It was last Wednesday, 3:00 in the morning. I woke up to sounds of chirping in the house. Not birds. A dying smoke detector battery.

change batteryI thought I could roll over and go back to sleep, but the chirping continued every few seconds. Torture.

My groggy teenage son and I both fought the battle trying to quiet that thing. He had an important test the next day and I had a speaking engagement. The pressure was on.

We hit the wrong button on the detector that set off all of the other detector alarms in the house. The sound changed from incessant chirping to excruciating screeching. Dog went ballistic and started barking. We got things stirred up.

Eventually we were able to pry open the detector and replace the battery, but not without losing sleep…and almost losing our hearing!

The truth is I had heard one little chirp a couple of weeks ago, but I tried to ignore it. Got busy. Hoped it would go away. I didn’t want to deal with it.

I should have responded then.

And so it goes with business. You know the signs, but you don’t want to pay attention to them.

It could be the first squabble between two employees, but you believe they’ll work things out.

It could be the first customer complaint, but it’s probably someone having a bad day.

It could be that inappropriate comment made by someone on the management team. Surely he knows better.

It could be the slowing speed of your computer, but it will still function.

It’s easy to be busy in your leadership role, but part of good leadership requires taking preventive action. Sometimes taking preventive action doesn’t seem like you’re making progress, but by taking action when you see the first sign of trouble, you are protecting your business.

You save your company time and money. You likely save yourself and others headaches that come from situations that have been allowed to fester.

Here are some reasons that might keep you from taking action when you first see a sign:

  • You underestimate the severity of the situation.
  • You don’t know what to do to address it.
  • You’re afraid to address it, or don’t want to deal with it on your own.

When you first see a sign of potential trouble, take some kind of action, quickly.

Get ideas, suggestions or counsel if needed. Don’t let it continue.

Develop your responsiveness to instincts or observations. They might make you uncomfortable or require a little extra effort to deal with.

Trust that you’ll be able to handle the situation now–whatever it is–compared to what it could turn out to be down the road.  Be grateful for the warning signs.

PS: If you’re seeing initial (or continuing) warning signs, let me know if you’d like to discuss how I can help.

Gayle Lantz is a leadership consultant, speaker, author and founder of WorkMatters, Inc.
She works with organizations, executives and top performers who are serious about growing their business and themselves.