He was the second tow truck driver that day. (We learned about turnpike authority, State Police and tow truck jurisdiction that day, but that is another story.)
We talked and asked him a few questions. Questions about the job, what he likes, what he doesn’t like.
We learned that most people are so upset when their cars break down, that they are mean and rude to the tow truck driver (the very person there to come to the rescue). We learned that the work is long (12 hour shifts) and is a little boring. We learned which cars get towed a lot, and which ones never get towed – except for accidents.
But then things shifted.
Chris began to ask us questions.
Where were we going? What did we do? What type of program were we presenting? Will we still be able to make it there in time?
Chris, and his questions continued.
How did we get into this line of work? What was it like getting started? Did it take a lot of money, effort, or time? How did we create content?
His questions showed he was listening. He would reflect on our responses, wait for each of us to speak, then follow up with additional questions. Sometimes going back to one of our original answers and asking a follow up or asking how it connected to the new idea or response.
He asked about our clients, how we find them (or how they find us) and how we market ourselves, and our competition.
He was more interested and attentive than many people in our own circles. As consultants and coaches, we are used to asking the questions, we are used to teaching people how to coach and listen and ask questions. We are not used to this type of attentive behavior.
It was amazing.
Being listened to and heard is something that feels special when it happens. There are so many ways to be distracted today, especially during a conversation. We half listen while doing other things, and often we “keep it light” and never really talk to people about the deeper things.
Ironically we were on our way to teach about Coaching and how to listen and ask questions as a coach.
Thanks to Chris, we now have a new standard as coaches on how to listen and ask questions.
We want to strive to be Tow Truck Driver Attentive.
Tow Truck Driver Attentive: to become the kind of coaches (and people) who listen well, ask questions and display genuine curiosity and interest in those around you.
For the next week, try to be Tow Truck Driver Attentive to those around you. In your various circles, listen and ask questions. Follow up and be curious. You may find or learn something new and make those around feel important and special.
Thanks for the example Chris.
You showed us a little magic on an otherwise stressful and tough day.
A few of us were talking about how to best prepare for an upcoming event.
You know the type of event: the one with lots of people getting together, both family and friends.
As fun as these events can be, stress and other pressures seem to also arrive whenever lot of people gather in one place.
Half joking, we developed a plan.
“What if we created an emotional baggage check. You know, when people arrive, we could have them check their emotional baggage at the door.”
We all laughed, but then it hit us. What if we really did this? What if this emotional baggage check worked?
How could it work?
When you arrive at the event, you are given a card, and numbered envelope, and a pen.
You write down on the card any difficult or hard emotions that you are carrying into the event.
You place the card in the envelope and exchange it for a corresponding numbered ticket.
You attend the event emotional baggage free.
When the event ends, you have the choice of claiming your emotional baggage, or leaving it behind. (Any envelopes left behind are burned and buried.)
Repeat steps one through three as many times as needed.
We are emotional creatures. Those emotions sometimes disrupt events and relationships, even when we try to keep these emotions to ourselves.
Instead of keeping those emotions bottled up, perhaps the physical act of writing down and checking the emotional baggage is enough to give us a needed break from those challenging or difficult emotions.
And who knows? Once we experience events without those emotional responses, it may feel good enough that we won’t pick them back up.
Autopilot can be great. As this Wired Article explains, Autopilot and the Flight Management Systems (FMS) are trying to help remove human error and allow for savings (two cockpit crew members instead of three). Autopilot also seems to help with the monotony of flying and helps calculate the most efficient route.
But there is an Autopilot Problem. The more pilots rely on Autopilot, the less they are actually flying. The essential skills needed to react to an emergency may have atrophied when those skills are needed most. Less time spent flying is less time honing and retaining essential skills.
But the Autopilot Problem is not exclusive to flying.
We have lots of things in our lives that run on Autopilot:
Jobs, Relationships, Various Roles, Parenting, Families, and Friendships.
Many parts of our lives, including our roles and interactions with others may be on Autopilot.
Sort of a Life Autopilot.
Sometimes this Life Autopilot is the result of past success or accomplishment and gives us a chance to rest and enjoy our achievements. This Life Autopilot is great when there are clear skies and perfect conditions.
We cannot use Life Autopilot all the time.
By relying on Life Autopilot, we may have lost some of the essential skills needed to survive the next storm.
Have we lost some of our skills in our jobs, relationships, and roles? Has Life Autopilot been on for too long?
Are we still good at being a leader, boss, employee, manager, partner, parent, or friend? Is the workday, the job, our connections and relationships, or our world just moving along without our active and deliberate input? Are our skills, and relationships as sharp as they once were?
Maybe it is time to switch off the Life Autopilot periodically to ensure we can still fly (preferably before the next storm hits).