It was dark. It was cold. It was rainy. The roads were slick and it was hard to see as I pulled out of the parking lot. My daughter and I were about to head home after watching a professional soccer match. We had a blast despite the weather and the final score of the game, but we were soaking-wet and tired. Pulling onto the street I abruptly stopped as I watched two people run across the road. Both were dressed in dark clothes and due to the rain and darkness were a bit hard to see. A large truck also pulling onto the road came within inches of hitting the would-be jaywalkers. The driver of the truck honked and revved his engine in anger; the people who almost got hit yelled obscenities and shared a few choice hand gestures.
What’s interesting is that the people should have plainly seen the truck about to pull out. At the same time the truck should have been looking ahead and seen the two pedestrians. Neither party saw what was right in front of them, even though it was apparent to others near the situation, me included.
I’m a fan of the Harrison Ford movie Clear and Present Danger, based on the book by Tom Clancy. How the truck was not seen as a clear and present danger to the pedestrians is mindboggling. By that same token, even though the pedestrians were not crossing at a designated crosswalk, the truck should have seen them. Their focus was somewhere else or on something else.
Professionally, there are dangers and risks right in front of me that I’m probably not seeing. Like dark nights and stormy weather, my personal biases, past history, personality, and experiences might just be working against me, even though the issues seem painfully noticeable to others. How often does a project fail and we heard people around the office say “that’s not surprising, we all saw it coming.”
Leaders, at least good ones, must be aware of clear and present dangers and conscious of any factors that distract their attention or cloud their judgment.
Simply recognizing potential pitfalls is a huge step in avoiding them all together. If you’re not seeing any, ask around. It’s more than likely that other people are seeing them and can give you valuable insight.
At your job or in your company, what things are clouding your vision or distracting your attention from recognizing and avoiding clear and present dangers?