Leadership Lessons From Car Tires
Organizations and individuals remain stuck because they don’t understand and/or can’t endure the disorienting unbalance “new” always creates. Wise leaders understand prepare for, accept, and work through the pains of disequilibrium.
Unbalance always precedes balance.
From the garage:
The tires on your car are balanced on spin balance machines. Technicians spin the tires and add balancing weights until they turn smoothly. Unbalanced tires cause cars to shakes and shimmy. The faster you drive the more out-of-balance-tires vibrate. It can feel like an earthquake inside your car.
The only way to bring out-of-balance into balance is by pushing through vibration. The bigger an initiative the more vibration it causes and the more resistance you’ll experience.
- Every new initiative rightly calls for disproportionate attention. Wise leaders realize they must over-focus on new projects until they’re spinning smoothly on their own.
- Established systems complain because new, young, unproven upstart programs receive inordinate amounts of attention and resources.
- Warning! If you don’t over-focus on the new, established systems gobble it up. It becomes a minor modification rather than an innovation. In the end, nothing changes. Courageously over-nurture the new.
Unbalance makes you feel out of kilter, uncertain, and disoriented. We’ll feel shimmies and shakes until new equilibriums emerge. You must stop or work through.
- Over-focus on the new.
- Honor and celebrate established systems.
- Don’t demonize the past in order to motivate. Demonizing the past insults those who built it.
- Listen carefully while maintaining forward focus. Much of what you’ll hear is code for don’t change things.
- Remember criticisms and complaints are frequently overstatements reflecting important values.
- Keep ultimate goals in mind while working through details. Don’t get lost.
Systems spin smoothly until something changes. All new initiatives create unbalance. The only solution is more spinning. Don’t stop – work through.
How do you create and then work through unbalance?
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I’m taking that as a good Wow.. 🙂 cheers
Great way to accurately describe unbalance! I’d add that timing is really key here. If the car vibrates for too long, it will undoubtedly run off the road. Being aware of timing, helps you to shorten the time unbalance occurs and develops resilience.
Great point. An organization can only tolerate being out of balance for short times.
One way to help find balance is to celebrate any step that takes you toward your new center, even if it’s small.
Thanks for adding value,
The best solution can be to prepare the team of achievers to predict new changes and prepare them with right direction and guidance.
The existing systems can be modified and/or replaced with new better ones which would be decided by the core management team. Keep likely competitive moves also in mind while getting equipped to face the future challenges.
Progressive companies and their management largely depend on the core senior management staff to visualize future and plan things in advance based on their inherent strengths and the capabilities to acquire new strengths in exploring the future challenges with meticulous planning and the bold decisions.
Dear Dr. Asher,
Thanks for adding to the conversation.
I love how you remind us to prepare people. I’ll add that a simple way to prepare people is to tell them it’s normal for things to shake and rattle a bit when new initiatives are implemented. It’s normal and likely that things will get worse before they get better.
Points of stability and confidence surely help.
Thank you for sharing your insights.
I’ve just started reading your blogs maybe for about three weeks now. This will be the first time that I actually speaking on it. I love how you put your blogs together. Quick, clear, clean cut, to the point, actions to take. I myself write a leadership too. It is a topic that I am greatly passionate about. The information that you have been sharing since I’ve been reading is awesome! Now it’s time for me to put legs to them bad boys and get some movement going!
You encourage me with your kind words. Thank you.
And, best wishes as you expand your online activities.
Thank you sir. I’ve been doing this offline for a long time, but just recently a couple of friends of mine told me that I need to get online and start expanding, reaching, and helping others out with what I have learned (and still learning). I’m just trying to make some kind of difference any way that I can.
Dan – terrific metaphor! I particularly resonated with your advice not to demonize the past. Personal history: when I started at P&G, my brand had just launched a major product improvement. My first assignment was to read all the years of documents leading to the new formula, which apparently would fulfill every consumer’s every unmet need. I was so impressed that my first recommendation at the company was to change our brand name to reflect the revolutionary product change.
I remember my VP – 5 levels above me in the org – smiling softly and simply suggesting to watch what happens next. Within weeks, criticisms of the new formula began to appear. Within months, consensus had formed that we must focus on another major upgrade to improve on current failings.
And so it went. P&G was a culture built on creating progress by continuous destruction of the status quo. Every innovation quickly became the new barrier we had to pull down. Demonizing the past that we had built ourselves was a way of life, and incredibly productive.
But that’s not how most of the world works. I have since worked in two organizations where I was brought in by new owners to drive growth. Both times, I found deeply demoralized organizations that did not understand why, having built a business that was attractive to the new owners, they were now told that their past achievements and methods were weak.
In both cases, progress began by honoring the past – “you guys performed miracles!” – while setting the bar higher – “the industry has changed, so what worked before won’t work in the future. That’s why we need to build on your achievements to achieve even more.”
It’s one of those “what I learned in kindergarten” moments: praise and recognition will get you farther than belittling.
Great seeing you.
The P&G illustration helps us see the role of culture. You remind me of my conversation with Jeremie Kubiceck (sp) who talked with me about how they constantly evaluate each others performance. After client meetings they stop on the curb to share what worked and what could be improved. Some organizations couldn’t tolerate that.
Your experience and insight shine.
This is a brilliant post today Dan. And timely!
I only have a question today. Your wrote:
5. Remember criticisms and complaints are frequently overstatements reflecting important values.
Can you please elaborate on this a little bit more for clarification?
Thanks for becoming a regular here on LF. I appreciate your comments and tweets.
