developUs Blog

April 24, 2023 in Blog

Leadership CheckUp: Shift Don’t Drift

Travel and tourism concept, paper boats on the map

Back in the day I worked with a guy who spoke about “practical drift.”  The concept is this: you set out on one course and there are obstacles, currents, winds, and other situations that lead you off course little by little.  A simple thing like not checking the map can lead you astray.  Almost by so little that you might not ever recognize it.  The next thing you know, you set out sailing for the Cayman Islands and are surprised to find out you just anchored off the coast of Iceland.

We run into this in the training world all the time.  I was working with a large company earlier this year to build out the content for their annual meeting, something we do frequently.  Working with one particular leader, we established that the team needed to improve in an area related to the business practices.  We set out to design a session that would teach certain skills and brainstorm additional ideas for how to impact this one specific process.

Along the way, someone had a great idea for additional content that could be added and the practical drift began.  Three meetings later, we had designed a session that was substantially different than what we set out to accomplish.  We ended up teaching math instead of science.  So, was this ok?

In this case, yes, because we did it intentionally.  Our job as employee development consultants is to be the North Star.  We are often paid to act as the voice of reason to balance the voice of passion.  We met with the leader and re-visited the initial objectives to raise his awareness about the practical drift.  Change is ok, as long as it’s intentional.  As we say around here, #beonpurpose. This team decided to do something different and the decision was built on a solid set of data.  #shiftNOTdrift

The challenge with practical drift is that it’s a slippery slope if you’re not keeping your eye on it.  There’s a reason doctors recommend an annual check-up.  It’s a time to weigh in, check the cholesterol, see the things that we can’t see ourselves about our overall health.  And so it is with coaching. Coaches provide valuable North Star check-up services, and just as important, can help you find your North Star if you can’t yet name it.

One of my favorite processes to do with new managers and leaders is our Leadership Vision Activity.  Participants define themselves in terms of how they want to be perceived as a leader and then we throw them into challenging simulated situations to see if they act that way.  The rest of the room is tasked with providing ongoing feedback (we teach them how to do this constructively) until the leader’s behavior aligns with their self-proclaimed vision.  It’s real, in-the-moment coaching that brings awareness, so the leaders in the room can #beonpurpose.

Not everyone has the opportunity to go through that experience but everyone can seek out a coach.  Just like an annual physical, we believe that leaders need an annual check-up as well – and performance reviews don’t count.  That’s a different process.   A coach can help you stay true to your North Star, can debrief 360 feedback in a way that your boss probably can’t, and can remind you of who YOU want to be, not just who your boss wants you to be.

In one word, what would you want your employees to know about you?  How about your peers?  What’s the likelihood that you and you employees/peers would use that same word to describe you?

Leave us a comment telling us how you #beonpurpose!  If you’d like a sample 360 report, please reach out to

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