I’ve been outside walking lately. A lot. I could stand to loose a few, (well, maybe more than a few) and frankly I’m working on it, but this story is not about my exercise routine. I’ll save you the grandstanding.

I live one block away from a path system that runs almost entirely through our city in few different directions. London, Ontario is dubbed the “Forest City”, and we have plenty of parks and paved paths that connect each other from our concrete downtown to the tree lined streets of the suburbs. Within just a few minutes of walking, you enter an oasis of grass and trees (with perhaps one too many Canada Goose) joined by other walkers, and of course bikes. Oh, the bikes, or more correctly, the bikers.

Some call it the bike path, and it is a great path to bike on with its void of cars and traffic lights. However, it is a path intended for joggers, people walking, with strollers, kids in toe, and also bikers. It is a shared path to be enjoyed and utilized by everyone in the city. This leads me to my above question:

Are you a “Bell Ringer”?

You can imagine that like any major street or highway, every car travels at a different speed and as traffic flows, cars pass each other usually without much thought about it. We have rules for this, and as long as drivers follow those rules, we don’t have many problems. We also have courtesies. Those nice ways of behaving that allow for the drive to be more enjoyable. Letting someone in your lane that needs to merge, not blocking entrances to the shopping mall, etc. Even, the rarely seen now-a-days, but always appreciated, and Jerry Seinfeld approved: “The Wave”. These courtesies help make potentially stressful drives manageable in an otherwise me-first world.

On the walking path there is also a courtesy, and in some cases, the law. When a fast moving bike comes upon slower moving traffic, like someone walking or a more leisurely biker, the courtesy is to ring a bell before passing to alert them not to make any sudden changes of direction. Like a turn signal on a car, but from behind.

This courtesy says, “I see you. I’m here too. We are about to share this path. Be mindful. We can be safe if we work together.”

In my mind, I sometimes hear, “Keep walking, you can do this.” I like encouragement with my courtesies.

For me, a bell ring or not tells me a lot about the person, and whether I think they would be a good leader or team performer. Do they communicate, do they share, do they see you, do they encourage? To put it simply. I prefer to have bell ringers on my team. I don’t like it when people pass and don’t ring a bell. I don’t feel acknowledged, seen, or for that matter safe. When a biker passes without ringing a bell, I feel more in-the-way than I’d prefer. Sometimes it makes me wonder if I want to be on this path at all. (There is a real metaphor here that I’m trusting you are getting.)

As I walk along head down, my headphones on, likely listening to a podcast, it may be more difficult for me to hear an oncoming bike. When I do however hear a bell, I gratefully acknowledge with a hand-flail to let them know that I heard them, and to appreciate their gesture. On teams, and even the larger organization as a whole, we all want to hear the bell every so often even though our work may be moving at a naturally slower rate than those around us. The question for you is. Are you a “Bell Ringer”?