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Virtual Tsunami

July 3, 2009

At one time or another everybody experiences the sensation that things have hit a snag for no apparent or readily discernible reason.  Things just stop going the way they were.   People become itchy and irritable, and progress slows to a crawl.

We have a natural and completely understandable tendency to seek explanations when such situations occur. Something or someone must be responsible.  We need to find the source.   We need to fix the problem.

Do we stop and take notice of things because they seem anomalous?  Or is it possible they seem anomalous because we stop and take note of them?  Well, as luck would have it, the search for answers to such extistential questions is itself part of the problem.

When we step on the brakes, even for just a moment, others take notice and do the same.  This triggers a chain reaction, which in turn propagates the disturbance like a ripple across the organizational and social pond until it becomes a “phantom traffic jam” like the one illustrated below.

Ripples in our own pond often originate on distant shores and have no direct relationship to what we’re doing or how we’re doing it.  Nevertheless, when we react with undue sensitivity to these swells, we can amplify their effects to the point they become waves capable of tipping our boat or inundating those around us.

A good leader must stayed tuned into what’s happening in the environment.  Taking notice, though, is only the first step in reacting to something.  Learning not to overreact can have a very positive effect on team members by keeping people calm and focused even when storms rage around them.

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