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Give The Guy a Brake: The Power to Stop

Give The Guy a Brake: The Power to Stop post image

So you’ve got everything rolling on all cylinders. The right people, all on the proverbial right bus, all moving in the right direction. Excellent. You’re a motivational leader with a strong vision, inspiring the team toward unprecedented results. This team is fired up, everyone’s with you. Fantastic? Or just about to get dangerous?

Whenever I start a new role, the first person I look for is my “brake guy.” The guy (or gal) who has a deep knowledge of the business at hand, who cares deeply about doing the right thing, and has the courage to say “stop.”

And then my plea goes something like this…

“We are starting on an incredible journey. And trust me, we are going to get the right folks on the bus, all moving in the right direction, and we are going to build momentum. It will be exciting and we’re going to go fast. We might even get folks singing along as we ride (see skipping to work). We will work hard to build an environment of empowerment and constructive dissent. And yet, when it seems just right, it’s harder to stop. You are my brake guy. I need you to be by my side and ready to pull the brake whenever I am about to drive this bus over the edge. I assure you it will happen and when it gets to that point I am counting on you. I promise I will listen.

Brake guys are invaluable. I have had some fantastic brake guys over the years. It doesn’t happen often, but every time they have used that power, they have been dead on and all I could say was thank you.

Leaders who work fast with big vision, need someone like this around them. I recognize that not every leader fits into this category. If you err on the side of caution, you might need a “push me off the cliff guy,” but that’s a subject for another time.

How Brake Guys Can Help

They…

  • remind you to pause before reacting
  • offer more data and analysis
  • hear what the team is not saying
  • provide historical context
  • remind you of the long-term implications
  • offer options you may not have considered

If you are brake guy, thank you on behalf of all of us who need you.
If you need one, find one, and listen well.

Please share: Have you ever had a brake guy?
How was he or she helpful?
Have you served in that capacity?
 

How do you know when to brake?
Filed Under:   Communication, Results & Execution
 
 
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt is a leadership speaker, consultant, and MBA professor. She's a former Verizon Wireless executive with two decades of diverse cross-functional experience in sales, customer service and HR. Karin was named as a top 100 Thought Leader in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America. She is author of, "Overcoming an Imperfect Boss: A Practical Guide to Building a Better Relationship With Your Boss." Karin knows the stillness of a yogi, the reflective road of a marathoner and the joy of being a mom raising emerging leaders.
 

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What People Are Saying

Don Yager   |   24 October 2012   |   Reply

Great post Karin. There are keys to knowing when to pull the brake – is everyone looking around and nobody saying anything? Is everyone NOT looking around and NOT saying anything? It can be difficult to find the brake in the dark, and the dimmer switch is often controlled by situations such as, Titles, Meeting Subjects, Sacred Cows and Pink Elephants – but you know when you have to pull the brake, you know!

Marcus   |   24 October 2012   |   Reply

Interesting post but I would understand better with an example.

Do you always need to pull the brake? “I am about to drive this bus over the edge. I assure you it will happen… “.

letsgrowleaders   |   24 October 2012   |   Reply

Don, I love you examples of signs…. exactly! Great metaphor of the dimmer switch. Thanks for joining sharing.

letsgrowleaders   |   24 October 2012   |   Reply

Marcus, Thanks for asking… no you don’t always need to pull the brake, but as Don says, “when you know you know.” A brake doesn’t mean to stop a project or initiative. It could be just a decision or a particular element of the plan. In any complex environment there will be times that you need to change course… it’s great to have people “turning up the lights” as Don says, or “putting on the brakes.”

Steve Borek   |   17 November 2012   |   Reply

To borrow a phrase from the authorities in NYC regarding suspicious terrorist behavior “If you see something, say something.”

Encourage the entire team to be a leader and step up.

http://www.securetransit.org/