Three teamwork lessons from driving The Dragon
U.S.129 from Tennessee to North Carolina includes 11 miles of white-knuckle roadway that is referred to locally as The Dragon. After driving it recently with my husband in our Grand Caravan van, I realized there were some lessons worth sharing — lessons about the impact of past experiences, missed opportunities, and the importance of unspoken questions.
1. Past Experiences.
I called the drive a white-knuckle experience. That was true for me, but not my husband. I have been involved in two very bad wrecks: one in college during which the van I was riding in hit a slick spot and rolled. I crawled out the back of the van with only a concussion. The second was actually a bicycle wreck during which my brakes failed. I smashed the bones around my eye and one of my wrists pretty severely. These two incidents have caused me to be a nervous passenger, with a deep-seated fear that the brakes will fail unexpectedly. Sometimes I think I have overcome that fear, until I drive roads like The Dragon. In work situations, each of us brings past experiences into every situation, experiences that may have caused subconscious fears, or cause us to make faulty assumptions.
In a team, we have to look for those when people react or perform other than we think they should. What experiences are they bringing to the situation?
2. Missed Opportunities.
This was the second time we have gone on one of our adventurous drives. And the second time that I didn’t get to stop at the overlook I wanted to. This time, people were parked in such crazy ways that there was no room for us. But I caught a glimpse of the view as I looked back over my shoulder. Breath-taking! As was the scene from the other overlook we missed a couple of months ago. I won’t be going back on The Dragon, so I am sad that I didn’t get to savor that view.
Does your team miss important opportunities, either because of poor planning, moving too fast, or because other things or people block the way? It’s hard to go backwards. But you can move intentionally forward looking ahead for opportunity.
3. Unspoken Questions.
After we got to the other side of The Dragon, my husband commented that he didn’t want to go back that way because of the stress it put on the brakes. I didn’t ask what he meant right away. I made an assumption that we must have a brake problem that I didn’t know about. I rode in silence for several minutes, getting more and more stressed (just when I thought we were back on solid ground!). We finally stopped at a store, and as we were walking around, I convinced myself to clarify his comment. So I asked, “How bad are the brakes?” He looked at me quizzically, so I reminded him of his comment. “Oh,” he said, “It just isn’t good for any brakes. Ours are fine.” One simple question, one moment of asking for clarity, could have saved me that additional stress.
How often do you, or your team members, fail to ask that one little clarifying question that could take stress out of the situation? Remember, the only stupid question is the unasked one. Yes, I know.
If it feels like your team is always driving The Dragon, let’s talk about how we can help you work together more effectively.