I travel the interstate a lot and have had my share of flat tires as well as being surrounded by others who have had flats. There are different kinds of flat tires; the slow leak, tread shred, and the full tire fall-out. Below, I will address flats and how to handle those as a leader.
First, let’s address the slow leak. Within an organization, the slow leak is the hardest to detect. Typically, it is the person on your team who is slowly withdrawing into themselves and is no longer engaged. The leader must be actively aware of everyone in their organization. Truckers and Airlines inspect their vehicles every trip looking for leaks and damage. As leaders, we must do the same. If we forget and get busy with our daily activities, the slow leak can turn into a flat that hurts our organization very quickly.
Second, tread shred is a major problem. Drive any interstate system in America and will see pieces of tire on the side of the road. An outer layer of tread has fallen off the vehicle but the good news is there is still another layer. Unfortunately, if you are behind this vehicle, you are going to get hit with tread. I relate this to the teammate who unloads on you. You are minding your business and going through your day and Ka-boom! You are hit with tread shred. As a leader how you handle this problem, sets the tone for your entire organization. My suggestion is to pull the person aside and speak with them privately. Sometimes, people don’t even know they unloaded on someone. We all have bad days. Try to figure out what caused the problem (are there issues at home, is work too stressful) and get them patched up and back on the road. You might have to address the person who got hit as well. Tread shred is tough, but if everyone is open, you will be able to move on rather quickly.
Full tire fall out is a tough one. About six months ago, I was driving down the interstate and a tire came completely off the vehicle in front of me, bounced, hit my hood and rolled over the top of my vehicle. Clearly, this situation caused lots of swerving and an immediate stop. (Thankfully in my situation, no one was hurt). This is the most dangerous type of tire failure for a vehicle and your organization. This is not an issue with the tire but with the components that make the tire move. There are times, when situations outside of your area will cause a slow down or even a stop. No one wants to bring their project to a halt but these areas must be addressed. Again, I think it goes back to being vigilant and watching for clues. If we are paying attention, we notice the bumps, the squeaks and the hints that things are not going well. If we address issues early on, we are able to circumvent serious issues that will derail our projects and plans.
A leader handles flat tires (in all their many forms) by being alert, constantly and consciously checking the known systems and being on the lookout for impending danger. Following these suggestions won’t always lead to an easy drive to success, but will guide you there faster and safer than if you ignore them.