A female Mexican police officer like this one wasn't happy with my stupid driving in Playa del Carmen last week.

A female Mexican police officer like this one wasn’t happy with my stupid driving in Playa del Carmen last week.

The obvious answer: time off is necessary for personal rejuvenation and strengthening the bond with family and friends.  But that’s not the point of today’s Good Leadership blog.

What happens when you are stopped by a Mexican police officer for multiple traffic violations without being able to speak any Spanish? Little did I know, I would re-learn the value of “shared commitments” as a personal leadership lesson.

Last week, Melinda and I took our three adult children to the Riviera Maya in Mexico for a spring break. So, with just six days and a limited budget, one of our shared commitments was “eating in” a couple of nights so we could splurge on the five star restaurant Aldea Corazon. Another shared commitment: it’s OK for Dad to drive in the city, as long as one of the Spanish-speaking kids rides along. I was cool with that.

The vacation photos don't tell the real story of trying to find a Supermarcado during rush hour.

The vacation photos don’t tell the real story of trying to find a Supermarcado during rush hour.

The shopping trip into the center of the city turned out to be an Indiana Jones style adventure. Rush hour traffic on the main drag in Playa del Carmen is like a scene from a horror movie. Most drivers treat four lanes and the zipper merge with the subtleties of an Alabama demolition derby. With very few street markings, I was grateful to have Ben riding shotgun and Anna in the back seat interpreting cryptic retail signage. How hard can it be to find a local SuperValu?

“We just passed one on the left!” Ben yelled with excitement over the chorus of horns and screeching tires. By this time, I was desperate so I took a U-turn at the first available gap in the traffic. Right in front of a female police officer who didn’t think I was charming.

Turns out the rental car had expired plates and no registration. And, I committed at least two moving violations. As the officer started to scold me with “citacion, quatro violations” – my 18 year old daughter Anna rolled down the window and said: “Hey Dad, do you think I can help?” 

Anna, Ben and I returned to the scene of the crime to celebrate our Shared Commitments.

Anna, Ben and I returned to the scene of the crime to celebrate our Shared Commitments.

Thanks to the Bloomington Public School System, Anna communicated “visitor” and “Supermarcado” with girlish sincerity in a way that the young officer decide to show pity on the stupid American 50-something male driver. The officer returned from her car, waved her finger at me like a two-year-old and said: “No citacion – no more U-turns.”

After visions of spending the night in a Mexican jail, I was grateful, relieved and significantly humbled by my leadership lesson from vacation.

Good leaders make a habit of negotiating shared commitments with their teammates before venturing off into bold new territory.  And they embrace the skills, talents and unique abilities of their team members to keep them out of trouble.

Please share with our readers: what leadership lessons have you learned from a vacation lately?

Anna, Ben and Katie all learned to speak a little bit of Spanish in the public schools.  Thank goodness.

Anna, Ben and Katie all learned to speak a little bit of Spanish in the public schools. Thank goodness.