June 26, 2009 Chris Fuller

Turning on the light

When you’re running the race and darkness has closed in around your sled – you can stay on the sled and worry about the darkness, think about the darkness, talk about the darkness – or you can turn on the light!

When running the race at night, mushers will turn on their headlamp. It allows them to see things they would not otherwise see AND allows others on the trail to know they are there. In business, part of moving from fear to persevere is to move things from the unknown to the known. This process is “turning on the light” where there are only shadows and where fear or discouragement is running high.

When fear and uncertainty grip us, we need to move as quickly as possible to unraveling the mystery and revealing the trail conditions. As leaders, this process is rarely pleasant, but it’s our sled, our team and our responsibility.

When moving to turn the light on a “dark situation” pull over to a checkpoint or create a camp site and walk through the following:

Look for the ‘You are here’ circle on the map.

Assemble the team and list out all knowns on a white board. This is probably not the time for the timid to hold their peace. From a personality stand point, those with the greatest knowledge through analysis are, also, usually introverted and may dislike confrontation. This means that you are going to need to give them permission to be rigorously honest and work to draw the information from them. Use communication that lets them know that their honesty and communication are vital to save the team from harm and they are not hurting the team – but may be providing life-saving information.

Don’t “Beat the dogs”

Reacting negatively or exploding on the team as they are giving you vital but unpleasant information will only serve to hurt you long term. The rest of the team will certainly withhold their opinions and the next time there is negative information they will let you take the hit, instead of being beaten for trying to help you.

List out the trail choices.

With the help of your team, run through all the possible scenarios (trails), follow each to their natural conclusions, consider best and worst case.

MUSH!

Pick the best trail, given the existing knowledge and start running. If you stay put, you’ll freeze to death. If you choose a wrong path, but you start soon enough, you will discover the error and make the needed correction! And if you get it right – you’ve saved valuable time and options. Problems rarely work themselves out and delaying decisions only limits the options. Great leaders make decisions timely and change them quickly if need be. Mediocre leaders change their decisions so slowly, they reduce their probability for success.

OWN the choice.

You are responsible for your life and your team. What that means is that you are Response-able. You are Able to Respond to whatever the situation is and work to yield the best results possible. When I say you’re responsible – I’m not discussing whose FAULT the situation is – only that you have the power, the ability to respond in that situation to work and move to the best possible outcome!

Be open, honest, collaborative, and empowered. When the storms hit (when, not if) we have more safety in numbers…As the Proverb goes, “.. in the counsel of many, a ruler’s throne is made secure”

Turn on the light! You are Response-Able!

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