Bright lightening strikes and rumbling thunder wake me up at three in the morning. Within minutes my seven year old Johnny is curled up next to me in bed. After a couple of minutes I offer to tuck him back into his bed. He looks up with his big brown eyes, wide as they can be, and says “but mommy, it’s louder in my room”. In reality the storm is no louder on the other side of the wall our bedroom’s share, than it is in my bedroom right now. Or was it?
At work your “storm” might take a different form. It could be an aggressive new competitor going after your most profitable clients, or a change in management that has everyone reeling, or perhaps even a budget crisis that requires significant cuts. While I don’t recommend you try to curl up next to your collegues in the way Johnny and I weathered the storm together. I do suggest you huddle together and remember these key mechanisms for coming out the other side a stronger team, and perhaps even a more effective organization.
Define the storm/crisis
For Johnny this was one bad storm. Telling him to ignore it and pretending it would go away was not going to settle his nerves one bit. Instead, we talked about what was causing the storm – hot & cold air coming together. We estimated how long the storm would last – counting seconds between lightening bolts and thunder roars. For your business this is about isolating the cause of the crisis from the outcomes. Understand what is in your control and what’s not.
Estimate the potential damage
What’s the likely outcome at the end of the storm? Johnny was very worried about our recently sprouting tomato plants. What if the storm knocked it over? What if our top 10 customers migrate to another vendor? What if we cut the budget so much customer service suffers? This can be scary to articulate but it’s critical to lay out the possibilities. More importantly, it’s critical to create a plan for addressing the potential outcomes. For Johnny and I we talked about how we could replant the growing tomato plant in another location if it fell. And if it didn’t grow further how we could use the green tomatoes in their current form.
What can we do during the storm to lesson its impact? For us we closed the windows to keep the heavy rain from coming into the house. We closed the curtain tighter to lessen the brightness of the lightening strikes. And we hung out together talking to reduce the anxiety the storm was causing. By taking control of the small things you can address; you empower your team, and with this comes passion and often solutions you’d never imagine on your own.
No matter how hard we try to plan for success, storms will sometimes surprise us. In his own sweet way Johnny reminded me that getting through a storm of any kind is better when you do it together. I couldn’t agree more.