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The ladder that shook the world.
What ladders int he road can teach us about leadership.
I went home to Long Island (New York) to visit family. We love to visit the Tanger Outlets…which really just means I walk around in circles while my wife educates me on the dos and don’ts of fashion for a 34-year-old guy.
On this trip, things were going smoothly on the Long Island expressway until we hit bumper to bumper traffic.
Break lights everywhere.
Yup, a ladder. A truck driver must have been clueless as this ladder fell from the back. Multiple cars must’ve drove over this thing. The bends, brakes, and contortions couldn’t have been made from routine drywall work or putting boxes on the top shelf of a garage.
This ladder was creating a commotion. Three lanes of highway coming to a complete stop for miles. People swerving left and right and breaking told me something was coming up on the road and as we always might think…”it must be an accident.” Well, this time, thankfully it wasn’t.
It was something much simpler.
A ladder on the road caused miles of cars to slow and stop, change lanes and question what was happening.
The most interesting part of this was that no-one stopped to do something about the ladder.
“Bro, Im going to pull-up next to this thing and let’s grab it and put to off to the aside of the road.” I told my brother as I realized what was happening.
We pull over in the middle lane, get out and head towards this ladder. At that moment I realize that everyone in the three lanes is looking at us. Some start waving their hands, I’m sure because they see two lunatics on the highway walking towards a ladder and we’re in the way of their dinner plans. Some start gesturing “what the hell are you doing?” with their hands. Others just shake their heads in disappointment.
We grab this ladder, carry to the side of the road and set it down.
Traffic is no more.
At work, at home, on a team, at any organization, many problems we see are only systems that have been going on for miles because others have not taken the time to remove the ladder out of the way.
Think about the problems you see on your team. Are they symptoms of something larger?
Most problems are like the traffic miles before the ladder. These problems shaped the flow of our organizations because we’ve have let these issues fester and sit while employees come and go without addressing it. Sometimes it can be a person clogging up the highway of efficiency, sometimes it’s a process that is slowing everyone down and sometimes it’s the lack of resources or knowledge. In any case, if you can see there is a problem creating all the traffic, if you can see that it’s just a ladder that needs to be moved, if you can pinpoint the actual issue…
…then stop, pull over, grab that obstacle and clear it. People will hate you for it. People will assume
you created the problem. People will even judge you or criticize you for it.
But you and I both know, that ladder was there before we got here and were the only ones doing something about it.
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