What Size Is Your Rear View Mirror?

Leading a team means that there is a constant tension between learning from our past and preparing for the future. Lead one way and your team grows, lead the other way and your team’s success get’s smaller and smaller as time passes. 

What size is your rear view mirror?.png

When I was taught to drive, I was taught to scan. Scan the road in front of me, check my speed, scan my mirrors and repeat. I was to constantly keep tabs on what was going on around me. 

This same skill could prove itself useful as we lead our teams. In fact, for many of our teams, the most important two questions we can ask when planning or problems solving are: 

  1. What size is our rear view mirror?
  2. What size is our windshield? 

The answers to those two questions can define a lot for your team, because the direction you are looking decides whether you are reacting to the future or recreating the past. 

“The direction you are looking decides whether you are reacting to the future or recreating the past.”
— StevenJBarker

Rear View Mirror

There is this great little line on the side mirrors of vehicles in the US, Canada and India. It says  “Objects in mirror are closer then they appear.” In a vehicle this warning exist because the mirrors’ convexity gives a useful field of view, but it also makes each object appear smaller. 

The same is true when we look into our own history. It can feel like we see more clearly when looking back on our story, almost as if we can tell exactly why something worked or failed. In reality we aren’t that perceptive. Objects in our memory may be bigger or smaller then we remember. 

We might look back at our history and think that our small group ministry exploded because we went through a particular study. While that might be partly true, it likely isn’t the only reason. And if we stare for to long we eventually think the solution to our current problem is that we haven’t adequately recreated the past. 


A large, unobstructed windshield on the other hand is exactly what we need. A clear line of vision down the road at the obstacles that might keep us from reaching our goals. Each obstacle is just that, a puzzle that needs to be solved in order to keep the team moving forward and accomplishing our goals. 

It seems obvious but if your team is going to keep moving forward you need to spend more time looking forward. More time reacting the the future, less time recreating the past. 

No one would ever build a car that had a bigger rear view mirror than windshield, right? Don’t let your team fall into the same trap. 

Question of the day: If you had to grade your team, which is bigger? Your windshield or your rear view mirror?