I had a scary situation on the weekend. We decided to take the Christmas lights off the house and I recruited 3 family members for this job to navigate a large extension ladder. The ladder was extended about 25 feet to the edge of the roof. I ensured the bottom was planted properly and was not going to slip. It was solid at the top and I had 3 spotters holding the ladder. Up I went and I got about 10 lights unclipped and took a couple of steps down when a huge gust of wind came and started blowing me sideways. I instinctively shifted my weight to one side to stop the sliding but one leg of the ladder was dangling off the end of the house. This is when time stopped.
I breathed and calmed my energy. I noticed my 3 spotters freaking out down below. I pushed out of all the noise. In what felt like 10 minutes, but must have been only seconds, I analyzed my options:
a) I could tell everyone to move away from the ladder and direct my fall without the ladder landing on me. For sure, I would be injured but everyone else would be safe.
b) I could try to jump to the roof of a nearby building. That would be too risky because I am not a lemur.
c) I could try going back up to get to the roof or run down as fast as possible. In either case, the ladder was too unstable and I didn’t think either option would work.
d) I could try to jump the ladder back onto the edge of the roof. Also, risky because another gust of wind could blow and I could go down.
In the end, I eliminated b) and c). Those felt a little Jackie Chan to me and I am more of a realistic optimist. I figured, a) might be the foregone conclusion so I might as well give option d) a shot. I am happy to report that I am writing to you without any injury and my ladder hopping skills are much better than I expected.
Afterward, I debriefed with my family. There was a lot of emotions to be explored with everyone and I wanted to give them the space to declare their feelings and share their perspective. In the end, we all agreed that if I had panicked, there would have been a very different outcome.
All of this can apply to how you lead yourself and your team. This is an extreme example because of the high-stress situation, but the principles can apply in most day-to-day leadership examples.
1) Create space. Do what you need to get calm and clear your mind so you are making decisions from a grounded place.
2) Reflect and analyze. Identify the tasks or goals you need to achieve in your day and consider the options to complete them.
3) Decide. Choose the best path forward.
4) Engage your Team. Include them in your decision-making, during the process, and debrief at the end on what went well and what could have been even better.
Sometimes we spend so much time thinking about how to best lead others or lead teams, that we forget the best place to start is with ourselves. Self-Leadership needs to be part of the entire leadership model as you continue on the leadership journey.