Managing Your Team Through Catastrophe

Aug 30, 2016, Written by Jim Miley

Managing Your Team

There’s nothing like the real thing; no training course or article that fully acquaints you with tragic events in your personal life or in the work place.

We’ve had our share of catastrophe in my hometown of Baton Rouge of late with flooding that well exceeded the 100-year-flood mark across much of the community.  Non-stop torrential rain leading to swollen rivers with nowhere for the water to go but up… up into homes and businesses with little or no warning.

By the numbers, seven local river flood gauges hit all-time historical record highs, 60,000 homes were damaged, 24 school districts were closed, 30,000 people rescued, 3,300 animals rescued, 40 state highways closed and two federal interstates closed due to submersion.

Add the recent event to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike, etc. or the BP Deepwater Horizon impact and you get a little practice at learning your way through natural catastrophic events and work.

One of the many challenges business owners and managers face is the balance between keeping the business running and the extraordinary demands of dealing with a catastrophic event.  Should we just close up shop until things go back to normal?

If you’re like us or the vast majority of our clients, the answer is clear that “the show must go on.”

  • Our clients need more help in an emergency, not less.  Duty calls.
  • Personal financial cost increases tremendously as a result of flood/storm/catastrophe damage for employees and business owners alike.
  • If the business stops, our ongoing ability to pay extraordinary expenses drops drastically for both business and employee.
  • The well-being of customers, employees and owners alike depends upon our effectively sailing the ship under power and not adrift with no rudder.

So, how do you manage your business and its most valuable assets, the people, through catastrophic events?

As I said, no training course or article will fully acquaint you with tragic events in your personal life or in the work place; but, I can share what has worked for me and many of our clients when facing tragedies that have surrounded our businesses.

  1. Take a personal survey of all employees: safety, status, damage/impact, close family, transportation, etc.  Do this as soon as practical following an event.  All businesses should have an emergency response roster pre-prepared with names, contact info, next contact, etc.
  2. Prioritize needs amongst your team. Some will likely be okay.  Some may have great personal need.  Some may need to care for family/loved ones.  This calls for your careful consideration of the many factors associated with personal need.
  3. Assure your team members with high need that you are going to work together through the situation. 
  4. Ask team members with lower need to be flexible as we all work through the events and care for those who need our help.
  5. Contact your key customers and assess their needs similar to your own. 
  6. Make a plan! Be flexible in your solutions to both employee and customer problems.  Do things you would not normally do or you are not doing enough.  Be flexible in work schedules, personal time, customer services, non-safety related policies, cash or supplies relief, etc.

Item numbers 3 and 4 from this list deserve emphasis.  Assure people in need that you are there for them and ask those with capability to help.

Taking a proactive and methodical approach in responding to catastrophe tends to bring people together for the common cause.  It’s good leadership that shows people how they can help and assures those that need assistance that you’re there for them.

Your objective is to optimize the situation.  Provide as much safety, security and hope as you possibly can under the circumstances.

I primarily coach and write to business owners strong in Faith, so I close by pointing out that this post is to you.  The owner and manager of the business needs to pilot the ship through the storm…under power…with a clear heading to safety.

“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”  Proverbs 11:14 (ESV)

Take the lead on the actions proposed here.  Pray about these things.  You will have clarity on what to do.  Your team will be focused on the right things.  You and your team will be helping those that need help while keeping the business going.

“… but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”  Proverbs 1:33 (ESV)

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Jim Miley

As a Business Coach, Jim brings a broad background of operational and sales management skills and expertise to help small business owners grow their business and reach their highest potential. He has 30 years of field-proven professional experience.

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