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"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."
Earnest Hemingway.


What riding pillion taught me about Leadership.

My husband and I have recently gone on a few motorbike trips with some friends.  I have always enjoyed Motorbikes, in fact, I first fell in love with my husband’s bike before I actually met him, when I moved in across the road from him.  I love riding pillion with my husband.

We went for a quick ride with our “biker" friends this last weekend. One of the reasons I love riding a motorbike so much is the fact that you are part of your environment, you smell the trees and bushes, and yes the roadkill every now and then but you get to see a whole lot more than when you sit in a car.  It really is quite freeing.  You also get to think, especially on long trips.  It is a great space.  

As we rode the long and winding roads, it occurred to me how much trust I was putting in this man as I loosely hung my thumbs over the buckles of his jacket.  There is nothing really holding me on to the bike, and yet I am so relaxed and at ease.  If fact I nearly fell asleep on one of our three day trips coming over the Kiamai Ranges, Gary felt me go limp and tapped me awake.  

So what has that got to do with leadership?  Trust!  Trust is a two way street.  Each of our actions and responses makes for a wonderful outcome or a horrible one.  Trust is also one of those “soft” or intangible things, businesses don’t really have time for.  Because most people feel like they can’t really measure it.  And in business if it can’t be measured it is hard to justify.  With the work that I do, I have notice that it is the absolute foundation for a great or dysfunctional team.

In Stephen Covey Jr book, Speed of trust he talks about the tax for lack of trust.  Trust whether you like it or not does hugely affect the bottom line.  When a team has low trust it equals low speed of delivery and high costs.  When a team has high trust it equals a high speed of delivery and low costs.  It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that trust is very important.  It is also very messy, which is why most leaders avoid dealing with it

So these are some of my insights I had while riding pillion with my husband.

I trust him because I know he genuinely cares for me and is interested in my safety.
It has taken us 26 years of marriage to get to the point where I can relax so much that I could almost fall asleep on the back of the motorbike.  And it is not just with the big things that he has proven that he is trustworthy, it has been the daily little things that have made a way for me to know him and his responses to things that makes me able to trust the way I do.  I know that he genuinely cares for me and would hate to see me get hurt.  I know he will protect me whatever comes.  When we genuinely care for people it shows, and they know if it is fake or real.

I trust him because I know he has proven himself in the little things consistently.
Look it is not to say that my husband hasn’t upset, let me down on occasion and made a few mistakes, just as most leaders.  I have also had to make sure that instead of focusing on his failings, I choose to focus on what he gets right, and when I do I realise there is a lot he gets right.  The same could be said for leaders.  They will never be perfect, but if we are constantly focusing on the mistakes they make it’s hard to trust them.  In saying that, if my husband had a pattern of letting me down and upsetting me constantly, it would be very hard to respect and trust him.

I trust him because I know he sees the big picture, my view is limited.
When we are riding, because I trust him I relax into the corners because I know he has a clear view of the road. When i first started riding, especially after having my children, I was very stiff on the bike and when he would lean into the corner my reaction would be to lean the other way.  This is incredibly dangerous as it can affect the turn into the corner quite a bit.  Do you trust your leader enough to lean into the corners, trusting that they have a better view than you do? Leaders who lack vision are very hard to trust because there is the sense of distrust if they know the leader isn’t clear on where he is going.

I trust him because I know how he will react in close calls.
I know because he rides everyday to work and has many close calls, that he has what it takes to handle any situation.  Most driver are totally unaware to motorcyclists.  He is aware of the dangers and also knows how to handle them, as much as he can control.  We have had two close calls while I was on the back.  One was a driver of a Ute and trailer pulling out in front of us, again on the Kaimai’s, we were running out of road riding on the yellow middle line leaning into the cars because of the corner.  I just relaxed and trusted him to get us through it, because I knew if I panicked I would distract him from doing what he needed to do to get us to safety.  Gary held down his hooter and the driver eventually realised what he had done and pulled back into his lane.  In times of uncertainty leaders that have proven themselves will have the trust of their people.  In times of uncertainty the team need to not make matters worse by panicking and causing more drama.

Trust takes time to build, but the results of a team that is built on genuine trust is something to behold.  If there is trust, there is better communication, when there is better communication, there is a more likelihood of real engagement.  Building trust is hard work, but so worth the effort.
How do you create trust as a leader?


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