there is no insurance that can be bought for new hires in business. It can be provided however in the form of oversight and supervision. Spending a little extra time with new hires on a regular basis is probably the best insurance policy available in business. It’s like riding along in the passenger seat while my son is driving. I don’t have my hand on the wheel, or my foot on the brake, but there is another set of eyes watching the road and looking out for potential issues on the road.

Also, my son learning to drive has (re)taught me patience. He does not have the same experience driving that I do. He hasn’t learned to anticipate what he may face. This is much like the new hires in the office. They too want to be successful, and while they may have many of the capabilities for success, they still need to learn, or be shown how to succeed.

New drivers and new employees in general understand the theories of driving and business, and they may actually have some experience in real life applications, but that doesn’t mean that they can just be turned loose to fend for themselves, either on the road or in the business environment, especially if your goal for them is long term success. Active mentoring and a measured introduction into more complex / higher speed environments will help minimize the dents and bruises to egos, careers and cars. It takes a little more effort, but the dividends do pay off.

Finally, this new world of my son driving has also taught me the value of antacid tablets. That is something I have never needed at office.

Fear and Change in the New Assignment


Every time I have been taken a new assignment in a new organization, the first question that was asked of me was “What are you going to do first?” My answer was invariably the same one. I would reply “I am first going to learn”. I would give this answer to both the people I reported to, as well as the people that reported to me.

 

It is good to come into a new role with a rough idea about what may or may not need to be done. This helps you create the first action plan. What normally happens then is that both your preconceived ideas and your plan rarely survive the first encounter with the actual business realities of the assignment intact. It is then that you learn why the situation is in the state it is in.

 

Machiavelli noted that the two principle ways to govern a new organization were to either go live amidst the existing leadership structure, or to destroy the existing structure and replace it with your own. I have been in corporate cultures where both approaches have been the norm. The team replacement culture usually breeds a business culture of fear, whereas the more inclusive approach will create a more constructive environment for the business.

 

I have found that my personal preference is to go and locate amidst the existing structure. In this way you can facilitate and speed up your learning process regarding the business. The existing team will always have some stake hold in the existing structures and processes of the business, but in general they will also know that a leadership change has been made for a reason. That reason is to usually change the direction of the business. This is usually easier to do with a team that is familiar with you instead of one that is afraid.