We have all heard the warning to “Look out!” It may have been when we are about to be in harm’s way, when we’re not paying attention, or perhaps when are not aware of a potential threat that someone else already sees. For example, as children about to step off the curb without paying attention, we might hear someone call to us to “Look out!” Or maybe in the airport with the people mover cart coming rapidly toward us when your travel companion who saw it first alerted us saying, “Look out!” For many of us, if it wasn’t for that admonishment at some time in our lives, we might have been caught in a difficult situation or been injured, maybe even seriously.
In the work place, it’s crucial that we take the time to evaluate our surroundings and “Look out!”. There, our surroundings aren’t just our physical environment, but the tasks and objectives of our workflow that could lead to success or peril down the road. The ability to “Look out!” beyond the current circumstances, checking to see what’s coming is an essential leadership trait. And, fundamentally, planning and preparation are the “Look out!” actions of the workplace.
It is vital to take time out from the task at hand to look into the future. Whether the future in question is later today, tomorrow, in two weeks, or 3 months down the road, “looking out” is critical for assessing the potential threats and opportunities that may be out there. Effective leaders know that they must be diligent in “looking out” for changes in schedules and to juggle tasks to meet pending deadlines. They know that they must take advantage when there might be gaps in the schedule to get other things done and to prepare in advance in order to prevent being overloaded when the schedule is jam packed.
How should you “Look Out!”?
- Daily, assess what you need to focus on for that day, and make sure those things align with your objectives for the current week.
- For 30 seconds daily, look ahead to next week and see how your current activities fit into those future plans.
- On a weekly basis, make sure you’re getting the most important things done first and look ahead to the following week to see how those tasks fit into what needs to be done next week.
- On a weekly basis, take 5 minutes to look at next month and see how your weekly tasks fit into all you must do next month.
- Repeat the same process monthly, spending time looking out at the following month and comparing to annual goals as well.
Good leaders are constantly assessing their work flow to make sure that they are prepared for whatever comes next and can adjust according to the ebbs and flow. If you are not taking some time every day to “Look Out!” by pausing to reflect on what is currently going on, you really are operating like that child getting ready to step off thet curb regardless of the traffic. You might be fine, but you may put yourself, or your team, in harm’s way.