Taxi Cab Change Lessons: In the Face of Great Challenges, You Have to Let “It” Go


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taxi_cab_change_lessonsAs a consultant I travel a lot for work. So while in public transportation – planes, trains and taxicabs – regularly, I get to see how people enter, adjust and complete their journey. Some better than others. I also see how information shows up that can be very instructional if anyone were paying attention. Well, I am. And I like to listen to others tell their stories. I always learn from them.

This is the first of a series where I divulge the change lessons I’ve experienced in the back seat of a taxicab…

The other day I had a great – really great – cab driver. I’ll call her Sylvia. She (Yes, she!) had been driving for about 15 years. I was late coming out of a meeting in downtown Chicago heading for O’Hare. It was rush hour. I knew better and was sure I’d miss my flight when I stepped into her cab. The Kennedy was a parking lot.

Sylvia turned around with a broad smile and simply said, “We’ll see what we can do.” And so we began. I’ve been in cabs (even when I’m not in a rush) where the driver is so anxious to move that they lurch and honk and curse their way forward. Through their high anxiety they make me and anyone else in the back seat a nervous wreck. The experience is awful. They accomplish the change challenge all right. You get from point A to point B. Not necessarily the better for it!

Not Sylvia. She eased into traffic. Within minutes we were weaving our way nicely up the freeway. No drama. No horns. I asked her how she stayed so calm and learned to navigate so well when the traffic is so terrible. She said, “I learned a long time ago if you want to make progress, you’ve got to learn to let ‘it’ go.” It, I asked? She said the bad drivers, people that cut you off without signaling, the accident ahead, weather that messes up the roadway. In other words “it” is anything that disrupts otherwise easy forward progress. I thought, ah, just like our business – helping clients accomplish their change challenges even as (meaning always as) they encounter unexpected challenges along the way.

Before I knew it we were approaching O’Hare and I had plenty of time to make my flight. Unbelievable. I asked her how she learned to let it go. And she said, “Oh, when I first started I was one of those bitches, yelling at everyone, honking, driving myself and everyone else crazy. One day I had a guy in my cab and as someone cut me off and I started to honk and holler, he said to me, “Lady, if you want to live another year without a heart attack, you’ve got to learn to let it go.’ I said, yeah, like you’d know anything about it. What do you do for a living? He said – ‘I’m a cab driver!'” And he was. He was visiting from another city. He did understand. He’d made the same transformation he was encouraging in her years before. She said it took a day or two for that admonishment to really settle in. And then she practiced: letting go. She has clearly become a master.

We often tell our Aveus clients that our partners, principals and consultants come from the other side of the desk. We have been the client. We know what it is like to live with a decision. We understand how exhilarating and challenging driving a change – personal and organizational – can be. Our job, like Sylvia’s, is to get you through the traffic to the other side – without heart attacks along the way. We’re the taxi driver from another city. I hadn’t thought about my own job exactly like this until that cab ride. And Sylvia. She got a great tip from me that day – and I look forward to the next time I sit in her cab.

Post a comment – tell us what is most difficult for you to let go of and change in your business

photo credit: Sprengben [why not get a friend] cc

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Chris LaVictoire Mahai
Chris LaVictoire Mahai is co-owner and managing partner of Aveus, a global strategy and operational change firm. She is also an author. In her book, ROAR, Chris explores what it takes to drive the best possible customers and business performance outcomes through the lenses of speed, predictability, flexibility and leverage.


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