Like UPS, Avoid Left Turns

turn“Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.”  ― John C. Maxwell

A left turn is an intentional change of direction that usually cuts across the flow of traffic coming in the opposite direction. Left turns are dangerous! Government data shows that left turns result in 10 times as many crashes as right turns. United Parcel Service (UPS) took notice of the stats.UPS engineers studied the numbers and figured that if their delivery routes were designed to minimize left turns they’d…
… save gas.

… reduce exhaust emissions.

… avoid accidents.

… improve profitability.

So they tested the idea and the results were so positive that for years now company routes have been designed for right turns about 90% of the time. The mission is still achieved; packages are delivered, but without as many unfortunate outcomes because of unnecessary left turns.

It’s a great tip for safer driving and, here’s additional good news, the strategy of  minimizing changes that go against the normal flow, that run the risk of disrupting established patterns, not only, pays dividends when driving through traffic, but also, when navigating through relationships.

If you avoid behavioral left turns, those changes in your ways of doing things that cut against the grain of the normal flow of the behaviors of others, you’ll be likely to…
… save emotional energy.

… reduce offenses.

… improve your likability.

… improve outcomes.

Are you thinking about making a change at work or in your personal life,? At the office perhaps you’re considering changing how you handle paid time off or which personal expenses you reimburse. At home maybe you’re thinking about calling your mom every other day rather than every day or whether or not you’ll continue to go out with your friends on Friday nights.

Consider how you can accomplish your goals in each situation without making a left turn. Before you make that change consider the following:

Road test your idea. Try the approach of asking those who might be affected by your change something like, “I’m considering changing …. How would you feel about that?” After hearing the thoughts of others you may conclude that rather than your left-turn, it may be that several right turns, with the flow, would be better and could bring about a comparable outcome without as much risk of a relational crash.
But, if despite your desire to avoid a left turn, you see that it is going to be necessary to change direction in the way you first planned, follow these common sense guidelines:

  1. Signal first and early. Give people plenty of opportunity to recognize that you’re going to make a change.
  2. Slow down early. Because some folks won’t notice your early signal, assist them by slowing down well in advance of your turn. This might mean that your gradual left turn is  less intrusive on them. You want them to be able to adjust their attitude and behavior to your coming change of direction.
  3. Ask for feedback. After the change is made, be proactive about getting feedback. Keep in mind that 90% of people with concerns or complaints will never say anything directly to you. So don’t misread as contentment the fact that no one has come to you. In fact, many disgruntled folks will just leave without actually coming to you. Go out and solicit feedback. If you really want to know what people think, give them an opportunity to respond anonymously.

Keep in mind that it’s their perception of your change that you’ve got to deal with, not your good intentions. It may seem like a right turn to you, but others may view it as a left turn and left turns are dangerous.

The key point here is that effective leaders are skilled in making changes with minimal turmoil and maximum buy-in.

“The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.”                Ken Blanchard