NASCAR pit crews are seldom the focus of a race. They refuel, change tires, make mechanical adjustments as quickly as possible and get the car back out on the track. In racing, the pit and crew become one of the most significant parts of the race. The goal is to be there for the least amount of time while still operating at optimal levels. While stopped, other race cars can gain more than a quarter of a mile on the stopped vehicle. On the other hand, the pit stop enables the car to run faster than those who didn’t stop. What a conundrum! To stop or not to stop? That is the question.
I received some feedback from a team member that blew my hair back. I was completely taken by surprise. The wrong impression was swirling and I had no idea. If we had never stopped to talk about it, think about it, strategize our response to it, it would have impacted all that we were trying to accomplish.
As parents, we can learn from our children the next best step for the family, if we stop for the conversation. As leaders, our team likely has more vital information than we can imagine. Uncovering that information takes diligence and precious time. When we’re looking for our next right step, make a pit stop — allow the people closest to the action to inform us.
Great questions for doing this kind of checking in:
What has been the best and the worst of the last 30 days?
What is one thing I need to change to be better for you?
What can I start? What can I stop? What can I continue?
As you read through those questions, your chest may have contracted just a bit. These questions call for humility and curiosity. Then, courage and confidence to act on what is learned. When we get our hair blown back, we must stay curious. Keep asking questions.
When this team member came to me, my first assumption about the root of the problem was not the source of the problem at all. When I mentioned my thoughts, I was steered in a different direction. Finally, a light bulb went off inside of me and I was able to connect the dots, see where the misstep was and how to correct it. This required a true conversation with a variety of back and forth. Once the root was uncovered, then more questions helped us navigate to the needed action steps. The result: a solid race with the pit crew time being vital to the outcome.
Because I had a true connection with this team member — she knew my heart and I knew hers — she was able to stay in the conversation with me until I was seeing the real issue. These conversations cannot happen without connection. If you want to have a vulnerable conversation with your teenager, you first must have real connection with him. Connection comes from mutual respect, genuine interest, and consistent investment. Likewise, if we expect our team to give us important feedback, it only happens when we’ve invested in real connections.
Drive toward the Desired Result
The best way for us to arrive where we want to be is to check in with the people around us and take action steps based on what we learn from them. Really hearing what they say is a bigger challenge than we think. Again, keep asking questions. They don’t know that we didn’t “get it” and we don’t know that we didn’t “get it.” The more questions we ask the more likely we will get to the true issue. If we come out of an encounter without new traction, chances are we won’t be driving toward the desired results.
NASCAR has something figured out — strategically plan for pit stops.