Life mirrors business in many ways. As leaders in a business we should recognize and teach to these examples. One such example is to teach our employees that shortcuts get you lost. I further define this by explaining the dangers of a shortcut. Many times, because someone takes a shortcut they actually cost time because they end up lost and have to backtrack to the point they started down that shortcut. Other times, they do not admit they are lost, and they wander more down their chosen path and believe they have found their way, but they fail to recognize they are not at their full destination. Then finally, the ultimate danger of a shortcut is the appearance that it worked and therefore that individual learns the bad habit of a shortcut, and at some point they will learn that shortcuts get you lost.
I tell a story about when I was in elementary school and the path I would walk home from school. Now I know we all have heard stories about walking long miles in the snow from our parents, but our walk when I was young was truly about a 2-mile walk. I will say it was much different and safer world in those days. Anyway, as the story goes, I would always witness other kids who lived on my block take a shortcut through a wooded area and somehow they would arrive home earlier than I did staying on my route. So one day I decided to take that shortcut. After all, it seemed easy enough and others were doing it! So there I go into the woods and I get all turned around. Soon I was afraid and lost. I had two choices. First choice was to keep trying. The second choice was to backtrack the way I came into the woods and go out the way I came in, and then I would be back on my expected path and walk home from there. That was the safest choice.
I will say, once I made it back to the original pathway I felt relieved. At least from there I knew the way home. So I started back on the correct path but obviously I was well behind on my expected arrival time. The relief I had from making it back on the path turned to worry as I continued on my way because I knew my mother would be worried and wonder what took me the extra time. Oh yes, and my father was the ultimate disciplinarian especially when we strayed from what was expected of us. Yes, I arrived home to a worried mother who was at first relieved and then she was disappointed at me when I explained that I tried a shortcut. She said I had to understand the danger because had she gone looking for me she would not have known where to look. That was the additional danger of taking a shortcut. Oh yes, I was sure disciplined later when my father arrived home. Sometimes just knowing my father was coming home to discipline me was punishment enough. Isn’t that the same for some of us in business? By nature we really do not want to disappoint people.
Funny, but I had many lessons about taking shortcuts while growing up. Each time I received correction from my parents, but the best part was my mother always explained why the decision was poor and utilized pertinent examples for me to understand. As stated before, my mother was the best leadership coach who chose to be a housewife. Coaching, teaching, and using pertinent examples are what we must do when we encounter the same situations when employees and managers take shortcuts. Whether it is a shortcut in a sales cycle, or a shortcut in proper business planning and execution, each have the same dangers. It is imperative that we as leaders provide roadmaps to success and teach to them constantly. We owe it to the growth of our people and our business to teach shortcuts get you lost.