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Leadership Reflections from a ‘Motorbike'-Part 1

| January 15, 2013

by Jim Bruce


Todays Reading,  “Leadership Reflections from a ‘Motorbike,’ is a IT•LP reflection written by Michelle Reynolds, alumnus of IT•LP 2012 and Assistant Director for Central IT Support at Cornell.  

Michelle’s reflection, which follows, provides us with “10 Rules of the Road,” the leadership road, that is.  And, they serve as a helpful reminder of some of the key lessons from the Leaders Program.  Today, we provide the first five of Michelle’s rules.  As you read them, take the time to ask how you are applying this “rule” in your leadership journey?  (We’ll turn to the remaining five next week.)


.  .  .  .     jim



Leadership Reflections from a “Motorbike”


ITLP has opened us up to new ways in approaching things and added items to our toolkit.  Below are some the things I have learned on my journey as a leader and they have helped guide me to gain confidence and find a stronger voice in our organization.

My leadership reflections started when I was riding into work the other day and was thinking about what to write.  All of a sudden I started comparing the ride on my motorbike to my leadership journey.  Of course, I was on the motorbike so I couldn’t stop to write all my thoughts down, so I had to think of a way to categorize them, thus rules of the road came into play.


10 Rules of the Road  ::  Part 1


1.      Stay alert – How many of us drive into work and pull in the parking lot and don’t remember any part of the drive except leaving our driveway?  You cannot do that when you are on a motorbike or accidents happen.   That made me think about self-awareness and paying attention to the task at hand.  The day can be such a whirlwind that you get to the end of it, you have been there an extra two hours and you didn’t get any of the three tasks you listed in the morning completed.  How can we pay attention to the warning signs of being swept up in the current of meetings, e-mails and other people’s agendas?  


2.      Be conscientious of the neighborhood – When you are out riding in the country you need to pay attention for wildlife, while in the city it might be children playing, dogs on the loose, or pedestrians.  Sometimes we forget as leaders that “where you are matters” based on who is in meetings or where you are on campus, or even when you are at lunch.  If you are in a management meeting you can be really open and put different thoughts on the table.  If you are in a meeting with your team you might not want to have the same conversation.  Other people are always around, so if you are having a hallway conversation try to remember that others pass by and at lunch people come and go at the tables next to you.  What you say where can have an impact.


3.      Visibility is important – When you hop in the car in the morning does it matter what you have on?  When you get on the bike you need to pay attention to what you are wearing for safety, visibility, and presence so that other vehicles notice you.  As a leader, these same things should concern you for your team, management, and peers.  What is the environment you are creating? Does everyone have a voice in it?  Are you available for your team or are you too busy with your own work (too much managing, not enough delegating)?  Does your team see you as a leader watching out for them and taking them along on the journey or are you running ahead and leaving them behind.   When you pay attention to presence, it can open up a whole new experience. 


4.      Everyone can see things differently – When you are riding based on where you are looking the ride is different for you than it is for others.  Don’t assume that everyone sees things the same way as you.  Try to keep assumptions out of the way and have a dialogue to make sure everyone is on the same page.  Sometimes what management sees, hears and knows is different than what the front line sees, hears, and knows.  We should try to make sure the vision and reality are as close together as possible.  If not, we should strive to try to close the gap the best way possible.


5.      Language barriers exist everywhere – I started off this reflection with the word motorbike, and how many people chuckled or made some sort of mental note?   Language people use is sometimes varies and can have a whole different meaning.  Make sure to clarify things that could be ambiguous or when you don’t know what an acronym is that someone uses, ask.   Also, when someone uses words that trigger us, do we ask a question to try to understand what they are saying better?  For example, I was having a dialogue in a meeting the other day about turnaround times for service delivery and the gentleman at the other end said “I don’t want to argue, but……” and my trigger alarm sounded loud in my head (he was in a debate).  He uses that statement too much, so I found the courage to lean back, find my curious questioning voice and asked him to explain what he meant by argue.  The whole conversation and tone changed by my inquiry and we went on to have a great discussion.


James D. Bruce