What I’d like to talk to you about today is one of, if not the, most important tools in our Transformational Leadership training. At the very least, it’s one of the top three leadership tools that we think are most important, most impactful, and most helpful. The concept I am talking about is what we call bumper buddies. 

A Bumper Buddy Defined 

What is a bumper buddy? It’s someone who loves you enough to tell you when you’re getting off track and to bump you back on that track. And it’s someone you trust enough that you can tell them if you feel like you’re getting off track, if your mind or your heart is wandering into places that are not good for you or are unhealthy for you.  

The bumper buddy relationship is a two-way relationship that involves trust from both parties. Think with me for a moment about what would happen if we had those people in our lives, those bumper buddies, who love us enough to bump us back on track and we trust them enough to tell them if we see we’re getting off track.  

The Road Leading to Neverland 

Let me tell you will about a place I call my Neverland, a place where my “real self” is fully aligned and has a straight-line connection to my “ideal self.” That journey has no side roads or any sidetracks. It goes straight to Neverland, a place where, after I married, I would never get divorced or commit adultery.  

As I started on my journey to Neverland, one of the tenets of my journey was that I would marry and live happily ever after, devoted to the wife of my dreams. Of course, I knew intellectually there could be side paths leading off that straight road that could take me away from Neverland, but those paths seemed unimaginable and completely disconnected from me. 

The Side Paths Leading Away From Neverland 

What I didn’t count on was, as my journey continued, those side paths, at first, would only be slightly off track from my direct journey. And, at the beginning, I could jump back on the right path pretty easily and quickly. What I didn’t realize was that the more I stepped into those seemingly harmless paths, the easier it became to step into them more often and the farther away I got each time from my main Neverland road. . . until at some point, I had turned so far away from my road to Neverland that I couldn’t any longer even see that road. I had completely turned my back on the road to Neverland. 

Here’s how it began. It started with some feelings of rejection and me beginning to disconnect emotionally and physically. As my work demands began to include travel for business, I began to have more feelings of rejection, and as more travel demands emerged and I had to spend the weekends helping take care of the kids, I began to feel even more emotionally and physically disconnected which only resulted in even greater feelings of rejection. Then I began to fantasize about someone I would see at work, and I began to act out that fantasy in my mind. Then when I began to travel with that someone, KABOOM! It happened.  

I had done what I had been sure would never happen. I had gradually wandered away from and had eventually gotten farther and farther from that straight and narrow alignment of my “real self” with my “ideal self” that would have taken me to my destination of Neverland. At that point, I did what early on had been unthinkable. I’ve told my story before. I cheated on my wife. 

The Value of a Bumper Buddy 

But what if I had had someone to whom I could have said how I was feeling, that I was traveling a lot, that I was feeling rejected at home by my wife. A really good bumper buddy would have said to me, “Come on. Let’s get this straight. You’re gone all the time, and you’re feeling rejected? Get a clue. You’re the one who’s gone. You may be feeling rejected, but there’s a good chance you’re the one causing the rejection.” And my bumper buddy would have been able to speak the truth to me to bump me back onto my road to Neverland.  

And then let’s say I would have turned back onto my road to Neverland, but then slowly I began to drift away again. What if I’d had the courage to say to my bumper buddy, “You know, there’s this woman in this one factory in this one office that when I travel there I’m attracted to her, and I don’t know what to do about it.” A good bumper buddy would have said, “Stop traveling. Don’t go there. Get your wife. Get your kids and take them to your mom and dad’s house. And go and rekindle your marriage.” That’s what a good bumper buddy would do. 

What I can tell you now is that I know the value of bumper buddies, and I have surrounded myself with dozens of them. Every city I go to, every country I travel to, I have bumper buddies there with whom I have a relationship of love and trust, and there’s nothing I can’t share with them if I need to, and there’s nothing they can’t say to me if they feel in any way I am getting off the track on this road of being a transformational leader. 

Because I think bumper buddies are so vital, I would ask you now to stop and write down the names of those people who could be potential bumper buddies in your life. Who are those people whom you choose to be friends with who love you enough to tell you the truth and whom you trust enough to tell them when you need them to tell you the truth.  

Why do I think a bumper buddy is so important? Simply because you can’t do this leadership journey on your own. It is not possible. None of us can. We need each other. And we all need help as we journey on the road to our Neverland and keep our real and our ideal selves closely aligned together. 

Ford Taylor is a leadership strategist, keynote speaker, and the author of Relactional Leadership. As the Founder of Transformational Leadership, he is known as a man who can solve complex business issues, with straightforward practical solutions, while maintaining his focus on people.