Updated: Jun 5, 2022
Tim and I were scheduled to meet for breakfast at 7am but he was uncharacteristically late.
So I called him to inquire whether he was okay and if everything was fine. He reassured me that he was fine and sorry to be late. He said he would provide an update when he joined me, and that proved to be about 10 minutes later. He did.
As Tim took his seat, he apologized again for being late and proceeded to explain his reason. He shared that this day was different. It was colder than yesterday, there was a film of snow and possibly some ice on the ground, and the wind was more brisk than it was the day before. From his vantage point as CEO of a multi-million dollar construction company, the risks to life, property and equipment were greater and warranted some extra attention.
He expressed great confidence in the competence and leadership of the members of his company. They had an exemplary safety rating, an outstanding health and safety process that was adhered to with considerable levels of positivity, and a culture in which everyone took responsibility for preserving and improving safety outcomes.
Nonetheless, he took it upon himself to participate actively that day in "reminding the team to pay a little more attention and secure items from the winds, and address the conditions of that day that posed a greater-than-customary risk."He was not going to leave anything undone that could be done, by him. This conversation exemplified a few pivotal behaviors that great leaders model.
Identify risks and opportunities daily
Every day has the potential to present new dangers, threats, risks and opportunities. And they often do. Great achievers and leaders do not take events and conditions for granted. They remain vigilant for the inevitable changes that occur and are usually ready and willing to act to mitigate the risks and capture the opportunities.
It is not enough to be aware of what's problematic or might present an opportunity. Effective leaders assess situations and take action promptly. They are decisive. They know that timeliness is of critical importance in avoiding loss and seizing opportunities for gain. And they do so even as they know such action causes them to affect something or someone else. In this instance, Tim weighed the cost of being late for breakfast against the possible cost of omission in bringing the unique risks of the day to the attention of his team.
Communicate to create the desired culture
It has been stated repeatedly, "you're going to have a culture, the one you create or the one that just happens." Great leaders are clear about determining the culture they wish to have attract, retain and inspire the finest and most productive team members. And they take steps every day to ensure their words and actions convey and model what is agreed to and expected.
In stopping for a minute or a few to speak, write or act in ways that convey what is valued and significant to your team and the well-being of your organization, you will shape attitudes and behaviors and shape the culture in positive ways. The few minutes you invest in small gestures that reinforce your commitment to the values of your organization could save and generate millions of dollars. More importantly, it will save and make valuable lives.
Renwick Brutus is the founder of Achievement Resource, LLC, a performance improvement consultancy that develops individuals and organizations to use more of their potential, create high-performance cultures, and improve performance and results. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.