When your back’s against the wall, look up and read the graffiti.

15 12 2014

“Man is a strange animal.  He generally cannot read the handwriting on the wall until his back is up against it.” ~ Adlai E. Stevenson

Reading the handwriting on the wall can be stated another way as having situational awareness.  It’s a military term (at least that’s where I learned it) meaning that you know what’s going on all around you, including behind you.  Knowing what all of the people in your unit are supposed to be doing, and where they are in the execution of the mission can be the difference between success and failure.  Another military training norm is to know what the man ahead of you in the chain of command is supposed to be doing, as well as those that work for you.  That way, if the worst happens, the mission can still go on. Having back-up equipment, as well as back up plans are built into any good mission.  The military saying is “one is none, and two is one”.

It’s similar in the non-military workplace.  Leaders need to know what their boss is generally working on, as well as know what their direct reports are working on.  Of course, in corporate America, you may not know down to the exact detail what they’re doing, but you do need to know what’s happening, because they could get sick, quit, or otherwise leave at any time.  Otherwise, you’re bound to end up in a situation where your back is against the wall.

Speaking of handwriting…


Rubes cartoons used with permission. www.rubescartoons.com




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