Wanting to Do What I Wanted To Do
It was 1pm when I finally arrived at the beach in Lewes, Delaware. I had driven three hours, checked into my AirB&B, and was ready for a swim in the rejuvenating salt of the ocean. As I popped my trunk to get my swim bag, I heard the show-stopping sound that an eager swimmer doesn’t want to hear: thunder.
Arriving at the top of the sand dune that stood between my car and the ocean, I saw dark clouds far off in the distance. I also heard the piercing sounds of lifeguard whistles, insisting that everyone get out of the water.
Having witnessed similar storms in Lewes, knowing that they rarely make it to the beach, and really wanting to swim, I jumped in, promising myself I’d get out if I saw lightning.
Warning: Danger Ahead!
Not even a half-mile into my swim, I saw lightning, and begrudgingly got out. As I walked along the shore line, in the opposite direction of my belongings, I kept thinking this storm would blow over any minute, so that I could get on with my treasured swim.
Ten minutes later, the thunder cracked so hard it felt like the earth shuddered beneath my feet. The wind and rain picked up. With rain flying in my eyes, I lowered my goggles, and once again reassured myself: this will blow over.
Potential Calamity Strikes
Moments later, the wind was so intense that I had to turn my back. Free exfoliation treatment, I thought as the pelting sand felt like it was removing a layer of skin. Almost as soon as I turned my back to the wind and sand, a massive blue beach shelter flew right over my head. I was thankful it hadn’t impaled me; I wouldn’t have seen it coming.
That’s when I knew it was time to head back. When I did, I noticed two gentlemen trying to secure their belongings. I remember thinking, “You two should get out of here, it’s dangerous.” I don’t know why that thought never occurred to me, for me.
Being Forced To Choose The Lesser Of Evils
I was standing in a scene out of a post-apocalyptic movie. The clouds had turned deep gray, the ocean was churned up, and the storm literally did an about-face within seconds of me turning to head back. Along with the change in direction, the temperature dropped 30 degrees, and added hail to the mix.
With blowing hail pelting me and incredibly strong winds making the hail hit even harder, I needed to do something. But what? There was nowhere to run, and now I was shivering.
Thankfully, the lightning had stopped, and I realized my best and safest bet was in the water. So, I jumped back in the ocean, swimming close to the water’s edge, waiting for that moment when the hail lightened enough that I could get out and run to my belongings.
Jostled and thrown about by the waves, I wondered if I was making any progress. By the grace of God, twenty minutes later I jumped out and ran to my sand and water-filled bag. Shaking my sandals clear of sand, I ran to my car.
The Storm Finally Passes
Sitting at a local coffee shop a couple of hours later, I listened as a woman read the news from the storm I had been caught in.
60 mile-an-hour winds
Hail, 1-inch in diameter
As I listened to the severity of the storm, not only did I count my blessings, but I also began noticing all the warning signs I had ignored:
- Lifeguard’s whistles
- Intense wind
- Blue umbrella that flew over my head, and could have hit me
Hail pelting me at 60 miles-an-hour is what finally got through to me. The pain was great enough to shake me awake, and I knew I had gotten myself into a dangerous situation.
Peeling back the layers of this experience, I realized that I was unwilling to deal with reality. I thought that things would just work out. The experience didn’t work out the way I had hoped it would, and in the process, I put myself in a perilous situation.
Where’s the thunder in your business?
Is it an employee who starts showing up late just three weeks into their job, a toxic employee, or gossip?
Where are the lifeguards in your business?
Is it a manager who comes to you with a problem they’re having with someone? Are they trying to blow the whistle, to alert you to a critical issue, but you’re not listening?
Where are you ignoring the thunder in your life and in your work?
Where is the feedback that you’re ignoring?
And, are you ignoring so many warning signs that it takes wind pelting you with hail to show you that you need to pause and perhaps adjust your plan?
Warning Signs To Watch Out For On Your Team
While by no means an exhaustive list, here are some warning signs to watch out for on your team:
Competitiveness. Competition can be great. However, when team members compete with each other to the detriment of customers, other team members, or the company as a whole, there’s a problem that needs to be addressed.
Over promising & under delivering. There are a variety of ways you could end up over-promising, and then not being able to deliver. For example, your sales team may be incentivized to sell, but your customer service team may lack the bandwidth to handle the sales volume. Your customer loses out on receiving your very best, and your reputation can suffer as a result.
Lack of team spirit. Are the people on your team actively seeking to help and support each other? If not, consider bringing your team together to make sure they understand what they are striving to achieve together. When a team lacks clear direction, it’s hard to know how each person’s contribution matters. This breeds unhealthy competition, information hoarding, and can cause trust to diminish.
Gossip. Gossip is always negative, and can quickly and easily suck the life out of a team. It puts people on edge and hampers their ability to focus, share, and shine.
It’s not a matter of if a leader will have to deal with these challenges, it’s a matter of when.
What’s the Good News?
The good news is, unlike my ignoring all the warning signs of danger that were in front of me in that storm, you can heed the warning signs and get the support you need when you need it.
Consider these questions to understand areas that need your attention:
Are your team members owning responsibility for their results? Are they pushing themselves to new levels of excellence? What are their results showing you about their capabilities and needs?
What are your team members showing you about you, as a leader? What’s needed? Where do you or they need to shift focus?
Do you have someone on your team who’s dragging the rest of the team down? Are you avoiding a problem employee, hoping they’ll get the hint about their behavior? Avoidance doesn’t typically lead to improvement.
Is your team visibly enthusiastic about their job, career, and opportunities for growth? Do you check in with them regularly, ensuring their continued progress? Have you established opportunities for growth?
Are you still excited about the work? Are you keeping yourself recharged and engaged in your vision for the company and your team? If not, consider taking a couple of days away with a journal, or hire an executive coach who can help you regain your vision and sense of purpose.
Do you hear the thunder?
Challenges brought about as a result of ignoring difficult conversations are reversible, but only when they are noted and addressed. If you are ignoring the warning signs because you don’t know what the signs are, don’t know how to have difficult conversations, or are having difficulty finding the motivation to have the difficult conversations, the storm around you may grow.
On the flip side, the more safe and connected your team feels at work, the more willing they will be to take risks and give their best. Work to bring problems like these out into the open so that they can be dealt with, and used as tools to deepen trust, engagement, and even innovation.
Here’s to Your Greatness,
Misti Burmeister has been helping leaders have difficult conversations, increasing engagement and productivity across generations for more than 15 years. Help your team reach its highest potential at https://MistiBurmeister.com