The eastern United States and other parts of the country have been pummeled by winter weather and it’s not over yet. Harsh weather is demanding on us physically, emotionally and economically. Most of us are prepared for a couple of days of a difficult commute or a few hours without power, but this year is ridiculous. Unless you are working for the electric company or are in the snow plow or tree removal business, the weather has probably had a negative impact on your income. Maybe you were unable to get to work and lost pay or had to use vacation time to stay home and shovel snow. Possibly you have business deals that were delayed or undone due to the inability to meet or by an abrupt change in focus due to the severe weather. Those 2014 revenue projections that seemed so promising in December suddenly appear less achievable.
What does your response say about you and your team?
This winter weather does not appear as catastrophic as a hurricane or tornado, but its cumulative impact can be equally damaging. So as politicians like to say, “Never waste a crisis.” Use this as an opportunity to evaluate your personal reaction as well as the general organizational response as the weather increasingly impacted work and the marketplace. On the personal level, did you become angry and try to find someone to blame? Did you slide into depression and become unable to act? Did you expect someone – your boss, spouse or the government – to come to your rescue? Or, do you rally the team and involve everyone in problem identification and resolution? How was the culture of your organization reflected in disaster? Did the group consult its carefully prepared contingency and recovery plans or did it scramble from one incident to the next? Did staff make every effort to get work done or use the conditions as an excuse to shut down? Did people at every level seek ways to help each other or were they focused solely on their own needs?
Evaluate the divergent impact
The crucial step for effective leaders is to rely on that resourcefulness that drives you to surmount other obstacles. The Serenity Prayer reminds us to seek the wisdom to know what we can change and what we cannot change. And there is always more that can be changed than we initially believe. As you evaluate your options, consciously consider all of the stakeholders associated with your firm before jumping in to fix your own problems. Consider the varying effects of the weather within each group.
- Employees – Families have situations in which both the employee and their spouse have lost real income (or at least vacation time) due to the inability to report to work, at the same time that salaried folks or those able to work at home may have felt little financial impact. Somewhere in between are those with variable pay scenarios such sales people and others whose primary compensation is based on bonuses or commissions.
- Is there anything you can do to restore lost pay or time off? Can you create opportunities for people to earn the money or time back? Should you adjust the sales or revenue targets for achieving certain payouts?
- Clients and Vendors – Retail operations have been crushed by people’s inability to get around to shop or to eat. Supply chains have had to overcome major hurdles trying to deliver promised goods. Meanwhile, businesses involved in storm related repair and cleanups are busier than ever.
- Are there ways that you can support organizations experiencing either extreme? Can you adjust payment terms to allow for reduced cash flow? Can you accelerate services for those with a temporary high demand?
- Communities – Segments of your community have been disturbed in visible and unseen ways. The physical damage in some areas is obvious. Not so obvious may be the effect on the food bank with depleted supplies or the non-profit with extraordinary heating or snow removal bills.
- Is there a way that you can assist organizations or individuals in your community by volunteering to do cleanup or repair? Can you initiate a special food drive or fundraiser?
- Business Leaders – Owners and senior management are concerned about the vitality of their business. Cash flow and profitability are paramount to survival and you may need to act differently as a leader to assure this. Equally important is the long term sustainability of the company. This means caring for employees who need to be engaged and focused in order to produce excellent products and services. It means being a good citizen by looking beyond your own needs.
- Can you modify your personal leadership style and preferences to more effectively manage in this environment? Are there personal sacrifices that you could make to set an example and make a material difference? Should you make extraordinary individual efforts to recoup lost business or secure new business? Are there networking and partnership opportunities that are available as a result of these unique circumstances?
Take advantage of this crisis to talk with your employees, clients, vendors, partners and others about these issues. Let us know through the blog comments what you discover.