HR Lessons from Driver’s Ed

I was zipping around in my sweet little hatchback today, thinking about work while picking up my favorite Mexican food. My dad’s lectures on driving ran through my head and I was struck by how some of his one-liners fit the situations I was thinking through.

  • Watch the rearview. You need to be aware of what’s behind you and what’s coming up around you. For me, I like to understand the past of an organization to try to avoid landmines or historical issues sneaking up on me. I also like to keep an eye out for competition coming for us. If I keep an eye on my surroundings, I can avoid some issues and stay ahead of things without having to be reactionary at the last minute.
  • Some times you have to speed up to avoid the accident. I didn’t totally buy this as a teenager – it seemed scary. Sure enough, there have been a number of times where I saw things playing out next to me on the road, floored it and was able to get around an accident before it happened. Slamming the brakes would have put me in the middle of it all. If you are in a situation at work where you sense things are sneaking up on you, it’s time to floor it to get around the chaos. That may mean expediting some changes, rolling out a system, or addressing an issue head on. Slowing things down isn’t the right play in some situations.
  • Signal your intent. This one’s pretty obvious and I imagine we all heard it from our parents. If the people around you know what you are going to do, it makes it much easier for them to react appropriately. I struggled a bit with this in People Ops earlier in my career. I liked to just get things done and out there fast without communicating the big picture and giving people around me a chance to process and react. Now I try to be more transparent, run pilots for feedback and to start to signal my intent earlier and earlier where I can.
  • Find a rabbit. My dad likes to drive fast and not get caught. “If you are going to speed, make sure there is a car going faster than you so the cops get them first.” I’m not sure my mom knew about that advice, but it stuck. In People Ops, sometimes that means drafting behind a faster car and following a company that’s doing exactly what you want to do, and learning from it as they go so you aren’t the one learning lessons the hard way. If they slow down or switch lanes, you do so well before you are in a trouble zone.

So thank you, dad. Your advice has allowed me to avoid accidents and the police for two decades. Okay, there was the one speeding ticket I got out of … and the collision in the high school parking lot that wasn’t totally my fault. As a bonus, though, your advice has actually helped me get better at my career.

Do you have any dumb driving lessons applicable to your career?


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