Roadblock #10: “I Don’t Need An Outside Expert Giving Me Advice On How To Grow The Business” (Lesson 10)

 
 
Admitting that you’ve reached a place where it’s time to start looking outside the company for advice and experts who can help bring you to the next level is not an admission of weakness. On the contrary, I believe it shows strength in leadership.

Is there really any pride in going down with the ship?

No…and I know this from personal experience…literally.

Is This Really Happening?

When I meet with a prospective client and we’re talking about how I can best help them achieve their goals, it almost inevitably comes up: I was a passenger who was thrust into a rescue position when a ship I was holidaying on hit an iceberg off the peninsular of Antarctica and sank in 2007.

Usually, people’s eyes get wide when that nugget of information is uncovered.

Yes. Ship…iceberg…Antarctica…sank.

I love to try new things and have exciting experiences, but had no idea what I was in for when I invited my mum and sister on a holiday down to the bottom of the world.

Where else can you go in the world that has no indigenous human population and less than 50,000 people per year visit? That means for every million people on earth, about seven see Antarctica. On our ship, there were only 154 people.

One night, around midnight, I was sitting at the bar when my sister returned from having a smoke.

“David, there’s water at the bottom of the stairs. Shall we tell Mum?”

Tell Mum? Tell the crew!

The ship’s starboard side was under 100 millimetres of water, but our mother, on the port side, was still asleep when we reached her. As we were waking her up, the speaker came on: “Captain here! Captain here! This is not a drill! This is not a drill! I will be calling muster! I will be calling muster!”

The captain returned to the speaker a few times in the next hour and told us the flooding was under control and there were ships 10 hours away that were coming to help us. He said we’d be fine and the only concern would be if ice came along.

Then it happened.

“Abandon ship! Abandon ship!” the captain yelled over the loudspeaker.

Our safety briefing was a two-week-old memory at that point. We’d left Argentina so long ago, and who pays attention to those things when they get on a plane or a ship? I’m sure there was a clever Titanic reference to be made, but I could see since the boat had lost power the crew was having a difficult time releasing the lifeboats.

I helped the crew get the passengers into the boats and the boats into the water, away from the sinking ship.

The boats were made from typical timber and small motor would start. My boat lost an oar shoving off from the sinking vessel—not that oars would have done us much good.

We bobbed around in the frigid ocean for about five hours until another cruise ship and a National Geographic expeditionary boat reached us.

When we were brought to Chile, we found that the sinking had made international news. Sure, I lost my wallet, camera and phone to the angry sea that day, but I came out on the other side feeling like a stronger person.

That night is still fresh in my mind and I don’t regret going on that adventure. When the going got tough and we faced peril, the passengers and crew pulled together to achieve our common goal. That’s the kind of thing you’re never sure you’re capable of until it happens, but it sure makes for a fascinating line under the heading of disaster management experience.

Avoiding Disaster With Outside Help

There were things that the crew did very well, but there were also times when there was a monkey wrench thrown into their disaster preparations and they stumbled.

Imagine, if they had been too biased in their thinking of the way we “should” be saved and not what we would have to do to actually be saved. Thankfully they allowed us, passengers, help out. I’m guessing part of it was that they saw it as a life-or-death situation.

While nobody is going to plunge to the bottom of the ocean if your business fails, there are decisions that are very much life-and-death for the health of your organisation. Are you capable of making those decisions when things get tough? Are you capable of making the right decision before things go too far?

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if the boat started taking on water two or three hours later and everyone was asleep. Would things have gone too far? I don’t like to think that was possible, but I’m sure you don’t like to think that about your company, either.

After the sinking of the ship, I know that many companies who provide tours of that part of the world took a very careful look at their safety protocols and the way they handled their operations. Many were smart enough to bring in experts from the outside.

You’re always going to have blind spots in how you do business. You have internal biases and beliefs that you don’t even know are there. It’s like when you write something and make a mistake but, no matter how many times you read it, you can’t spot the mistake. But, if someone else puts a mistake in their writing, you spot it immediately.

Bringing in a trained set of eyes from the outside, someone who doesn’t have restrictive mental barriers, myopic thinking and internal biases, is key to getting a true 360-degree look at things. There’s something stopping you from breaking through. It’s probably several somethings, but first on that list is your way of doing things.

Get somebody from the outside to do a top-down review of your operations. You’ll need to check your ego at the door, and that’s a good thing. You want somebody who is going to roll up their sleeves, address the elephants in the room and challenge you with respect.

I hope you’ll consider contacting my office so we can take a look at how to bring you to the next level. You don’t want to be on a sinking ship. I’ve been there.