The intensity, destruction and aftermath of a powerful storm can be overwhelming. The things we once took for granted become the most important in the aftermath. We learn to value safety, warmth, clean water, a shower, and a hug from a caring person. In this case, as with others, there are lessons to be learned.
If you have been in a leadership role for any length of time, you have experienced a few storms both personal and professional. So, how do we weather these storms as leaders and how do we support others through their aftermath? Below are eight things that I are as true in leadership as they are with tornadoes and floods:
- Stay Calm – In an audio clip I viewed of a storm there were people huddled in a store refrigerator to escape the tornado. I could hear the leader speaking calmly as he gave directions and moved people toward action. His calm demeanor kept them focused on what they needed to do in that moment. If a leader panics or becomes overly emotional, only chaos will emerge. People want to believe that their leader has things under control.
- Have a plan – work that plan – In another case, when waters were approaching a family farm there were initial discussions of “throwing in the towel”. It appeared that there was no way to beat the rising water. Then a plan was initiated by the leader. There were plenty of naysayers, but the leader continued to encourage, “Let’s work the plan”. They worked the plan and much of their hard work paid off. During storms, we may need to re-work our plans or even devise new ones. Engage others in working that plan. People will rise to the challenge - they just need a leader who will take a stand.
- Speak in succinct terms – In times of stress, we are unable to hear long, laborious statements. Be succinct in your directions and communications. People want to know what is really important and what has to happen next.
- Give people something to do – Remember you are not alone in the storm. People will help you. They want to be part of the solution. Ask them. Or maybe it’s more of a matter of just allowing them to help you.
- Communicate like crazy – let others communicate – As the tornado approached, this leader kept talking to the huddled people, questions were asked and others made suggestions. As the leader listened, he/she continued to make necessary adjustments. The leader never stopped communicating as the tornado ripped through the building. Many times leaders make the mistake of being silent or not listening during times of turbulence. People want to know that their leader is aware of what is happening, willing to listen and adjust if needed. They want to be certain that their leader will be there through “thick and thin”!
- Reassure/be visible – Throughout the horrific sounds of breaking glass, howling wind, and boards ripping, you could hear this leader continue to reassure people. At one point the leader used a cell phone to light up their face so others could see that he/she was still there. His words were strong and definitive…”We are going to make it. Hang on, it will end soon….” Nothing speaks louder than the leader “being there” during the storm. Your visibility and reassuring words give comfort and confidence to do or survive the impossible. People want a strong leader who believes in herself and the power of others.
- Be kind - As the leader/owner and employees scurried out of the badly damaged building, this leader checked with each of the employees to make sure they were ok. Then she told them to take any items that they thought they may need and go to their families. She told them to let her know if they needed additional things. One employee said he had never experienced such kindness and concern. He was willing to stay and help her start the clean-up but she insisted that he check-in with his family. Often we are so focused on the storm; we forget to be kind and considerate of others. Kindness can make the hard work just a little easier. Find little ways to show kindness.
- Remember what really counts – Reoccurring responses from those who have lost so much are statements like these: “I am just thankful to be alive”; “I only want to find my family pictures”; “I have my family that is all that matters”; “I am ready to start the rebuilding process”.....Storms have a way clearing away the “clutter” of our life and showing us what is really important and of value. Leaders, I recommend that you remind yourself often of the question, “What is really important and what really counts?”
The bottom line is important; however, to achieve that desired bottom line, we need people. People need to know that you care…really care.