Monday, July 5, 2010

Lost and Found

I hope all our LiaV community that celebrate the July 4th Independence Day did so safely.

We certainly did and have a leadership lesson from it. The evening of the 4th was spent at Waveny Park in New Canaan for the fireworks display. It was your quintessential New England small town event. There were lots of families, food and blankets laid out in the park.

As we walked around, I noticed this child wondering aimlessly alone. The kid was probably about 2 years old and there was definitely no one watching her. This seemed a little odd to me so I pointed it out to my wife. Barbara went immediately into action, catching up with the child, attempting to talk to her and taking her by the hand to the nearest police officer. It was interesting how much different we each reacted in the same situation. I noticed something unusual and pointed it out. Barbara analyzed the situation, found it to be unacceptable and took action. It was an interesting leadership lesson. Observations are easy. Taking action is harder.

Have you ever observed a serious situation where someone else took action? What was it that held you back?


Karel Goodwin said...

I think the difference between pure observation and observation with action depends on how certain we are about our observations.

A few days ago, while in the drive-through lane at my local Whataburger restaurant, I saw the car in front of me move forward. I started to move forward also, but stopped suddenly because the car in front of me wasn't moving. I continued to watch this car as the driver received the order and moved toward the exit of the drive-through. I never saw the brake lights come on. Or actually, the light at the top of the car's rear window lighted, but the brake lights near the bumper did not. Even though the driver stopped at the end of the drive-through to throw away some trash, the car stopped but the lower brake lights never came on. After I received my order and exited the drive-through, I noticed that the car in question had stopped in a parking space. I pulled in beside this car, but couldn't get the driver's attention. So I got out of my car, tapped on the door window and told the driver that the brakes on the car were not working. When I told the driver, the driver seemed totally disconnected and hardly recognized what I was saying.

Since I had the opportunity to observe that car for more than 10 minutes, and observed several events where the lower brake lights should have come on (because the upper brake light was on), I was fairly certain that my observations were correct.

A second thought. Maybe everyday we are prompted with opportunities to exhibit random acts of kindness. Our willingness to accept those opportunites is probably guided by how certain we are of our observations or assumptions and our willingness to observe.

StayInformed said...

I also find it interesting that some job positions, specifically those where you are assigned as a paid observer (security, police and other public service positions)actually preclude you from getting involved to the point of action.For example Bus drivers are not allowed to intervene when a crime is committed on their vehicle( call 911and most security guards are paid ONLy to observe and report. Has our society evolved, or de-volved, to the point of inaction and a lack of affirmative leadership if liabilty is an issue. Unfortunately the answere is "yes". Those of us who make leadership decisions must be that much more vigilant and sure of ourselves.

Lynette Rhodes-Garmonsway said...

That is an interesting situation. When training groups and focusing on ownership of situations I've frequently used the example of dining in a restaurant. You can tell the server who is ready to take charge and get something done when you complain about your meal, that's the server who immediately picks up the plate from your table. The server who is not prepared to take charge is the one who will leave the plate in front of you as long as possible before picking it up and heading to the kitchen holding that plate as if it contains a coiled and venomous snake!

I've found myself on both sides of this equation in far more serious circumstances. I once observed a motorcyclist being hit by a car running a red light, the motorcyclist came off the bike and went skidding right across the intersection in front of me. I was a passenger in a car and immediately leapt from the car, almost before the motorcyclist had come to a stop, to go and assist while telling my driver to dial 911. Does that show leadership? Or was it simply instinct? And if it was instinct, what does that say about my leadership skills if anything?

On the other hand I have also seen a person lying on a city sidewalk appearing to be in great pain. Because I have heard too many stories about people being mugged by being fooled into thinking someone needed assistance, I did nothing but point it out. Someone else took action. I didn't like that I did that, but I sized up the situation and believed in that situation my personal safety was at more risk. I'm not sure what this says about my leadership skill except that I will not put anyone at risk, and will not ask anyone on my team to do anything I would not do myself.

Karel Goodwin said...

A second thought. Maybe everyday we are prompted with opportunities to exhibit random acts of kindness. Our willingness to accept those opportunites is probably guided by how certain we are of our observations or assumptions and our willingness to observe.

Doug Hatch said...

