The following article is taken from the CPAS Lead On monthly email and was written by James Lawrence; CPAS Leadership Principal.
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Just Ticking Over?
My next door neighbour is a motorbike fanatic. He has four motorbikes (at the last count one BMW, two Ducatis and one Honda for those who like the details), and they are all much loved high performance machines.
Like all motor vehicles they are designed to operate at maximum efficiency around the mid-range of their capacity. They arent designed to sit on his drive ticking over (although warming them up that way is a good thing to do for a short time); nor are they designed to be run constantly in the red zone of the Revs Per Minute (RPM) gauge, where the extra stress will eventually damage the engine.
For some years we have used the analogy of leaders living life in the red zone; where the RPMs are too high, and stay too high (see Growing Leaders chapter 4). We've talked about the fun of occasional visits into the red zone (especially if you love speed like me!), but also of the long term damage if you stay there too long.
More recently we've recognised an increase in leaders who live in the tick-over zone, where little progress is made, where challenges arent embraced. Of course, there are times when tick-over is good, when we pause to rest, when we slow down to recalibrate. But staying in tick-over can be as debilitating as living in the red zone as a leader.
Weve drawn up a diagnostic of some of the symptoms of both (you can download it here). My hunch is that we can have seasons of visiting the red zone or tick-over, but the key is not to live in either for long.
Perhaps it is worth taking time every now and then to reflect: where am I on the Rev gauge at the moment? How long have I been there? What has taken me there? What do I need to do to increase or decrease the Revs?