Cautious by nature, I was a little reluctant to go snowmobiling this weekend. I pushed through my worry because I was so excited for my family to get to experience snowmobiling in Michigan’s Upper Pennisula together.
As expected, it was a gorgeous display of all Michigan winter has to offer. We visited Pictured Rocks, Big Springs, and drove through tunnels of snow-covered trees. My worry was unfounded, as the leader of our group was considerate of the rookie driver (me), traveled at a conservative speed, took the easiest routes, and checked in frequently to make sure we were okay.
An experienced rider always took the last position to keep an eye on how everyone was progressing. In addition to this, I followed a friend who had more experience than me, but was a cautious rider and I knew I could trust following in her path.
This wasn’t the first time I tried my hand at snowmobiling. In fact, I used to have a snowmobile of my own. As I was enjoying the ride this weekend, I asked myself why I gave snowmobiling up those years ago.
After what I experienced this weekend, I think I know the answer. And…I think the answer can help me understand the change process for others.
When I tried my hand at becoming a “snowmobiler” a few years before, I kept trying to fit into the group I was riding with, but the hilly, narrow paths, the speed, and continually being left behind made me feel like a misfit. I was uncomfortable, scared, and continuously felt guilty for slowing the group down. Despite my desire to share this hobby with family and friends and really trying to make it work, I eventually gave up and sold my snowmobile.
I was reflecting on my snowmobiling experiences and see parallels to trying anything new. I found three key factors that influenced my success this go-round:
1. Let the newbie take the lead. Don’t blaze a trail and expect them to follow. Show them the way, then let them take the lead while you watch and give support.
2. Relationships are key. It is so helpful to have a trusted friend or colleague give you guidance. Someone who has a bit more experience than you, who stretches you to try something new, but doesn’t take you too far out of your comfort zone.
3. Stop and check in frequently, point out potential obstacles ahead, and give guidance for overcoming them. Ask questions–want to slow down, speed up? What are you proud of, what are you worried about?
The biggest lesson I learned through these different experiences is that the most important person during the change process is not the expert, not the leader. If we want to support real and lasting change, the most important person has to be the newbie.
Oh, and…when in doubt, throttle out.
No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.