What’s ahead for you?

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The only choice for good leaders is to focus on what's possible through the windshield - not the rear view mirror.

The best choice for good leaders is to focus on what’s possible through the windshield – not the rear view mirror.

Here’s a corny leadership metaphor: There is a reason the windshield in your car is larger than your rear view mirror – it’s more important to have a clear view of where you are going than where you have been. Corny but true.

This week, my coaching work has encountered a rash of conversations highlighting the hazards of living in the past – people trying to recreate the satisfaction, income and esteem of previous jobs. Rear view mirror thinking is distorted and dangerous: the joys are overly warm and fuzzy and the mistakes are too sharp and painful. Meanwhile the opportunity of today just went whizzing by.

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Staring into the rear view mirror is harmful to your outlook.

Staring into the rear view mirror is harmful to your outlook.

In one particular conversation, a fellow client and I were reliving the trials and misfortunes of the ailing organization we desperately wanted to save together. Over the course of two years, more than 75% of the good leaders left that company because of rear view mirror leadership: while the Board and C-level executives were being overly warm and fuzzy about things in the past, the mistakes in the moment were punished with ruthless precision. The good leaders left because the company wasn’t going anywhere.

One grateful alumni of that ailing company grabbed my arm recently and shared: “Thank you, thank you – I have finally let go of my distorted view of the last few years…I’m so excited now about my new job and where I’m headed.” He’s looking through the windshield again.

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A visceral reaction to a past leadership mistake made me get up and walk around to shake the embarrassment. I need to let that go!

A visceral reaction to a past leadership mistake made me get up and walk around to shake the embarrassment. I need to let that go!

As I ponder the message of this post, I find myself remembering one really embarrassing “what was I thinking?”mistake from the last decade of my leadership…one so strong I had to get up and walk around to get rid of my visceral reaction of pain and embarrassment. I need to let that go! The hurtful power of the rear view mirror is real.

We’ve all suffered set-backs. That’s why we have faith, family and friends to rebuild and preserve our confidence. Our best hope is to let go of rear view mirror thinking and embrace the magnetic force of the windshield.

Good leaders make a habit of learning important lessons from our past, without the dangers of rear view mirror thinking.  And they find hope, promise and magnetic energy by embracing the promise out the windshield.

Will you please share: what’s ahead for you?

 

 

 

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1 Comment

  1. Shaun Irwin on March 2, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    The future can definitely be held hostage by the past. Acknowledge it, learn from it and move towards helping yourself and others reach their dreams.
    It’s funny when we lose someone close to us we think of all the positive things about them and how much we’ll miss their smile, their warmth, their generosity and their kindness but when we think about ourselves we too often think of the mistakes we made instead of all the good things we shared in with family, friends, and co-workers.
    Be kind to yourself and remember the past includes all the wonderful things you’ve done as well as the challenges we’ve faced so you can more forward with confidence and good cheer.



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