Why you need to get ‘off the main road’ to be a rebel

July 19, 2019
Employee Engagement

Today my husband, my son, and I were rebels as we cycled our way across Mallorca. We decided that after two days of following instructions received from the tour operator to cycle on the larger main roads, we had had enough – enough of holding our breath as the fast cars passed closely by us, enough of the weeds hitting us as we tried to stay as far away from the cars as possible, and enough of not being able to appreciate the scenery of this lovely country!

So we decided to be rebels – we ditched the instructions, we got off of the main roads, and we took our chances on the smaller roads and pathways. And what happened? We had a glorious day working together to find our way along the smaller roads, and taking in the absolutely stunning scenery. 

This reminded me once again why we need to adopt a rebel approach in our personal lives and also in the workplace. As we write about in our book Build it: The Rebel Playbook, and as I speak about at events around the world, we all need to be rebels by challenging the status quo, ditching traditional ways of work, and treating our employees in a way that will truly move the engagement needle in the right direction.

And to help you move in this direction, here are three lessons from our cycle ride about what it’s like to be a rebel, and the difference it can make.

1. It may take longer.

One of the excuses I hear over and over again from those who are resistant to change, and the concept of being a rebel, is time. They say that trying something different will frankly just take too much time. And do you know what? They’re probably right, for often change can take more time. 

This was certainly the case on our bikes, since going on the smaller roads added both miles and time. However, had we continued on the larger main roads I am confident that we would have all hated the journey, especially my teenage son who was on his first cycling holiday. In fact, I’m sure he would never have agreed to come with us on another cycling holiday as he so hated cycling on the busy main roads.

The same is true with your employees, as they’ll disengage with your traditional ways of treating them if you don’t change them. So yes it may take more time in the short-term, but it’s well worth it in the long-term for your company and for your employees, with both reaping the benefits.

2. There will be bumps along the way.

The good thing about cycling on the main road was that it was well paved, so a smooth surface to ride on. However, for many of the side roads they weren’t well paved, and in fact, some were quite bumpy. For these we had to concentrate to stay upright, avoiding the large rocks that could have easily made us fall over. But, believe it or not, we actually loved the challenge, and none of us fell even once!

This concept of bumps is true when it comes to being a rebel in the workplace, for you’ll most certainly have bumps along the way. An example is when I was putting in place an online discount platform at a previous company as a new benefit. My Managing Director at the last minute challenged me, saying that no one would use the benefit since according to him “no one buys things on the internet”. Rubbish, we all shop on the internet, so to prove this to him I brought together a group of 50 employees and had them explain to him how they’d use this new benefit, which I’d like to point out, they loved and used all the time! 

3. There will be distractions.

And finally, throughout our cycle journey, our map app would call out instructions. This was great when we were following the route, but when we decided to go out on our own, her voice quite frankly became a distraction to us. We decided to ignore her and the distractions, keeping true to our decision to get off the road.

The same is true in the workplace, for there will be distractions that will try to get you back ‘on the road’, back to your traditional programs, practices and ways of work. But as I say when I talk about being a rebel, you need to remember why you’re doing it, why you’re being a rebel, and what change you’re trying to make and stay true to your decision and your rebellious actions. Avoid the distractions, keep your eyes on the ‘road’, and you’ll get there at the end!

In ending, let me quote my husband who said that “by getting off the road we were able to get back to the reasons we went on the cycle trip in the first place.” 

So get off the road, be a rebel, and do what you need to do for your company and for your people and . . . enjoy the ‘ride’!

About Debra

I’m an author, speaker and consultant (or what I like to call ‘pay it forward’ specialist) with over 20 years experience as a global HR leader, working for companies such as Gap Inc., Quintiles, Merlin Entertainment and Reward Gateway.

I’ve published two books, Build it: A Rebel Playbook for Employee Engagement and Effective HR Communication: A Framework for Communicating HR Programs with Impact.

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© 2018 Debra Corey.

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