In the world of racing, there is something called a pace car. It is out in front, setting the pace and demonstrating the angles to the curves of the course. Especially in amateur racing or in educational driving experiences that people might do on race courses, the pace car is especially critical.
In our professional careers, we have pace cars as well. Leaders at your company who mentor you in the ways of the business and model the pace of decision making. Journalists, bloggers, authors, or TED talk speakers who are inspiring you with new ideas to propel you forward. Admired business leaders about whom those authors write and who blaze new trails.
And in the other ways we are the pace car for others to follow. We are setting the trajectory of the curve that will avoid risk and launch us into the straightaway.
As a woman in a male-dominated industry, I have often had to be my own pace car. I couldn’t look around and see mentors or role models that were helping me navigate or modeling things for me who were like me or who had blazed the trail in front of me. From tactical issues like how to dress for a board meeting or larger issues like finding my unique position as a leader were left for me to figure out. This is probably why I became a self-professed professional development junkie. This is probably why I never had a job that wasn’t created for me to a large extent. Why I wanted to work with and for smart and capable people (generally men) who would tell the truth and I have been blessed by their advocacy. Why I feel a responsibility to mentor women at my company (and there are so many talented and capable women at Planar) and the industry (through groups like Women of InfoComm Network, Women in CE, and others).
So, I have come to peace being the pace car. It no longer fazes me. In fact, I do some of my best work quickly and under pressure. I don’t mind the visibility and attention that comes with that position. I don’t fear failure as much as many do (which is both a blessing and a curse, let me assure you). I highly value feedback from those who mean it for my good. And I am constantly trying to improve my times and those who are following in my tracks.
We should be constantly asking ourselves, “who is your pace car? How can you be a pace car to others?” and using the results of that question to drive to new results.
See you on the track!