Right Person on the Right Seat

“I am going to miss the flight.” I had this FEAR while travelling this time.

I had a crucial presentation to make that day. My colleague missed his flight last week, thanks to a traffic jam. At the back of my mind I had this thought from the day before, as I was laying out my plans. So, I asked the travel agent to send a driver whom I know well.

We started from our apartment gate around 06.15 AM. It was an Innova so I knew I can make up for any delays in the airport stretch.  We got out to a good start and as usual I plugged in my iPod and started hearing my favorite podcasts. This time it was Jason Mayden. I was impressed by this guy and hence decided to hear it again.

We passed the first phase which had the maximum delay in my last 10 quarters (2 1/2 years) experience. I thought now it will be a literal downhill drive and I would reach in 45 mins which is normally the case. It turned out to an abnormal situation. In the podcast, I just heard this line “Can you see somebody becoming the greatest of all time real time?”  We got to the Outer Ring Road and while we were getting down from the flyover my driver Madhu saw the long traffic line.


Madhu immediately negotiated the vehicle to the left lane and decided to get into the side lane. He took the vehicle in the opposite direction. After so many trips I had my heart in my mouth. The place we hit the roadblock was unusual. He confidently told me that he knew a different route. I was feeling good that I made the right choice of calling and asking for the right person. Here I recollected the line from Jim Collins in his book Good to GreatAre you the right person for the right job and in the right seat?”

I had paused Jason for some time, as Madhu took me through the in routes. I marveled at the depth of his route knowledge. He got back on track and we were cruising in full stretch in the airport road. We crossed the toll gate around 7 AM and I was in confident that we would reach in the next 15 mins which is normally the case.

It was again abnormal. Within a few Kms from the airport we hit a traffic jam and earlier I would have given up but these days I am so positive the words that came out were “I will catch the flight.” It was a real traffic snarl but being with Madhu was a great relaxation as he took out the GPS and got control of  the gravity of the situation. He saw the red lines for the next 1.5 Kms and started asking me questions on the flight time. My flight was at 8.25 AM and I told him that I had taken the boarding pass.  I was nervous but he was cool. He dropped me at 7.30 AM at the entrance and he wished me a nice flight nervously smiling I gave him tips and he said thank you.

I rushed to get my hard copy of boarding pass, got them quickly and into the security check and was in the boarding gate by 7.45AM. I was running so fast that the bottle I was holding in my hand fell hard and cracked. Luckily, they were still boarding. Sometimes a crack is what you need to get you back on track.

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I recollected this thrilling experience and understood a few things. I thought having an Innova will get me ahead of normal car and I was relaxed. But having the right person in the seat mattered on that day. The whole fault was on me as he had come around 5.30 AM and I took a chance (living on the edge). He had all the right to blame it on me. Instead he was living in the moment, understanding the situation and taking corrective actions like American Army’s OODA (Observe Orient Decide Act). My biggest lesson came in the way of this simple learning that even in the midst of this challenging situation, he constantly communicated with me and that to me was a real leadership skill.

It is said that “Coldness congeals, Warmth heals.” Madhu’s warmth was what I felt the most comforting thing in the midst of that crisis. I sat down on my seat and I called Madhu and thanked him. He seemed very happy and wished me happy journey.

When you are tested, and in my case twice, you have a testimony. This is my testimony for Madhu as a situational leader. Madhu to me was the greatest of all the drivers in real time. His choice of reaction vs response was important. He could have blamed me and said “Sir, I came at 5.30 AM and we started only at 6.15 AM and therefore… Instead his response was to understand the person, situation and reveal his true disposition.

The answer to my fear came as understanding that FEAR is Future events that Aren’t Real.


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