Pedal to the Metal

As the management team meeting ended I heard, “This is the most stressful time of my career!” This comment was from the mouth of a respected industry veteran that I’ve known for years so I didn’t take it lightly. While I felt terrible that I hadn’t noticed this earlier, I also wondered what was sponsoring this unparalleled stress.

His comment struck me, reminding me of a time in my own life when I experienced something similar so I started reviewing my personal journals from over two decades ago. I had written many times about feeling intense stress and feeling driven. At the time, self-awareness was breaking into my conscious and I realized that my driven personality was compulsive. In other words, my need to win or succeed wasn’t a conscious choice but a pervasive need that influenced how others experienced me. My journal entries captured this awakening.

A CEO in my Vistage group once shared that he was looking for people with a driver’s license. When I asked him to explain he said, “I want driven people who will drive results through my company.” Driven leaders are easy to spot. Their natural M.O. is “putting the pedal to the metal” and making the organization catch up with their desire for more success. This compulsion usually governs their life.

Drive is accessing your capacity to achieve goals and work or play hard with determination. Drive implies a capacity to act, whereas driven describes the nature of a person. Every leader must possess drive, but when I see long-term stress, I usually find a driven leader at the helm.

How does a manager manage in a driven culture? Ultimately, a company that works this way will experience setbacks, either through the loss of key people or the deterioration of processes, procedures, systems, standards and values. In other words, too many problems will make people feel like they are losing control and their motivation to do great work will fade.

If a robust protocol for solving problems is understood and applied then control starts to replace stress. As this occurs more frequently eventually, the capacity to solve problems in a straightforward manner will help relieve the stress. Ultimately, stress and loss of control go hand in hand. Regaining a degree of control is critical.

Accelerated problem solving is the key to managing in a driven culture. Without it, the same sets of problems reappear. Would you like a simple problem solving approach? I’d love to know your thoughts.


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