This is been a brutal weekend. Calgary will never look the same. Many people we know, people we work with, team-members, clients, suppliers, friends, will be impacted by this for years. Who could’ve imagined 100,000 people evacuated in our city? Who could have imagined the power and devastation with river levels as high as they were? How will we ever get some of those pictures out of our minds?
At times of crisis, people need to know there is leadership. Our provincial and municipal officials have shown great capacity these past few days; they’ve given us confidence that the situation is being well-handled. Now your people are looking to you (yes, you) to give them a sense that someone close to them also has his or her hands on the wheel. People don’t expect you to have answers but they do expect you to have hope. You must communicate that hope Monday morning.
The first thing when responding to a crisis is – YOU MUST BE AVAILABLE. You must be amongst your people. They must see the real you. You can’t delegate this; don’t even think of passing this responsibility down the chain. They must see that you care….not just that the organization cares but that YOU care.
Listen to them. First thing Monday morning, walk around your offices, your agency, your plant and talk with everyone….not in formal meetings but in informal conversations. Some of these will be one-on-one, sometimes a group will gather around. Be there with them. I suggest that 80% of this time should be listening and only 20% of your time should be talking. This might take all morning….so what….not one minute of that time is wasted. You cannot hunker down in your office with the door shut and plan your organization’s response to the tragedy; you must be with your people on Monday morning. They need you….not a plan….you!
Some of your people are hurting; they’re homes are under water and they haven’t got a clue what’s next. Some of your people have spent the weekend housing friends and relatives who were evacuated; they’ve dried a lot of tears. Many of your people will be very tired. Listen for that.
If you can, identify each staff member that has been impacted directly by the disaster. By looking at the home addresses you must have on file, you can tell who was evacuated over the weekend and who is now back in their home. Know their names and find a way to talk with each one of them personally. Was there damage to their homes? Listen. Care. If they don’t show up to work, call them. It is essential that you ask what they need and that you listen. You don’t have to promise them anything but you do need to hear what they need.
Today you’ll earn your salary. Do it with compassion. Do it with intent.
Leadership is about people. Lead today. Lead with humility. Lead with determination. Lead with hope.