As I sat down to write this article, Houston was in the early stages of recovery from the devastating impacts of Hurricane Harvey. The Caribbean was reeling from the wrath of Irma. And Florida was bracing itself in anticipation of the storm’s descent.
Over the past two weeks, Houston’s corporate leaders have rapidly stepped up, reassuring their workforce in words and action—ensuring paid time off and providing resources to recover, repair, and rebuild. And in Florida, workers have been guided to focus on safety for themselves and their families, with offices shuttering in advance of the monster storm.
My client, John Cuomo, Group Vice President and General Manager of KLX Aerospace Solutions, wanted to convey his unwavering support to his Miami-based organization. He stayed closely connected, sending targeted communications like the following September 8th email (excerpts shared here with his permission).
I hope today finds you all finalizing your preparation to be in a safe and secure place to ride out the storm. Our outside offices will handle the business matters. Your time should be focused on your safety and the safety of your family.
Our Miami campus will close for today, Friday, September 8 and Monday, September 11. Please check the employee hotline for status updates and do not hesitate to contact me directly should you need anything.
We are a strong community and will be there for each other as the storm passes and to support each other as we transition back to life and business as usual. I wish each of you, and your loved ones, a safe and peaceful few days ahead.
John’s email serves as a demonstration of leadership in times of crisis, when it is most essential to convey care and concern, provide clear direction, offer support, and model optimism for what lies ahead.
Every organization has storms to weather. They may not be as acute as a natural disaster, but organizational crises take many forms:
- Large scale layoffs.
- The sudden departure of a CEO.
- A steep economic downturn.
- The loss of key customers or marketshare.
- Reputational damage and the erosion of investor confidence.
Each of these (and more) can turn an organization upside down. To protect your people and speed a healthy rebound from crisis, here are three simple steps you should take.
- Inform your organization. Rapidly and honestly, let your people know what’s happening—before they read about it in the newspaper or overhear rumors at the proverbial water cooler.
- Reassure your workforce. Provide authentic assurances and back them up with action. Help your employees know you’re aware of the difficulties, have a plan to address them, and are prepared to take care of your people. Help them gain confidence from your confidence, and let them see your unwavering leadership.
- Be responsive. Provide multiple venues for your employees to gain clarity and dispel rumors and misconceptions. Be open and non-defensive as you address concerns.
Organizational storms are unavoidable but the effects can be mitigated with this kind of thoughtful, honest, and genuinely caring approach to leadership.
My thoughts, prayers and support go out to all those impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. May your recovery be swift and your future bright.