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Warning Signs

Optimize Blog - April 24, 2017 - 0 comments

The Holy Island, also known as Lindisfarne, is off the coast of Northumberland in England and it is a popular tourist destination attracting thousands of visitors each year. The main danger you’re likely to face in Lindisfarne is simply getting onto the island in the first place. Lindisfarne is a tidal island, which means that the entrances to the island are profoundly affected by the tide. So why does it matter that the causeway is under water twice every day we hear you ask. Well it appears that the warning signs are consistently unheeded by a number of tourists and as we know, saltwater, rising tides and motor vehicles are not a good mix.
The lifeboat volunteers in the area are quite shocked by this apparent inability to take due notice of the very clear warning signs which provide ample notice of the safety issue. They feel that it is bizarre that tourists continue to try to drive on a tidal causeway outside safe crossing times. There are up to a dozen rescues every year.
Ian Clayton, from the Royal National Lifeboat Institute station is quoted as saying: “It’s incredible that people seem to think they can drive their cars into the North Sea.” Mr Clayton went on to say “It’s all so preventable and they all seem to think it’s not their fault, but they’ve totally ignored warning signs on both sides of the road”.
In business we come across warning signs frequently. Some we take due note of and alter our direction or behaviour and some we choose to ignore with oftentimes unfortunate consequences.
Spotting the warning signs is a key leadership skill and although they might not always be as obvious as the ones on the Lindisfarne causeway, it is essential that as leaders we tune our outlook to those leading indicators that foretell of trouble ahead.
Tuning in to these warning signs comes from experience but also from taking a proactive approach to the management of risk. Often the signs might be intangible like an increase in complaining from the team as a warning of disengagement. Perhaps a lack of communication from a key stakeholder as an indication that you have failed to meet expectations or even your team being kept out of the loop on an important project as an indication that your value is misunderstood.
When you miss the warning signs reflect on why you missed it and ensure that you don’t repeat the mistake going forward. Experience and practice are key and while most of us can spot the obvious warning signs in business surrounding our key performance indicators, it is the ability to recognize the subtle warning signs that sets the great leader apart from the good.
For people drowning their vehicles on the Holy Island causeway you have to wonder what people put on their insurance claim forms. The cause of the damage being stated as ‘stupidity’ doesn’t look great in black and white………

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