Will the green arrow save you?

No, the green arrow I am talking about is not a super hero, the green arrow is literally, a green arrow.

And it can’t save you. But I have a feeling a lot of people are waiting for it to.

The other day I was sitting at a traffic light, waiting to make a left-hand turn across a large, usually busy intersection. I was the first car in line, so moving forward was dependent on my actions. In front of me was a green light, but NOT the green left-hand turn signal. What was also in front me, was open road. Not a car to be seen coming the other way to impede my progress.

Yet, I sat there. Partly because I was lost in the song that was playing, partly because I had been conditioned to wait for the green arrow when turning left.

In this case, it was perfectly legal and safe to make the left turn, but it took a while for that message to make it to my brain. I guess I was waiting for it to be ultra-super safe.

That made me wonder how many times in our lives are we poised to move forward, yet we wait for some sort of condition, or in this case a signal, to tell us that it’s ultra-super safe to move forward and that there will be no risk in doing so?

Me thinks, a lot.

I know I’ve done it. When Linda and I were discussing whether or not to rebuild our website, there were many unknown factors. We had a green light in terms of having a business model that had been successful for four years, but could we sustain it? Could we make it work as a full-time business? At some point it would have been great to get the “green arrow” in terms of removing the risk from such a move, but that wasn’t going to happen. With any new venture, there is risk.

What green arrows are you waiting for? In what areas of your life or career are you waiting for the ultra-super safe signal to move ahead, when current conditions are potentially as favorable as they are ever going to be?

If you are struggling with a decision, don’t be afraid to try the old pro/con list. It may not be fancy, but it is effective in helping clarify your thoughts while putting the real benefits and challenges into a workable format.

What I really like about the con list, is that it gives you a to do list.  If done properly, it lays out the obstacles you need to overcome to avoid some of the risk. The pro column also shows the real and tangible benefits of the action. You may find the risk isn’t worth the potential outcome.

Or is it?

Thanks for reading!

About the author:  Matt Heller was listening to Rush’s Clockwork Angels when sitting at the light, being inspired to write this post.  Matt also produces a monthly newsletter with additional insight and articles.  To sign-up for email delivery, click here.

Got a leadership dilemma? Ask me! matt@performanceoptimist.com

Appearance counts

The other day, my wife surprised me with the gift of thrill rides.  These were thrill rides on TV, but nevertheless, they were thrill rides.  The Travel Channel was running one for their summer specials, this one was entitled “Extreme Terror Rides”.  Linda thought that sounded like something I would enjoy, so she set the DVR.  And she was right.

This particular episode was originally released in 2008, so I had heard of many of these contraptions, but many I had still not ridden.  So, I perched my feet up to enjoy the ride.

About 1/2 way through (more or less) there was one particular ride that riders had to weigh in for to make sure they had the right harness.  The attendant very proudly showed the camera what they used for a checklist.  This is literally a screen shot of what was shown.

Now, I have filled out my share of checklists in the past, and I have certainly seen the effects that living outside can have on a stack of papers and a clipboard.  My observation here is this: is this really how you want your facility portrayed on TV, or at all?

Most of us know that the perception of safety is largely determined by what we see and experience.  Notice I didn’t say reality… there was a study done once in the airline industry regarding why passengers didn’t fly on a particular airline more than once.  The surveyors expected to hear things like it was the schedule, price, even rude employees.  Overwhelmingly, though, the top reasons were things like coffee stains on the tray tables or trash left in the seat pocket.  People are equating the cleanliness and upkeep of the cabin with the safety of the aircraft.

Do people do this in our parks?  You bet.

So it may be time to double check your checklists, or other things that can give off the perception that you don’t pay attention to the details.

As a sad and sobering footnote to this story, there was a fatality in 2010 at the park with the messy checklists above.  Unfortunately, it was an operator not paying attention to the details that ultimately caused the accident.