I’ve found that someone who is criticizing a new initiative may overstate their criticisms in order to add weight to their comments. When this happens an inexperienced leader may react to the over statements in the criticism. This usually isn’t effective. Conversations degenerate into who’s right and who’s wrong.
Don’t get distracted by over statements. Listen carefully for the values driving them. For example, some criticisms are driven by a need to protect a favorite program. It’s usually best to address the underlying concerns (values) rather than argue about the validity of each others points.
Obviously, I’m speaking from my own experiences. Hope this is useful.
You’re welcome Dan. Thanks for writing great blog posts on a topic very near and dear to my heart! 🙂
Also, thanks for expanding on this for me. I wasn’t sure if I clearly understood the intended meaning, however, your answer resonates. I agree. Listening carefully for the values driving ‘behavior’ was something I tweeted about recently when it came to putting ourselves in another countries shoes in regards to possible reasons they might have for needing to protect/defend themselves. Same applies here.
In my experience, it has been generally easier for me to accept and even expect criticism in certain cases or with certain people. It becomes temporarily challenging when it comes from a direction or person that I wasn’t expecting it to come from. That can be cause for a bit of a jolt and can be unsettling, if not confusing. It might be difficult to discern right away the reasons behind the opposition/resistance. Especially when there may have been an expectation that people would be more supportive as opposed to critical. (or on the same team/side) One is helpful, the other isn’t unless the motive is to HELP for the purpose of building up rather then tearing down. The difference between the two can be felt. It really can.
I’m glad you brought up values again Dan. I touched on this yesterday in my comments. And a couple weeks back I became very aware of just how value differences really set the tone to determine our actions in life. Including making the mistake of presuming that others share the same values as we do. Or if we do, even have them in the same order of priority! haha
What spurred me to think about it was on the topic of success. I had to pause. I wanted to ask, ‘So what defines success to YOU?’ (because I may not consider it to be successful based on my own values and in that case, we wouldn’t be able to see eye to eye haha)
In short, if I inadvertently find myself in a ‘pee’ contest with someone. I have to hit an override button sometimes. (take several deep breaths and count to 10) In many cases, something I’ve done or said has pushed an insecurity button in another person that i have no control over. We are only responsible for our own thoughts and actions and how we choose to respond. However, like anything in life, it takes practice and is a natural part of the growth process.
Direct, open and honest communication is beneficial. However, not everyone will be open to that. (i.e. might be more passive aggressive or not even consciously aware yet)
Yes, your insights were very useful. Thanks for sharing it.
Clever post Dan! Leadership lessons are abound, even with unbalanced tires! Part of the unbalance that impacts people is not having balance holistically. If your career is pulling you away from friends and family for example. Great quote “Listen carefully while maintaining forward focus” by the way
What I’ve learned about working through unbalance and change to add to what you’ve already brilliantly said:
1. Stay humble. If you don’t know the answer, say so because someone else might. (Someone had to come up with the idea of the wheel weight!)
2. Communication. Continually keep the vision and purpose out in front.
3. Always give the “why” for the change. Connect the reason for the change to the established vision. Give reasons why the change will help propogate new growth and fulfill the mission and purpose of the organization.
Dan, the man who never metaphor he didn’t like, or paradigm he couldn’t shift! Great post sir!
Wonderfully visual metaphor.
Ever notice that the vibration only happens at certain speeds, certain times, certain places? Maybe once in a while the tire goes flat and you end up driving round in circles.
And sometimes you just get a bad tire that needs to be changed…or worse blows out while cruising.
Alignment with the vision down the road is a good thing. And…what does this say for rotating the tires periodically!!
“Over-nuture the new”…know that may be others perceptions, trust your heart on that one, not others’ counsel.
Wanted to pun on with despair tire, but won’t.
Hey Doc love the despair tire pun. We are constantly aligning and re-balancing and nothing is ever static. Pushing ourselves compels us to reach for more. Vibration may be a good thing, indicating you are hurling through the limit and it is time for the “pit” stop, regroup, refocus and race off for the next finish line. Dan had said in one of his prior posts that if you could see the finish line, you had not gone far enough. Well with that thought in mind let’s “push it to the limit” (nice song) and remember that visions have no limits and horizons are what we see not what we can do. 🙂
Dan for some reason I never get any follow up notifications although I check both boxes below the comment. Was I vibrating too much? 🙂
The great challenge for me is to keep the focus on existing initiatives while giving extra to the new.
Leadership lesson from care tires is great. As long as system is running smoothly, it keeps on running, unless external forces change it. These external forces play major role in either speeding up or speeding down the system. Who are these external forces? I think, they are budding leaders and managers. These are new employees in the systems that ensure how long the tyre will spin. Smooth spinning also cannot guarantee whether it keeps on spinning without disturbing it. We need to observe who are spinning and more important their goal and intention behind that. It means it needs to be checked up from time to time to ensure its credibility and reliability.
I think working through unbalances is to create system in place, and to test the reliability of system from time to time. Leader is driver of car and tyre, fuel, engine, are determinants. It means leader is not enough; it needs to create determinants that are reliable and trustworthy.
Liked your comments- ‘Leader is driver of car and tyre, fuel, engine, are determinants. It means leader is not enough; it needs to create determinants that are reliable and trustworthy.’ It’s the collective efforts and interdependence that could lead to the final success. The leader will have to play a major role in smooth and safe journey.
Excellent post! I am currently experiencing some unbalance and this post is delightfully poignant. “Don’t demonize the past…” yet “courageously overnurture the new.” Very insightful.
This is too funny!! Makes sense though!