Leadership Before Disaster

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Bad things happen.  Floods, fires, storms, diseases, and other disasters are facts of life.  Chances are, at some point, your business will need to recover from a (hopefully minor) catastrophe.  And when it happens, your leadership will matter.  You can help your team get back up and running faster, more efficiently, and more intentionally.  You may even be able to make things better than if the disaster had never occurred.  But what you do before disaster strikes can make all the difference.  Here are some steps you can take.  

Photo by Denniz Futalan from Pexels

Plan for Repairs in Advance

If your office space floods, where will you go for dehumidifier rental?  If there is a fire, what contractor do you trust to tell you what needs to be done?  For your specific business, is it better to hire a general contractor that specializes in disaster recovery, or is it reasonable to handle multiple contractors yourself?  The more of these kinds of questions you can answer before disaster strikes, the less painful your recovery will be.  

Have Contingency Plans in Place

We have all learned from our experiences in 2020 that, if at all possible, your staff should be prepared to work from home.  Many businesses scrambled to provide laptops and other office equipment for workers, but employers that had planned for the contingency or simply had a flexible policy had an edge.  There are many reasons besides a pandemic that your staff may not be able to work from the office (if they aren’t already working from home).  Storms can make travel unsafe, floods, fires, and crimes can make offices inaccessible, and schools can close.  

But contingency planning goes beyond staff working from their homes.  You also need to consider contingencies like data breaches, data loss, the unavailability of key staff, extensive power outages, internet interruptions, cell services interruptions, and unavailability of essential services like water and sewer.  As a leader, you are in a position to assign or assist a team to plan for contingencies.  You may even want to contract out to professional planners.  

Take Care of Your Team

Your staff are human beings first and foremost.  No matter how tough you (and they) think they are, they will be impacted by disaster.  It may be reasonable to expect a worker to come back to the office and accomplish something the day after a small fire has damaged the break room.  Asking the same of a worker whose home has just been burned to the ground in a wildfire is not going to yield great results.  Everyone knows that the work has to get done, but the more flexible you can be about stripping away non-essential tasks and working odd hours, and the more generous you can be with time off,  the more effective your staff will be in the long run.  

It is also important to support your team’s mental health.  Even when we are less affected personally, disaster takes a toll on everyone.  Offering mental health supports and services can make a huge difference in helping your team get back on its feet and going full steam ahead.  

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