How Your GPS Can Make You a Better Leader
This is my site Written by Lowell Nerenberg

Sometimes I find myself thinking about a stupid thing I did, a mistake I made, or how many hours I wasted today drifting way, way off course. It really ticks me off when I do that. I say to myself, “You [2 expletives deleted]. Get back on track. Do something important!”

All that puts me in a rotten mood and it drains my energy. I may get restarted on the right path, but I move like a slug. I drag a load of “stinkin’ thinkin'” behind me. You don’t know anyone like me, do you? Oh, you do?

Not long ago I learned a lesson from a mentor who taught me how to let go of those time-wasting, negative feelings and get moving forward.

Here’s how the lesson works for me. I have this Garmin GPS in my car. It talks to me and tells me how to get from where I am to where I want to go. It speaks in a pleasant, non-judgmental voice. I call her Julie. (Julie’s not her real name; I’m just protecting her identity.)

Julie knows exactly where I am when I start out; she uses satellites to figure that out. I key in my destination, and Julie plans out the rest. One really great thing about Julie is this: unlike My Mind, Julie never says things like: How the heck did you get here? What were you thinking? C’mon already, move it!

Julie isn’t concerned about my tragic history of how I got to my starting point. It’s nothing more than a useless distraction from her mission. She knows where we are, where we’re going, and she figures out how to get us there.

So now I go around pretending I’m a GPS. (I never thought about being an electronic device before. Hey, isn’t Halloween coming up next month?) And I keep finding lots of times when being one really works. I’ll share a few, then you think of some that apply to you.

Say you’re dealing with a sticky problem and you’re spending time discussing or thinking about all the terrible results it caused. Instead, what if you just silenced that stinkin’ thinkin’, described what you want the solution to look like, and planned how to make it happen?

How about this: A subordinate or a whole team is struggling with a sticky problem, and stuck on telling endless stories of how bad and sad it is to be them. You might tell them, “see above.”

I’ll bet you begin to notice plenty of circumstances in your organization and in your life where pausing to bring forth the GPS within you will save the day.

Comments anyone?

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10 Responses »

  1. Lowell,

    Great insights.

    It’s not where you’re at. It’s where you’re headed.

    That changes everything. Who you hire. Who you fire.

    We all have good and bad in our history but what matters most is who we plan to be right now.


  2. Such a great method for getting unstuck. Thanks for sharing your insights, Lowell. I can always count on you for wisdom … with a humorous twist. ~Steve

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Steve Dorfman and Steve & Tony :: WMB, Lowell Nerenberg. Lowell Nerenberg said: How Your GPS Can Make You a Better Leader. No kidding. […]

  4. Thanks, Lowell, for posting this and for referring me to it today. Like everyone, I suppose, I can get caught-up in attempting to repair my immutable past instead of applying that energy and creativity to building the future. Here’s a aphorism: “Impossible to modify the immutable past. Just mute it.”

    Great stuff, as usual.

  5. I love your gps analogy, Coach Lowell – I also appreciate you for sharing your vulnerability. Thank you!

    Misti Burmeister

  6. Thanks, Misti. My humility is the quality I am most proud of! 😉

  7. Thank you Tony Mayo for the eloquent re-framing of the message and for the brilliant one-liner.

  8. Dan W: I like your applications of the lesson; thanks.
    Steve D: I appreciate the compliments and especially your support in producing this blog.

  9. Lowell, I call my GPS “Amy” (get it? Aim me?).
    My brother calls his “Rhoda”
    Thanks for reminding us to get out of our own way, and that the negative chatter can be “nothing more than a useless distraction from (my) mission.”

  10. GPS = Great Perspective System

    Great metaphor Lowell. Thanks!

    “Inventors must be poets, that they have imagination.” -Thomas Edison

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