Last night, while stopped at a red light on our town’s main street, my 39 and 1/2 weeks pregnant wife and I were rear ended by a drunk driver. Fortunately everyone is OK, except headaches and stiff necks (thanks Mercedes).
What’s that got to do with leadership? Actually, everything.
Situational awareness and self awareness are key traits for a leader and worth thinking about for your home and workplace.
When tragedy strikes our news media would have you believe that no one ever saw it coming. “Such a quiet neighbor” is a popular quote. But there are always signs of trouble for the person willing to look and listen for them. Go check out Gavin De Beckers book “The gift of fear” When systems fall apart or things go wrong there are multiple points along the line where indications and warnings could have helped us see trouble before it puts people and companies out of business.
For starters, being self aware enough to realize you are in over your head, over budget, under staffed, declining health or simply drinking to much (he was taken away in handcuffs and couldn’t even take a field sobriety test he was so drunk). Are you asking for mentorship, guidance or help when you needs it or do you think you can “handle it” all on your own? One of the biggest reasons we lose good employees is they feel disconnected from leadership. It is cheap and easy to build a program that provides mentorship to new leaders in your organization why would you risk overworking or losing your best? A mentorship program is easy to implement and can have excellent return both to your bottom line and towards retention.
In the military we call it the “combat hunter mindset” or simply “situational awareness.” Figure out what normal looks like and then allow yourself to be aware of things that are not normal. There is a new book on the market called “Left of Bang” written by two Marine officers (Patrick Van Horne and Jason Riley) looking to promote our awareness and improve outcomes for people and businesses. What would happen to your organization if you could see trouble coming from farther off?
Leaders, at work and at home, don’t be complacent, someone served that man last night, someone saw him stumble away and get into his car. I think it would be a fair guess that this was not the first time he had ever gotten behind the wheel drunk and I’d bet someone knew.
Leadership is about standing up when you know things are wrong.
It can be uncomfortable but can your business afford to not do the right thing in the long run? Can you afford to allow unethical choices in today’s social media culture, can you keep your best employees if you don’t hold the line, would you stay in a company that was knowingly breaking the law?
You don’t need to be King Arthur and rush out to fight dragons, just be aware of your environment and be willing to talk about what you see. Be engaged in the discussion, encourage employees to talk about safety, quotas, the competition or doing the right thing and if “yes they all think that already” was your immediate response, how sure are you?
You cannot assume people are thinking like an owner, that is a cognitive bias called the “Illusion of transparency,” frankly people are thinking about their own problems.
You have a leadership obligation to actually talk about what needs to be done, never assume people know what you expect.
We were lucky, all three of us walked away (technically one was carried, but only for another week so I count it as a win). There are certainly more tragic stories out there than a long night, a pile of paperwork and finding another car. I feel for everyone whose life has been tragically altered by the thoughtlessness of others and implore people to step up and be aware of the world around them.
Leadership can make a difference.