“When those you lead give you warning signs, pay attention.” — Misti Burmeister 

Two weeks ago, my parents came to visit. While we were driving back to my place from the Lexington Market in Baltimore, my car’s stupid “tire pressure low” light came on again. I had refilled that tire three times in the past week, so how could it possibly be low again?

I had begrudgingly decided I would need a new tire when my dad, a mechanic for 50 years, said, “Why don’t you get the tire checked, Misti? Maybe it has a leak.”

I hadn’t even thought of that! I knew that tires get leaks and sometimes just need to be repaired. After all, I grew up with Mr. Mechanic. But somewhere along the way, I had forgotten about this possibility.

So, I went to the Merchant Tire Store in Towson, Maryland, where they found a leak that simply needed to be plugged. My tire wasn’t ready to be retired after all.

Thankfully, my neglected tire didn’t leave me stranded by the roadside, which was lucky, because it literally had zero pressure left when I got to the tire store. As it turns out, the right amount of pressure is what makes tires perform at their best. Go figure!

The same is true of our teams. One of the definitions of inspiration is “to breathe life into,” which is exactly what most people need to perform at higher levels. They need more air, and less demanding and firing. And they want someone to push them to new levels of success. 

As leaders, when our employees aren’t meeting our expectations, we often replace, rather than reignite. Rather than look into what might be causing the lack-luster performance, we think, “They’re just not committed enough. They’re complacent … or unwilling to pay their dues.”

Maybe they simply need a tune up (i.e., someone to care enough about their success and contributions to stop and ask about their goals, whether they’re enjoying the work, and what experiences/skills they’d like to gain). Leaders who investigate the source of the problem, rather than slap a new tire on the car, end up with the most committed, engaged and fired up employees.

Yes, I got lazy about my tire without even realizing I was doing so. Because my car is relatively new (two years now … knock on wood), I assumed it should be performing better. I didn’t want to take the time to go the tire store. I just wanted the thing to fix itself. So, I kept wasting energy refilling a tire that was in dire need of attention.

Now that my tire has gotten the love it needed, the light has stayed off, and it’s performing perfectly.  

The moral of the story: When those you lead give you warning signs, pay attention. Rather than complaining about complacency, provide the necessary adjustments and apply the right amount of pressure and inspiration to get your team members back to their peak performance. You might just find out that you don’t need a new tire at all.

Keeping it simple,

Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across Generations and Hidden Heroes.