Leadership Lessons Via a New AntennaHave you joined the revolution? The New York Times reports that while “cable is the dominant mode of TV delivery for all age groups…nearly a fifth of younger adults don’t subscribe and are content to connect their TV to the Internet or use antennas for broadcast.”

My wife and I ditched cable in 2009, as a part of our effort to simplify our spending and get out of credit card debt. When we realized we would save over $1,000 per year, it was a no-brainer. We bought a cheap antenna for $30, so I could watch football, and we were very happy with how it worked.

Over the next seven years, we used that antenna in 3 different apartments in our city. Like many other families, we use a Roku device to stream content from Netflix and Amazon Prime.

However, this summer, our working arrangement hit a wall! We moved from our home in a city whose metro area exceeded 4.7 million to our new home town of 10,000 people. Our reliable antenna suddenly didn’t work so well anymore. We couldn’t get a single TV station on our TV and football season was looming!

So, we purchased a robust antenna for $100 and called a friend to help install it. An hour or so later, we had installed the antenna on the roof, located about 15-20 channels we could see clearly. I ended that evening full of joy, eating my dinner and watching some football.

Leadership Lessons Coming In Loud and Clear

My need to upgrade my antenna provoked me to think about the corollaries to leadership, growth, and change. Something as simple as a man’s quest to watch football drove me to deep reflection. These four thoughts have been with me nonstop for weeks.

1. What got you here won’t get you there.

How many of us struggle to adapt to a new challenge because we’ve stopped growing? We often hold on to old habits which are no longer effective because they’re comfortable. I really wanted to keep using my old antenna from the big city because I didn’t want to spend money to fix the problem. I didn’t want to learn how to operate a new antenna system.
We tend to avoid the change associated with new. In his book, Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth, Dr. Samuel Chand teaches that growth means change and change creates pain. Chand believes our capacity to lead is equivalent to our capacity to endure pain. As leaders, we often stop growing because it’s less painful and we get stuck as a result.

2. What worked there doesn’t work here.

Have you ever had a boss who tried everything they did in their old job in a new position without learning about the culture first? Super frustrating, right? I believe we regularly apply solutions we know from solving problems in our previous environments when we encounter new problems in our new environments. What a terrible idea!

On multiple occasions, I tried to get my old antenna to work in my new house. But my new house was a much longer distance away from the signal sources than my old house. The little $30 antenna wasn’t built to receive signals from that distance. I needed a new solution because what worked there wouldn’t necessarily work here. It sadly took me weeks to break down and buy the new antenna. The antenna sat in my house for two weeks before I got it installed.

3. What you’ve been holding on to keeps you from receiving something new.

Once I purchased the new antenna, I had to get rid of the old one. From a technological standpoint, one antenna keeps the other from working. Both cannot be plugged in and pulling signals at the same time.

Isn’t that how life works? We have to let go of what we know, have done and are comfortable with before we can grab what is unknown, new and uncomfortable. What we hold on to from the past actually gets in the way of our future success.

4. If you haven’t done it before, reach out to someone who has.

Many of us hate asking for help. We don’t like admitting we’re outside of our expertise or experience. Yet, when we invite in assistance, we’re showing the maturity of true leadership. In a recent interview, serial entrepreneur Casey Graham said, “You can pay a little bit now (coaching, humility, discipline) or a lot later (mistakes, failures, disappointment). It’s your choice.”

Think about your current leadership challenge. If you haven’t done it, isn’t it probably a good idea to get help from someone who has? Whether hiring a consultant, a coach or just inviting input from more experienced teammates, we can humble ourselves as leaders when we seek more education. For me, it saved a lot of destruction within my house (and hours of hard work) to call someone who had installed the same antenna in the same area to help me get mine up and going.

If you’re a leader, and you’re facing some challenges in your space, here are some questions to reflect on yourself.

  • What is the problem I’m facing today? Have I ever faced this exact problem before now?
  • What used to work for me as a leader but doesn’t anymore?
  • What’s the best solution (even if I’ve never done that before now)?
  • What do I need to let go of as a leader, in order to grab hold of something new?
  • Who knows what to do in this space who can teach and mentor me? How can I invite them to speak into my life and this leadership challenge?

I hope you can tune into these lessons. May they challenge you to grow and increase your effectiveness as a leader as they’ve challenged me.