Recently, I was driving to a healthcare client site through the mountains of Virginia.  It was a sunny day that illuminated beautiful fall scenery.  Going downhill, a sign that read “Trucks Use Lower Gear” grabbed my attention.  A short distance later, I saw a runaway truck ramp and thought, ”Yep, definitely better to use a lower gear”.

The same is true when navigating relationships at work and at home. We all have a Relational Gear-Box that allows us to shift into the right gear to navigate the conversational landscape.  In their excellent book, 5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time, Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram point out how to shift into the right gear for the circumstances we face (including Reverse Gear for when we need to back up from mistakes).

The Relational Gear-Box from Kubicek and Cockram looks like this:

  • First gear— you fully rest and recharge without any outside interference from work or technology.  You are completely off-line:  no smart phones, no computers, aka al natural.

  • Second gear—you connect with family or friends without the involvement of work.  You have arrived home from work and set boundaries to guard specific time for family.

  • Third gear—you are socializing.  You are at work or home and able to shift up or down as needed.  This is pivotal as it connects social to business (not just all business, all the time).

  • Fourth gear—you are working and multi-tasking, running and gunning.  Most of us spend about 80% of our working time in 4th gear.  Some of us wake up in and stay in 4th gear all day.

  • Fifth gear—you are fully focused and in the zone, working without interruption.  This is deep thinking strategic or creative time.

  • Reverse gear – you are stuck in a ditch.  You made a mistake and have to back up and take responsibility to get out of the ditch.  For example, “I am so sorry I missed the appointment, may we reschedule?”

Using these gears consistently allows us to bring a new level of relational intelligence to our lives which offer a competitive advantage in our task-driven world. 

So, on a given day I would ask these three questions:

 1.      What is your Gear order?

2.      What are your Stress Gears?

3.      What are the Gear Tendencies of the people around you?

All too often people go through life without truly connecting and, as a result, miss out on experiences and relationships that could have the power to bring them great joy and fulfillment.  When we recognize what gear we are in and then understand what gear we ought to be in for the particular time or place and shift accordingly, we can improve our ability to connect with the world around us.

So avoid the runaway ramp by down shifting when necessary and never forget that we always have reverse gear as an option to navigate our relational landscape.