There I was at 13: I was sitting in the principal’s office for a school entrance interview, oblivious to the fact I had just cursed. The principal had asked me, “What is some advice your parents have given you?” My response was,
“My dad always tells me to never do anything ‘half-fast.’”
What I didn’t know was that the saying was actually, “Never do anything half-assed.” I can only imagine how red my parents’ faces were as they sat behind me. Nonetheless, I did get accepted.
From an early age, I have been at full speed.
I think fast. I make decisions fast. I even drive fast: too fast, sometimes.
I remember the first time driving the autobahn in Germany in a red Fiat at 110 miles per hour. It was the first time I felt like I was with other drivers going “my speed.” I wasn’t impatiently butting up to the person in front of me, wishing they would move over.
In the mountains of North Carolina where I live, there are “turnouts” on the roads because most roads are only one lane, each direction, making passing impossible. So, turnouts were designed for the slower vehicles to move off the road and let the faster cars go by. I’ve made many cars utilize those turnouts. However, I recently drove my daughter and two granddaughters to doctors’ appointments. With that precious cargo, I was the one moving into the turnouts to let other cars pass me. My daughter asked, “Is that the first time you have ever moved into a turnout?!” And it was!
This experience resonated with me due to recent conversations on leaders moving too fast. Whether you’re running your life, or your career, on full speed, there are benefits. But over time, I have decided there are also consequences.
In a leadership role, especially as you get to the top ranks, you are often relied upon to make critical and strategic decisions. Some of these decisions may take long discussions and research. When your leadership team is ready to launch the initiative or make the big change, they have had time to process it and think it through. They are ready to move fast. It can be a problem if you are down the road before preparing your people―the precious cargo you are taking on the journey with you. If you want to bring other people along, you have to be willing to slow down.
Where speed can get you into really big trouble is during simple interactions. If you are moving too fast, you are likely thinking of the answer before the person you are talking to finishes their sentence. You may have asked a question, but you really did not hear the answer, nor did you want to. In these situations, the person on the receiving end will feel frustrated, and
In a recent discussion with our EVP-level group, Signature Surge, advisor Sue Suver said this:
It’s complicated, sometimes, for leaders to have a little bit of a rear-view mirror perspective. We’re so busy looking forward, we fail to look behind us to see how everyone is doing. In a car, we have a rear-view mirror, and we have a side-view mirror, so we can see what’s happening to the side of us and behind us; which vehicles are getting close and which ones are falling too far behind. As leaders, we don’t have side-view mirrors and rear-view mirrors to really know if our people are keeping pace with us. Then, when we change our speed, we pick up the pace, or we take a turn, are our people able to easily follow us? Or is it a struggle for them to adjust?
A leader’s role is to cast a vision, but a vision remains just that if no one else goes with you. Just as important as a vision, is to be in touch with what is happening, real time, in our organizations. Are people feeling something different? Are you checking all the mirrors around the car so to not leave anyone in your dust?
It’s okay to go fast, but remember the proverb:
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
Is your only goal to go fast? Or is it more important to go far?
About the Author
Carol Seymour: Global Executive, Speaker, Author and Founder of Signature Leaders
Carol Seymour is a sought-after business leader and seasoned global executive of large and mid-cap size companies and private-equity backed turnarounds. She founded Signature Leaders in 2013 which focuses on accelerating women into next level leadership and helping leaders create greater impact and influence. Signature Leaders was recognized last year as one of Inc. 5000 “Fastest Growing Private Companies”.
The Signature series of leadership offerings support the growth of women from Manager level up to and including C-suite executives. Today, more than 3000 global leaders across 6 continents have experienced a Signature program. Signature Leaders partners with more than 140 market-leading companies for their selective investments.
Carol is also a Founding Member of Paradigm for Parity and named one of the Top 40 Women Keynote Speakers for 2020 by RealLeaders Magazine.
Carol resides in Cashiers, NC. She has two married children, three granddaughters, and a grandson.