Build a Portfolio Career

Building a Portfolio Career

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Are you driving your car through life - or standing on the side of the road?

Recently, I was driving in the middle lane of a 3 lane motorway (freeway) at 70 miles per hour. A car came alongside me in the outside lane, probably doing about 72 miles per hour. As the other car slowly passed me, I could have reached out and touched it – our speeds were almost identical. It seemed as if we were hardly moving. (I wouldn’t have reached out, of course, that being a particularly stupid and dangerous thing to do – in case you wondered!)

Now assume that you were standing on the side of the road. You would have seen me approaching at great speed with another car alongside me, also going at great speed. You would have felt the blast of air as we drove past you and you would have seen our cars disappearing quickly into the distance.

It’s the same event but seen from completely different viewpoints.

So what life lessons do we draw from this? Here are some suggestions:

  1. As midlifers, we have our view of the world which has formed over a number of decades. Our younger (and older) colleagues may have completely different views of the world built up from their own experiences. We should never assume that our view is the only right view; there may be a number of ‘right’ views.
  2. We may speak to colleagues using a language that we have assimilated during the course of doing our job. Our conversations may be peppered with 3 letter acronyms – TLAs –which are meaningless to most people.  We are doing the equivalent of driving along the road thinking that we are talking to the car next to us when, in fact, we are talking to the person on the side of the road. He hasn’t got a clue what we are talking about because he is coming to the conversation from a different entry point.  He doesn’t understand your TLAs, why should he? People who work in government and IT are particularly good (bad) at this! 
  3. People like to learn in different ways. Some like to read the words, some like to listen to the sound, some like to watch the video, some like to touch the pieces and the finished article. Some like to use a combination of these.  When we are passing on our knowledge to others we should adopt the right form of learning for each individual – not easy to do, of course. We need to identify those who are driving alongside us in their car and those who are standing on the side of the road watching us drive by at great speed.
  4. In our relationship, do we always ensure that our partner understands us – the way we feel and the issues that might be pulling us apart? Are we always sure that our partner is in the car alongside us or might they be on the side of the road, watching us driving away from them?
  5. In our business we are very close to what we are doing and passionate about our brands. It’s easy to assume that other people feel the same way – that they are in the car alongside us. They’ve seen the ads, they’ve tried the sample and they’re loyal followers of our brand. In fact, most people have never heard of our brand; they’re standing on the side of the road watching our car (and a lot of other cars) driving by and out of their lives.
We need to understand how the people that we’re interacting with, view us. If they’re in the car alongside us, going the same way at the same speed with the same understanding, you can speak to them in the knowledge that they will understand you.  If they’re standing on the side of the road watching us, then start the conversation with them at a much earlier point, with more background detail and explanation of what you are about.
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  1. I agree that open communication is crucial in our business, as well as in our personal interactions. Thinking about someone else's perspective makes for better relationships for everyone.

  2. Great story, and great car metaphor. So true :)

    Thanks for the new view and insight!


  3. Very interesting post about communication.
    We should never asume that our view is the only right view ~ Amen!
    Janette #blog30