Before my brother Jack and I visited Costa Rica in 1997, Jack researched all the places of interest and there were many. However, we soon found that dangers existed within the beauty of the rain forest. Our hosts taught us about these dangers. There were jaguars, scorpions, poison dart frogs, a number of deadly poisonous snakes, and even poison trees. We encountered several poison dart frogs but were spared any contact with the rest of these strange dangers.
We went about our trip, rafting the Sarapique River, soaking in natural hot springs along the side the road, and hiking at the base of a volcano. It was a memorable trip. After visiting the border of Nicaragua, we traveled south to the beaches of Quepos.
As quickly as possible, we made our way to the Pacific Ocean. A vacant spot beckoned us where we noticed a large triangle someone had marked in the sand. We were curious whether the nonverbal message had a meaning but the urgency of the waves drew us into the water for some body surfing. So, we dropped our backpack and towels.
The waves were worthy and it took a while before they exhausted us. We returned to our belongings and began drying off with our towels. Suddenly simultaneously, we felt bites wherever our towels touched our bodies. Fire ants transferred from the towels were feasting upon us.
Finally, we understood the message. Someone had suffered the same fate as we and was warning us by diagramming the parameter of the fire ants' nest. After we felt their wrath, we shook the towels, grabbed the backpack, and moved a safe distance from the ants. In a matter of minutes, the persistent ants came out of the backpack and attacked us again.
Jack and I surveyed the area and saw no clear signs of danger. Being in a foreign place, danger was different from that in Ohio. Sometimes we understand the signs of danger when it is too late.
When Jack and I traveled to exotic places, we realized that there were things we didn't know about the new environments. Although not uptight about it, we kept our eyes open. Even with alertness, we stepped into a bad situation.
Today danger comes with many faces. While as leaders we need to spend our energy on our successful future, we should also be aware of the actions of our competitors, dysfunction within team communication, or deteriorating morale. If leaders on a regular basis ask questions about these and other dangers, they will not accidentally step into a painful outcome.
R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray's new book, "Tons of Stone above my head: Coal Mining Stories with Leadership Lessons," visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.