I live and mostly work in Southern California. That means spending time in traffic...a lot of time in traffic. When you're somebody like me, who seeks teaching opportunities in nearly every part of life, rush-hour traffic becomes fertile ground for thought experiments. Here's where my thoughts have taken me lately.
Consider a highway filled with cars to be like an interconnected organization. Each car and driver is independent, but not one can take an action that does not affect the entire organization. When someone merges into a lane and cuts too close to the car behind them, causing that driver to slam on his brakes, there's an immediate ripple effect. The cars behind hit their brakes, drivers in the next lane slow down out of caution, and traffic slows for some distance. Heaven help us if there's a traffic stop on the shoulder-gawkers can bring traffic to a crawl for miles.
The reminder here is that each of us impacts many others in ways we don't perceive, with even our smallest actions. In an organization where people are striving for better and constantly pushing their limits, little margin for error exists-something as simple as an angry word or a dropped deadline. Our actions, positive and negative, can and do ripple through the entire community. Tail lights flash. People lean on their horns and hurl accusations. Things fall apart.
Wise leaders watch and listen, not just for the sounds of great accomplishment, but also the ebb and flow of people and events in their organization to ensure that small actions aren't causing a traffic jam. Even better, wise leaders build capacity in others by teaching mindfulness about the impact of one's actions. No one is an island.
Are you encouraging mindfulness or contributing to the traffic jam?