Last night I was traveling for business and stayed in a lovely hotel. I was tired and ready for a great night’s sleep before my travels home. Alas, that was not to be because at 3am the fire alarm sounded. I was on my feet long before I awoke dancing around trying to hit whatever it was that was making the awful noise to get it to stop. Eventually the noise did stop and fortunately no one suffered anything other than the night cold while a minor problem was resolved.
Skip forwards an hour when my cell phone starts ringing. I had dropped it in my suitcase earlier when I was looking to silence the fire alarm and now it continued to ring as I sifted through my belongings in the dark. Panic struck as I saw my 18 year old daughter’s name appear on my call display – she is 5000km or 3100 miles away from home. “Hi” she says, “why are you breathing so hard?” Because you startled me awake. “Oh” she says “is the alarm on in the house?” My mind tries to process the odd question from her, given that neither one of us is near the house and I have just had one alarm settled. She proceeded to tell me that her friend wanted to break into our house to retrieve something. For various reasons I indicated that this would not be a good idea. Her response was “Well, that sucks. Ok, goodnight.” I then lay awake and attempted to understand what had just happened. This is when my mind shifted to leadership.
Have you been working hard and then believed you have reached a brief moment of quiet only to hear organizational alarm bells? What was your first reaction? Did you jump up and try to silence the alarm by any means including squashing something? Or did you stay still and assess what the alarm was warning you of?
What about competing and unrelated alarm bells sounding in a short period of time? What did that do to your senses?
How did you hear the organizational alarms – did someone sound them for you or did they come from your subconscious and your gut?
How did you filter the organizational noise?
Have you been working is such a noisy environment that the sound of the alarms is lost to you?
Have a listen to your workplace. See if there are external or internal alarms sounding about the organization’s health or your personal health. Assess whether you are dancing around trying to squash something or whether you are clearly listening to what is happening.
Find out what the commotion is all about before you hear someone else say…“Well, that sucks.” in relation to you or your organization. Find out if it is something you need to resolve by fixing the cause of the alarm or the alarm itself.
In my case, the cause of the first alarm was fixed. In the second it was the alarm that required resetting to better understand the criteria for a 4 am call because the urgent item sought in the potential break and enter was a favourite disposable razor.