Lessons From Commuting Chaos

Are you standing on the station waiting for the train with everyone else or taking your own lead? I’m fortunate that I don’t have to commute on a daily basis and so when there are significant train delays it’s an inconvenience but not a disaster …

watching my fellow passengers as other trains overtook us really got me thinking

watching my fellow passengers as other trains overtook us really got me thinking

For the second time in as many weeks, there were severe delays travelling to and from Euston. Overhead power lines were down and a poor soul was hit by a train. Please work with me on this, as painting the picture of what happened is important in understanding the lessons to be learnt.

The first sign that there’s a problem is people are not looking expectantly up the line for the sight of the train but are reading, standing back from the edge of the platform or even milling around outside the station. The second sign is that many of the information boards carry little or no information.

And when a train does arrive, the announcement gives no indication of further services so everyone crams into the carriages. Fortunately, we were expecting no more than a 35 minute high speed journey, but everyone just created some space and there was no engagement at all from anyone. And when we arrived in London, everyone disembarked and melted away to the Tube and the streets of London.

Coming home, the situation was far worse, one train beyond Watford and then nothing on the boards. Sparse advice to find alternative routes or even come back tomorrow!

So for several hours there was very little information; apps and online live services gave incorrect information. Some travellers went back to the Tube to find an alternative, whilst others just stood waiting. Again, very little information or advice of alternatives and how passengers would be redirected once they were able to get at least part of the way to their destination.

Perhaps because I don’t travel everyday I was more laissez-faire about the situation. I found somewhere to have a drink with Wi-Fi and power and so worked for an hour or so regularly checking the updates online. When I went back to the concourse and saw there was no change and the online train was virtual, I went away again for another hour, this time for supper.

Once I’d eaten, I found there were even more people who simply didn’t know what to do, who were resigned to waiting. Phones were running out, places to eat and drink were full and so they just stood. There was no one to lead them and there was still no communication of any real value. Some, including me, just took the initiative that to get part way home was a start and so took an alternative line, only to find that the 30 minute journey became 105 minutes as we watched other trains overtake us.

Again, some information about the train we were on, but no help for those who were only part way home. For me I couldn’t change or influence the situation; it was as it was and when I got to Milton Keynes I knew that one of the alternative solutions would be fine. Others were stressed, agitated, hungry, thirsty, tired, receiving calls from family asking were they were. But again, wanted someone to tell them all the options, or better still, give them clear instructions about what to do and where to go.

“Everyone simply wanted clear and open communication and then to be led”.

They were clearly conditioned to the delays as they happen on a regular basis and only a few were open to finding alternative solutions. You might ask why I didn’t find an alternative? Simply, I live in a small village sandwiched between 2 lines that operate from different locations. Using a different line from the same station was my best option and I made a decision based on the information and knowledge that I had available to me in that moment.

And that got me thinking about how the people were in their work and even home life. Do they need to have lots of up to the minute information to make a decision? Were they able to self lead? In his book “The Leader Who Had No Title”, Robin Sharma talks about the fact that we are all leaders and should be leaders every day in every aspect of our lives. And in doing so we will make a significant change and impact.

Of the people on the station, which was a floating population, some showed the initiative to self lead and others didn’t. What was interesting is that those who did show the initiative didn’t then take ownership of the decisions because when their regular trains were overtaking us, time after time, they were sitting with their heads in their hands blaming everyone for not giving the right information to make a decision before we boarded.

Whereas I knew I had made an informed choice based on the information available; it might not have been the perfect choice, I’ll never know, but it was the right choice at the time. No different to any choice I make in business or in life.

I wrote about supporting people when they have made decisions that were not always the best in a previous blog, but what about how we react to decisions we have made ourselves? How useful is it really to get stressed about the situation? How honest is it to blame others for not providing the right – or sufficient – information? Where is the personal accountability in that? Where is the authenticity?

In any situation we have the choice to act or not to act, or to act in certain way. We and we alone have made that decision and we and we alone have acted. And nothing is irreversible or cannot be turned around or overcome. In the ‘10 Human Regrets’ in the early part of “The Leader Who Had No Title”, number 10 is “you reach your last day and discover you could have been a leader and left this world so much better than you found it. But you refused to accept that mission because you were just too scared. And so you failed. And wasted a life.”

How many times in your daily life have you been too scared to accept the mission to self lead and be a leader in every aspect of your life? How many times a day do you wait for someone to lead you when you could be leading?

Are you standing on the platform of life waiting for the correct train to your normal destination and being told when to board and where to sit, or are you taking the lead? Are you finding your own way and all the possibilities that go with it?

If you’d like to stop waiting on the platform of life and become a self leader or want to find out more about anything I’ve mentioned here, then call me on +44 (0) 1296 681094, click here to ping me an email or even leave a comment below. 

Until next time …

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