Wouldn’t it be nice if we had all the information we needed to make decisions…especially when the stakes are high?

But, we don’t do we?

In fact, more often than not, we are faced every day with tough decisions and not all the information we’d like to have concerning that decision.

My Mom and Dad – Anita and Rex Mann – went through just such a situation a few days ago that really brings this leadership lesson home.  They live alone in an old farm house in Kentucky.  They are tough and resilient people, but Mom and Dad face real world challenges just like you and me.

In the great northern areas of the U.S. like Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin, heavy snowfall is a normal thing.  It happens every year.  One of the things that often occurs during those heavy snowfalls is a phenomenon called an Ice Dam, which can spell disaster for a house and roof.  Here is what happens:

The snow falls heavy on the roof, the heat from the house rises and melts the bottom layer which runs down to the unheated edge of the house and re-freezes, forming a dam.  The water pools and stands against that dam.  The water will start to find its way inside the home causing a major leak inside the house (their master bedroom in this case) and eventually a collapse of the entire roof if not addressed.

KY Blizzard 1

This is a problem Northerners deal with all the time.  They actually have companies up north that come out and fix the problem with steam, but people like my Mom and Dad further south never see despite some pretty rough winters…until recently.

The record cold and snowfall in Kentucky brought the curse of the ice dam right into their home and out of nowhere, the roof started leaking and the heavy snow build up on the roof indicated a structural collapse of the ceiling was imminent.  The pitch on Mom and Dad’s roof is ridiculously steep and the snow dam was well out of reach from just scaling the ladder and standing on it.

Ky Blizzard 3

Plus, it was colder than a well diggers…well, you know.

Desperately calling contractors, builders, and repairmen around their little town of Mt. Sterling, they found no one who knew how to solve the ice dam problem or who was willing to brave the brutal cold and risk injury to fix it.

Mom and Dad stepped back and took another approach – they “Googled it” – They found some helpful information on ice dams, including recommendations on ways to bring the snow piles off the roof.

The weather outside was brutal and slippery.  More snow was on the way.  And there was no certainty on the structural integrity of the roof.  Was it near collapse?  Would the slightest touch cause it to fall in making a bad situation worse?  Would my Dad and Mom be injured trying to fix it?

Two hard choices:

The first choice my folks faced was doing nothing.  This minimized the risk of my Dad not getting hurt but maximized the chance that the leak would become catastrophic and the roof would likely collapse during the next impending snowfall event within 24 hours.

The second choice my folks faced was taking the limited information they had from Google and acting on it.  This increased risk to my Dad, but had the best choice of saving the ceiling.

They chose the second option.  My Dad built an improvised tool to pull snow off the roof, ascended the ladder with hatchets and pioneer tools and managed to get the snow off – averting the crisis.

Ky Blizzard 2

So what can be learned from this?

No, this is not a call to action for Moms and Dads everywhere to mount ladders and solve their own home emergencies.  I was worried sick that my Dad did this.

Nor is it a call for Baby Boomers to use Google more in their lives (Although I suspect those who know my Dad will have fun with him on this post, and I highly encourage them to do so 🙂

What we can learn from this is that often in life, when the stakes are high, we are faced with two bad choices.

No matter which direction we go there is risk and reward.

Leadership, in the real world, requires us to dispassionately assess both bad choices.

Then weigh them informed by the best information we can get at the moment.

My Mom and Dad could have thrown up their hands in surrender after calling around their small town and getting no answers.

Instead, they looked broader to the internet, and found a solution – not a great solution, but a potential solution nonetheless.

With only about 70% of the information they needed to succeed, and facing a very tough crisis, they stepped into the moment and acted fearlessly on what they knew, prepared to accept whatever consequences that followed but busting their tail to achieve their goal.

That’s how it goes.

That’s real life.

And that’s how we can take 70% and act on it.

Until next time, thanks for what you do…



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