Signs, Signs, Everywhere the Signs

On a recent tour of Europe with my family we spent time in Italy. The history, food, gelato, and the architecture can only really be appreciated through a personal experience.  We traveled in a tour group of forty four made up of families with children ranging from about 10 to 18 years old.

We met our tour guide who handed out radios so we could hear her every instruction on the busy streets. She taught us Italian phrases we would need and pointed out signs all along our trip for us to remember in case anyone became lost.  One of our stops was Venice. We learned that the city is built on stilts and contains many winding, inner-connecting water ways and streets that are intentionally confusing. Venice was built this way as a defense against invading armies.

We all took an early morning walk to a shop to make Venetian Masks.  As promised, the walk was very confusing and seemed to take us through at least twenty different streets that all looked alike.  Our tour guide pointed to several signs overhead labeled “San Marco” which pointed to St. Mark’s Square and Basilica in the center of Venice.   This is where our hotel was located and where we would meet later in the evening following an afternoon on our own.  We were cautioned to pay attention to these signs to guide our walk back, as it would be very easy to get lost.  One more word of advice we received that made following the signs even more important was that the number one way to spot a pick pocket in Venice was if anyone approached you and said “Excuse me, do you speak English?”

That evening forty two of the forty four tour group members met for dinner.  We found out later that two of the older boys had become lost on their walk home because they didn’t pay attention to the instructions of our tour guide.  They didn’t look for the “San Marco” signs.

Remember this story as you lead your team.  To you, the experienced guide, the signs of success are obvious and everywhere.  But to some, you might was well be speaking a foreign language.   Like our tour group, many of your team members will understand and follow the signs.  But some may not grasp their importance and find themselves lost.

Have you had this experience as a leader?  How do you make sure everyone follows the signs?