A bit of a confession here…I don’t remember many of my lectures from college. In fact, I don’t remember much about the degree I studied over 20 years ago. However, one lecture stands out in my memory – it was by Professor Charlie Withers and as far as I recall it was titled ‘What is a map?’
Charlie described in some detail how a map is many (at least seven?) things: it is a representation, it is a story, it is art, it is simplification, it is code, it is a guide, it is history. I have probably remembered these wrongly but the point is to consider the richness of what maps represent – in this age of satnav and automated route guidance that means we don’t have to think to get somewhere. I wonder if you could do with a map or chart in your leadership journey.
Maps & charts
Obviously as a navigator maps and charts were a key part of my trade. I was always surprised (and a little nervous) at the quality of maps that we sometimes had to use overseas…they often lacked the detail and of course the familiarity I had with UK maps – which always struck me as bizarre as I felt confident that the RAF would not be waging war on, er, the UK.
Maps and charts are great tools to keep us out of trouble – nautical and aviation charts clearly identify where there are hazards and areas that we enter at our peril. Like a good companion they identify the features that can keep us safe. Best of all they are a representation of the world we live, breathe and exist in…they are a way that we can make sense of our surroundings, orientate ourselves and then move forward – in the right direction. Maps don’t lie; but I have still got lost and in trouble on many occasion because I wasn’t interpreting what I saw – ‘map to ground’ – correctly.
We can sometimes see what we want to see in our surroundings and make them ‘fit’ the map…many a time I have flown up the wrong valley because I wanted it to be the right one; rather than making sure that the features I could see were correctly interpreted on the map.
What’s the metaphor?
So if I am to talk of being a navigator and helping you or your organisation to get form A to B, then how will we know where we are going and how will we know when we get there? What are the waypoints, the landmarks, the features on the way that we need to avoid or we need as confirmation that we are on the right track…literally?
I’ve already talked about a compass; what good is a compass without a map and what good is a map without a compass? How do you chart your life and where you want to get to? Why should you? Well, if you don’t know where you’re going how will you know when you don’t get there?
If you need a navigator to do some sense making with you about where you are and where you want to get to – and perhaps to ‘map out’ what’s going on for you right now – then get in touch.