Limited Visibility

Gerwig 2013-12-11

Do you wear glasses? Drive a car? Take photographs with a DSLR? There are some things that I let slide. They aren’t that important to me. They’re low on my priority list. Ironing my t-shirts is an example. I like to wear ironed t-shirts, but I’m not going to spend the time to iron them myself. On the other hand, clean glasses, lenses and car windshield are important to me. And I’m willing to clean them and keep them clean.

Why? Because I don’t like limited visibility. When driving my car, I like to see clearly through the windshield. I like to see where I’m going. I like to see what’s coming at me. … When wearing glasses, the same applies. I like to see others clearly. Dirty lenses give me a headache and cause limited visibility. … When taking photographs, I ensure that my lens is clean. No smudges. No fingerprints. If the lens is dirty, the camera sensor has limited visibility. It won’t accurately record the real world.

To ensure I don’t have limited visibility, I work hard to keep my windows, glasses, and lenses clean. I use microfiber cloths to clean my glasses. I use compressed air to keep dust off my camera lenses. And I use glass cleaner to keep my car windshield clean. The process requires time. I clean my glasses several times a day. My camera lenses get cleaned based on usage and operating conditions. And my car windshield gets cleaned based on the weather and insect density. (I know. Yuck!)

What I hope is clear by now is that I like clear glass (pun intended). I spend two precious commodities to keep my glass clean: time and money. Yet, the end result is worth it to me. Clear visibility. I like to see others and other things clearly.

Though clear visibility is what I’m trying to achieve, there are times that I’m not successful. There are times when I experience limited visibility. There are times when I don’t see clearly. Recently, we experienced an ice-storm where I live. At one point, I ended up with nearly an inch of ice covering my entire car. The picture above is from inside my car looking at the windshield!

What do you notice? Yes, that’s right! You can’t see out. There is no visibility. I couldn’t drive the car. And no amount of glass cleaner and “elbow grease” would have prevented this situation. Simply said, there are times when despite your best efforts, you will experience limited (or no) visibility. What to do then?

When, despite your best efforts, you experience limited visibility, the best action is to slow down or stop. If you can’t see where you’re going, you might get off course, wreck, or, even worse, hit someone else and cause injury. Though by nature I’m a person of action, as many of you are, there are times to slow down or stop. One of those times is when you experience limited visibility. It is not the time to push on. It the time for caution or redirected action.

Instead of getting in my car and pushing the accelerator when I couldn’t see out the windshield, which would have resulted in negative consequences for me, the car and, perhaps, others, I stopped for a moment and developed a new plan. Then I set off on a different course of action. I turned the defroster on full blast and let it run for 30 minutes while I went back inside and took care of some other “chores.” Then I used an ice-scraper to clean the remaining ice off my windshield and, because I had clear visibility, resumed my original plan to drive to the grocery store.

As a leader, there are times when something will change. It could be an environmental factor (e.g. macro or microeconomic). It could be a new team member or boss. It could be a new strategic direction for your organization. Or it could simply be an emotional challenge that “clouds” your vision for a period of time and results in limited visibility. During these times, remember it’s OK to slow down, or even stop, while you reassess and perhaps change course. Or perhaps you need to simply stop for a short period of time. Whatever you do, don’t keep pushing forward when you can’t see. You could easily hurt yourself and others.

How is your visibility these days? Is it limited? Or is it clear? What dangers do you personally face when experiencing limited visibility?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]


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