I travel a lot. I am so grateful of GPS units and when someone else volunteers to drive and my responsibility is merely to navigate. Jennifer was driving one day in greater Los Angeles and I was dutifully calling out the directions from the GPS unit so she could concentrate on traffic. I would give her a final warning of turns at 100 yards. Sometimes I would call it out as 300 feet. This worked well for me, given the many years spent on football fields in marching bands. I knew what it looked like, and I can, literally, march off 100 yards with my eyes closed.
I began to notice that Jennifer would begin asking me, “Is it this street?” frequently after the 100-yard notice. So I tried giving her the 300-foot notice, and still she would start asking me for how many blocks that meant. Finally, she says, “Look Mark, you’re doing great giving me which way to turn, but this distance thing just isn’t working for me. I don’t have the same sense of distance that you have.”
What a dork I was! I was assuming that my experiences were hers, and that what I would find relevant in navigating, she would find relevant in navigating. My directions were not useful to her, even as we both shared the same goal: To get to the client on time and safely. Yet my leadership wasn’t congruent with her needs. We worked out that I would give her a 3-street notice before turning, as she thought in number of turns, not feet and yard. We’ve never missed a turn since.