Simon, my eldest son, had been going to Nursery School for 4 months when I learned a valuable lesson. I took him on his first day but I hadn’t dropped him off since. Due to our family routine it’d become April’s job.
Today however, it’s my task again. I get him all strapped into his booster seat (also known as “the throne” because he sits so high he seems to rule the place) and we head out together for our 5 minute journey, which I’m certain I remember.
Imagine yourself driving in a car with a 3 year old. It goes without saying you’re in charge, right? After all, you’re the one with the experience, the judgment, the skill, the practice, correct? Think again.
We enter the school zone. The place is a zoo – school buses zooming in and out, parents dropping off kids, children walking, shouting, and laughing. It’s a virtual sea of stimulation to navigate.
Simon is jabbering away about something in the back as I’m trying concentrate on all that’s going on. The car entrance to the school is coming up on the right. It leads into a single-row parking lot that runs parallel to the main road, and I’m scoping ahead for a spot to park.
Then I hear: “Stop Dad.”
Then quicker and slightly louder: “Stop Dad.”
In the midst of it all I disregard him. “He probably thinks I’m going to miss the turn,” I say to myself.
With increasing volume, “Stop, stop, STOP Dad!”
At that moment I catch a glimpse of a stop sign as I drive past it. My heart races at my error and I take the quick right-hand turn into the entrance.
“Son of gun, I can’t believe I didn’t see the sign,” I think, angry at myself for missing it and imagining what could have happened.
My insurance paperwork says I’ve been driving for 21 years now. It also says I’m a very good (although occasionally fast) driver. Basically, I have tremendous experience and I know what I’m doing.
Yet unconsciously, it was THAT driving experience that stopped me from taking Simon’s comments seriously. I made assumptions about what he was saying:
“He’s too young. He’s just playing around. He thinks I’m going to miss the entrance but I know I’m not.”
Frankly, I didn’t listen.
It simply didn’t occur to me to consider his perspective. As a result someone could have been hurt.
Success always costs us. The more successful we get at something, the more entrenched (unconsciously) we become in THAT approach – “THIS is the way it’s always been done; I prefer it THAT way etc.” While experience is obviously useful, it’s dangerously limiting as well.
Where would you like to improve things in your company or area of responsibility? Instead of relying on your past approach – experience - “stop, stop, STOP” and ask the people who are closest to the issue: your managers, your reps, your customers. What are THEIR ideas?