Have you ever been in a situation where it felt like no one was in charge, things were disorganized and everyone was working against each other?
I once learned a valuable lesson many years ago, during my time as an operational front-line supervisor. My crew was moving a drill from one side of the pit to the other. I had a good crew of people to handle these moves, including a lead person, so I went back to my office to catch up on paperwork. At some point later I received a private call saying, “umm, we think we just hit some sort of overhead line. Its laying on the ground.” I’m embarrassed to admit that it didn’t really register what should happen. No one was panicking, it didn’t seem like a huge deal. Of course, the protocol, what should have happened, was that the lead should have immediately called out a mayday over the radio, which would have stopped all production activity and initiated an emergency response. Failing that, I should have called it. As it was, though, neither one of us did. Instead, I told them to hold up and that I would drive out to take a look. In the meantime, the production controller, not knowing that anything was amiss, asked my crew to move the drill out of the road because it was holding up truck traffic. They complied and tore down three more overhead lines in the process. What followed was utter chaos that took hours to sort out physically and weeks to sort out administratively. Not a shining moment in my professional career.
It was a hard lesson, but I learned much from that debacle. The most important thing is that someone needs to be the leader, rise to the occasion and do the right thing. My experience taught me the grave responsibility that comes with being a supervisor and the necessity to take action when things aren’t right. Fortunately, I was allowed to continue after and had the opportunity to redeem myself later on other incidents and events requiring strong leadership and good decision-making.
The takeaway is that people, teams, need leadership. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there needs to always be someone in charge issuing commands. However, someone does need to get out of the weeds, look at the bigger picture, develop a strategy and coordinate effort. If no one does, chaos is the result.