On the farm where I grew up, there was a unique structure. In the front of the house near the road a 3-foot bank framed the driveway on both sides. On one side the entire bank was covered with a deck measuring 8 feet by 20 feet. For years prior to our buying the place, the local monument shop a quarter of a mile away had rented this deck to unload and temporarily store their grave markers. When we moved in, Dad discontinued the arrangement, creating a spot for us to play.
Soon, however, we found a danger in this area. A nest of red ants lived under the deck. When we jumped and ran on the deck, the red ants streamed onto the surface and attacked us. Of course, wisely, we fled for safety from the potential ant bites.
One day in a sudden surge of testosterone, we decided to fight back. Wielding hammers, my younger brother, Jack, and I quietly mounted the deck. We crept to the center of the deck where we always saw the red ants and simultaneously on the count of three began pounding on the 2-by-10 planking. Just like clockwork, the horde of ants flooded the deck. With expert precision, our hammers found their marks again and again. The pride of defeating the enemy pumped our adrenaline. As we pounded, we backed up with the approach of hundreds of fearless, ominous looking ants.
Suddenly, I heard Jack yelp in pain. My head jerked up to see Jack flinging his hammer off the deck and beating his pants. I hollered at Jack to get off the deck and quickly surveyed the area. The ants had flanked us and were coming up behind us and from each side. They had us surrounded. Jack jumped off the deck screaming bloody murder. I gave a few parting shots and joined him escaping the encircling army. This was not our last encounter with the red brigade, but our respect for their tactics grew.
This experience reminds me of today's chaotic workplace. As a competitive threat is identified, most leaders design a plan of attack. Then, the plan of attack is put into play. The marketplace today is more unpredictable than in the past. The plan with high potential becomes fraught with unknown, threatening elements. Or the threat changes unexpectedly. Effective leaders go back to the drawing board and modify the plan and try again. This planning and replanning is the nature of leadership today. We pay attention to our competitors, restructure our business and learn continuously in order to best deal with the chaos of our environment.
R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray's completely revised, third printing of "The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success," visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.