While I’m standing in the scattered, messy recovery from hurricane Ida’s damage, no other topic is suitable for a blog post.
I’ve lived in hurricane alley all of my life so dealing with the aftermath of natural disaster is just something I grew up with. My childhood memories include hurricanes Betsy and Camille. More recent and impactful storms were Rita, Katrina, Gustav and Ike. If you live along the gulf coast, you know these names; if you’re not of such an age or from outside the region, a quick web search will provide plenty of images revealing massive devastation and loss.
Hurricane Ida has now put her mark on our community as one of the most powerful storms to ever come through. I just got electricity back at my home on the 8th day after going dark when the eye of the storm made landfall; and I live in a suburban community 100 miles inland from the Gulf. Pray fervently for those communities even closer to the coast.
“For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy…”– Psalm 72:12-13 ESV
There are so many things you just do as an individual to get through the storms and build back after they pass. These “just do its” come naturally in taking care of your personal affairs which most often include family members and friends in the community.
Helping clear debris, cooking food, providing shelter for those who’ve lost theirs, patching roof tops…. The list goes on and on. The help comes from neighbors, family, church communities and organizations designed for such activities.
How are you to keep managing your business through such a disaster?
There is are no simple answers for leading your business through and out of catastrophic circumstances but there are a few guiding principles that will help you choose your actions wisely.
Lead Well… Recognize that God has put you in a position to help.
As a business leader, you have greater resources and influence on circumstances than most of the people you lead. Step up and lean in to leadership responsibilities such as assuring your employees safety and helping with critical needs as they arise.
There is nothing worse a leader can do than have an “every man for himself” disposition when tragedy strikes. It is easy to project an undesirable message to your team if you don’t communicate clearly that you are in it with them and here to help.
Employees and the people who depend upon your leadership need to know that the captain has his or her hand on the wheel. Some situations dictate a physical presence while many businesses allow for simple communication to suffice. In either case your employees should know that you are at the helm and working to guide the organization, including them, through the coming events.
Simple actions such as establishing communication protocol in advance will help. Set up an emergency text group, publish an employee roster with emergency contact information for every person, establish a phone tree, contact the group on regular intervals to confirm everyone is safe and determine if any critical needs have arisen.
We All Have Unique Circumstances
No two individuals share the same experience through a tragedy. You will likely find different people have different needs so be prepared to address needs individually.
You may have specific actions such as announcing a special payroll allowance that applies to everyone universally and that is good. There may also be special circumstances that you should handle personally and most importantly you need to be inquisitive so as to be aware of whether special circumstances exist.
You Lead the Business And the Employees
It is possible and necessary to manage both the business needs and the individual employee needs during catastrophic circumstances; you can’t really separate the two.
It’s cliché to say that “our employees are our most valuable assets” because it’s usually true. Managing your business through disaster is the most important time you will ever have to prove that you believe in the value of your employees. Your top priority during a tragedy is assuring, to the extent that you are able, that your employees are ok and capable of supporting the business through the crisis and in the future.
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ…”– 1 Peter 4:8-11 ESV