Preparations for Hurricane Dorian were well underway earlier than for most hurricanes in the past. While no one could predict exactly where it would hit, its scope, or its impact, most eastern states were well-prepared for whatever would come.
As areas such as Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina prepared for the worst and declared a state of emergency for the coast, citizens were led to take the proper precautions. Its unpredictable turns and slow-moving destruction were a force of nature no one could have predicted, but it’s the very kind of storm (figuratively and quite literally) all leaders should be prepared for.
As a president of a private liberal arts university, when a storm of this magnitude approaches only days after the start of the semester, there are some precautions worth taking, even if a few days of classes are missed. While the storm appeared to be headed straight for us in Central Florida, we put the safety of our students, faculty, and staff first and foremost. We moved forward giving all ample time to prepare for the worst. Thankfully, the storm spared us. In the end, despite warnings of tropical storms, barely any rain hit us.
So in leading the decision to cancel nearly a week of classes and a handful of workdays for the rest of our campus that wound up being perfectly clear days, do I regret this decision? Not in the least. Because we put the safety of our campus, students, and people first and we were prepared for the worst of what might have come.
As leaders, navigating in the day-to-day on any normal week is very straightforward. But when we are faced with a potentially strained financial season, a lack of hands on deck, or — as many business owners may have faced in the past weeks — a drastic impact on sales due to an unexpected natural disaster, it is a completely different ball game. The thing is, as leaders, to move forward for the best outcomes, we must be prepared for the worst.
Here are 5 ways every leader should prepare their team for emergencies that may arise:
- Keep your mission crystal clear. Your overall mission should be so transparent that your team, business or even small start-up can endure whatever difficulties may come your way.
- Plan for the worst. Have a plan of action for an emergency — whether facing an internal or natural disaster, you should have a plan to prepare for the worst. Even small interruptions can have a profound impact on the flow and productivity of your team. A plan of action is essential for the worst-case scenarios as well as the small hiccups that may come.
- Communicate your strategy beforehand. Whether or not your team knows the exact steps of your plan of emergency, they should be mentally and departmentally well equipped for the overall plan. Seek to communicate and prepare your team before an emergency hits.
- Use the small unexpected events to gauge how prepared you are. Practice preparation for the worst, even when it’s not the worst. Gauge how you and your people respond to a worst-case scenario when it may not be detrimental, but is still inconvenient. The unexpected will never be convenient, so put your best foot forward even in the midst of the smallest unexpectancy.
- Remember your people matter most. Within our university’s core values and mission, the safety of our students always comes first. For a college, this should be a given. But oftentimes in many organizations or businesses so many other priorities can get in the way that leaders often forget the safety of their people should always come first. This relates to emotional health, mental well-being, and quality of life as well as physical safety.
Oftentimes it takes a storm the size of Hurricane Dorian to get our attention as leaders and create a clear plan of action in the case of an emergency. But we should never be quickly forced to create a strategy in the moment. Granted storms will come, and while we will at times be forced to make decisions under fire, with a plan of action we can lead with confidence that we have put our best foot forward for our business and for our people.
Dr. Kent Ingle serves as the President of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, and is the author of "Framework Leadership." A champion of innovative educational design, Ingle is the president of one of the fastest growing private universities in the nation. As president, Ingle founded the American Center for Political Leadership at the university and is also a founding member of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. Before becoming Southeastern’s president in 2011, Ingle held leadership positions in higher education and the nonprofit sector in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle. Ingle is the author of several leadership books and the creator of the Framework Leadership podcast. He currently serves on the board of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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