I certainly have experienced the same by others but this weekend we returned home from spending the afternoon at my in-laws pool and noticed that the yard of a house in the neighborhood, (who has had loud obnoxious parties in the past), was full of cars. "Oh no", was my wife's response to the sight. I took a wait and see attitude. I was pretty tired from a day full of sun, pool water and 'beverages', so I hit the hay pretty early 10:00 and the noisy neighbors had at least kept the speakers inside so the music didn't sound like a boom box outside the screen door on the deck. They were however hoot'n and howler'n at their usual obnoxious level, but I fell asleep none the less, and it was only 10:00pm so kids will be kids.

My wife and kids woke me up a little after midnight as they were finally coming to bed. they were complaining that they couldn't leave the screen doors open, (to let in the refreshing cool night air), because the noisy neighbors were keeping up their obnoxious volume. Personally I thought they were much better than they had been before but I was getting annoyed at my wife and daughters complaining and keeping me from sleeping. I said stop complaining about nobody doing anything about it and call the police. To which she said she was not going to be the one.

So I quickly took it into my own hands, called the police and asked if they could send an officer over to the noisy neighbors and remind them that this is a residential neighborhood, it is after midnight, and please take their celebration inside so our neighborhood, (or at least those of us without AC), could get some rest. My wife went out on the deck to listen to the results and came back in 15 minutes later, happy that it was quiet again. I was happy she would be quiet again! ;)

Heath Davis Havlick said...

My example is similar to Lynette's. I was walking down the street with a friend when we saw a person on the ground, unconscious. I thought, "Wow. I hope someone helps that person." My friend, a former life guard, ran over and administered CPR and revived the person! Why didn't I act? Because it actually DID NOT OCCUR to me. I'm a logical analyzer type; I tend to think my way out of problems. But I'm a good natural leader in other ways.

I think it comes down to taking personal responsibility to do what you can and learning from your moments of inaction. That episode has stuck with me all these years, and I am much more proactive now.

Craig Peters said...

I recently was presented with a situation where I did act. However the two other people who initially observed the situation, a running vehicle with 3 children under the age of 8 sitting in a van, while the parent was in the coffee shop. While we stood idle discussing the parent's stupidity, no one moved into action. I finally decided to go to the van and shut off the ignition. Once I stepped up to the vehicle, I made a quick assessment and decided to just interact with the middle age child, whom had moved to the driver's seat, I would just keep him occupied and away from the shifting lever.
I believe that people don't react or take action is because they are afraid. Afraid is a relative term in that each situation presents a possible consequence that people don't want to have to be confronted with, i.e. sued, interfering and possible retribution from other parties, verbal abuse or worse. As in the above situation, we all thought it was a woman who would appear from the coffee shop. As it turned out it was a 6 foot 5 man whom I faced. I was a bit apprehensive about his reaction, as the other two individuals stood cross the parking lot informing him from a "safe" distance that they should contact DCYS. His attention was drawn toward them, but he was actually listening to me. I stayed very calm and just kept reinforcing the fact that the situation of leaving his children in a running vehicle was unsafe. Eventually he agreed with me stating, "You’re right" and got in and drove off.
Similar situations occur in the work place as well. People are afraid to make a choice that isn't status quo. In my experience I see that the relationships between managers and employees is lacking in that many manages don’t encourage employees to challenge what is reasoned as tried and true. And if they do, they are challenged in such a manner as to may them afraid to look for other alternatives to get their point across. I saw this simialar approach in my grad school, where professors felt supeior and took challenges as a threat, instead of listening to the ideas and being open to them.
With the recent influx of interns and the new younger employees, it is imperative that we strive to listen to their ideas and questions and not discourage them from becoming innovators and our future leaders.

Steven Zalesch said...

One of my main principles is not to be like the classic joke of the Boy Scout who helped the old lady across the street ... event though she fought very hard not to go. Another is to prioritize based on whether someone else is working the problem.

At my synagogue, I have identified several vacuums and filled the need. As a result of my successes, other people keep asking me to 'join their committee'. Either their the committee is doing its job fine (see the second principle) or they want to do it their way (see my first principle).

Sounds like your wife found a true need and satisfied it. The 'needs' we need to ignore are the unnecsssary ones and the ones being handled by others. Remember, our time is a finite resource that must be prioritized.

jimmy barrows said...

My problem had been taking on too much; thinking ever problem deserves my help. Reality works wonders. Mr. Freeman's comment for a movie trailer comes to mind "don't mow my lawn".

The first time resented my butting in hurt. It got easier. Don't get me wrong here; erring on the side of caution will always fit my character even if it stops the food from coming to the table; and it has.

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