Culture, Entrepreneurs

Passengers or hostages?


If you want to go fast, go alone.

If you want to go far, go together.

–African proverb

As we journey through life we make good choices, bad choices, tough choices and fun choices. Each of our choices not only impact our lives but they can have a significant impact on those around us. I remember in my early 20’s, living at home with parents and receiving a tremendous job offer in Dallas. Being young, impulsive and ambitious, I was wooed away and 2 weeks later was driving a U-Haul for 14 hours with my mother to a city I knew nothing about other than what I had seen on the TV series Dallas. As a single woman, I was thinking completely about myself and was 100% focused on what I wanted. I was ready for an adventure and I jumped on the first opportunity to take off.

What I did not realize was the impact my leaving Louisville had on my mother and father. Years later I learned my father was less than thrilled with my decision to move. He was proud of me but he stayed awake at night worrying about me in the big city. He would come to visit at least once a year but hated it. My mother on the other hand shared in my adventure. Coming to see me twice a year, she loved experiencing the arts and culture that a city of this size offers. And partaking in the margaritas!

As you journey through life you can choose to take passengers or hostages.

Years later I was presented with another major career opportunity but this time I had 2 children and a husband to consider. It was then that I was given the best advice of my career. “As you journey through life you can choose to take passengers or hostages.” This one simple phrase provided a very important perspective. While I knew my career choices would impact my family, I had never thought about it in terms of them being held hostage.

This simple advice changed the entire conversation with my husband. To fully appreciate the situation, you need to know that I have one of the most supportive husbands in the world. He has stood by my side through the ups and downs of being married to an executive, making many personal sacrifices so that I could be successful and provide for our family. Even though there had to be times when he felt like a hostage, he has never let is show.

Couple looking at map together

Contemplating this new opportunity, I took a different approach and learned a few things.

Listen for the answer you need to hear, not the one you want to hear. 

This applies to choices made both personally and professionally. A strong leader considers input from others and digs deeper when faced with resistance. They will pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal clues. This does not mean that everyone on your team has to be in agreement, but I would suggest you need to be confident that key players are going along willingly as passengers and have pledged their full support.

Be clear that it is a discussion and not a decision until it becomes a decision.

When formulating strategic plans it is natural to seek others opinions and input. As you move into leadership roles it is sometimes easy to forget that you are now the boss and people see and listen to you differently, especially with new team members. Discussions can be construed as decisions. Observations can be quickly turned into directives. When a CEO walks in the room and says, “This place looks great but I would have thought that wall would be blue,” can result in the painters being called the next day even though they hate the color. Make it clear – are you asking them to board the plane or just considering options for your next journey?

Don’t turn into hostage yourself.

This last concept is extremely important. You are the executive in charge of your own life. You will make unpopular decisions that will impact those around you. Not everyone is going to get on board with your decision. Just like my move to Dallas, my mom went along as a passenger but my dad was more of a hostage. If there is something that you feel strongly about, then stick to your guns. Inform and educate those around you the reasons why you are making a certain choice.

After discussing this new job opportunity with my husband, I knew it was not the right time for him or me to make a move. Had I taken that leap right then he would have felt like a hostage and I would have potentially put the most important relationship in my life at risk. Ironically a year later it was my husband who came to me and told me it was time to leave my current role and encouraged me to do what I am doing today. He helped me pack my bags and now stands right next to me taking in the sights, holding my hand through the bumps and being a passenger on the journey of owning a business.

Linda Ruffenach

Customer experience guru, original Whisky Chick, and strong believer that roadblocks are not meant to stop you but to help you find a better path.

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