What Leaders & Managers Can Learn From Their Satnav

Sat Nav

I would be very surprised in 2013 if any driver has never used a satellite navigation aid. Let’s face it, they are generally brilliant at providing us with clear instructions, usually in both a visual and audible format. They warn us of dangerous stretches of road and have no doubt saved us from the odd speed camera flash! If we take a wrong turning they recalculate the route and get us back on track ASAP.

I like to think leadership and management is a bit like being a Satnav for our people. We provide direction in multiple formats and use our experience to warn them of potential hazards ahead. If our people do take a wrong turn we are there to get them out of trouble and back on track.

All sounds great but Satnavs are not without their faults and many of these faults cross over into leadership and management.

Have you ever been in the car with a friend on a complex journey? They know the route but you don’t?  You chat about ‘stuff’ and every now and again you hear. “Take this left” or “Third exit off this roundabout”. Have you ever tried to repeat that journey on your own? You usually get horribly lost. The fact you were chatting meant you were not concentrating on learning the route. The same can happen when using a Sat Nav. With the comfort of the ‘magic box’ taking care of our route we can multi task, take hands free phone calls, chat to passengers or sing along to the radio!

Leaders and managers that provide too much guidance and insist on very prescriptive activities will find that their people will cease to think for themselves. Why do they need to bother when all they are doing is obeying very detailed instructions?

Have you ever been in a situation where your Satnav is broke or doesn’t work! For example the extensive tunnels in Birmingham City centre are a nightmare! By the time you have re-established satellite links you have missed your exit! The same thing happens in a highly directive workplace when the manager is away. Staff members that are so used to support at every turn soon end up heading down a dead end.

New roads are constantly being built and routes being changed. Town centres are pedestrianised and roads changed to bus/taxi access only. As a result a Satnav is only as good as the accuracy of its current maps! Therefore a Satnav needs constant updating or its value soon starts to diminish.  It is the same in business in that a leader that does not keep abreast of current thinking and market trends will become outdated. Worse still they will be giving their people outdated direction. Only by learning (Continuous Professional Development – CPD) can leaders and managers stay accurate and on course.

I could go on and on with this analogy but I think I’ve made my point so here are a final quick few tips from me:

  • Technology is a tool that we must embrace to give us a competitive edge BUT we must never lose the skills we had before as we may need them if the technology breaks! Practise your back up plan (use an old fashioned map occasionally!).
  • Don’t stifle creativity within your workforce by being over directive. They will disengage and become automatons. They will lose their ability to use their own initiative and common sense.
  • Multi-tasking is not a skill to be encouraged when one of the tasks is ‘communication’. The number one cause of errors is miscommunication so you need always to give 100% attention to this task first.

I hope you found that useful and do think of this blog next time you switch on that Satnav! Have a safe journey.

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training

MTD Training   | Image courtesy by Graur Razvan Ionut of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

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Updated on: 22 August, 2013

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