Manage the Catastrophe After the Catastrophe. … Emerging from the wind coffin that had buried me in the throes of the most powerful storm ever to strike the Atlantic Basin, to a post-apocalyptic landscape, I had no idea what would come of me. I’d made some significant mistakes and I didn’t know how I would find a solid foundation to regroup. I’d gone into the storm feeling confident, prepared, and now I was alone without any idea how I would provide for my most basic needs.
The following is the third in a series on leadership and resilience strategies uncovered from weathering nature, life and business’ most catastrophic “storms.”
How many times have you confronted the aftermath of an extreme situation and wondered, “Life as I knew it is over, so where do I go from here?”
After a catastrophic event passes, we are left with the fallout. We have a choice in that moment of how to respond. No matter what the new situation or how bad was the destruction, there are steps you can take to avoid dissolving into despair, waiting to be rescued. In fact, the aftermath of a Category 5 event in any business or in life is the perfect opportunity to create a new “container” for you and your team. You get to redefine who you will be going forward, how you will work with those around you who are either a part of your team, fellow-survivors or stakeholders, and the kind culture that you want to create going forward. I define my own post-hurricane life as “before” and “after,” and life as Christine Perakis 2.0 is infinitely preferable.
Manage the Catastrophe After the Catastrophe
One possibility for coping in the destructive wake of the Cat 5-level catastrophe is to treat the new circumstances as if you are going on an expedition. Expeditions take you venturing into the great beyond where, by choice, you may be cut off from access to necessary resources, isolated from civilisation, relying only on those in your group to manage whatever comes up.
If you’ve ever gone offshore, climbed a mountain, camped in the wilderness, (or driven the LA freeways …) you understand that such ventures have the potential to become life-threatening. These experiences offer up the opportunity to abandon preconceived notions about how things worked before, the roles each person played prior to the expedition. The group gets to consider and establish new rules for how they want things to go, the roles each member plays, how conflicts are resolved, etc. It can be empowering to come to the table without the constraints of the past, bring only what you want, collectively, to go forward. The post-Cat 5 aftermath is such an opportunity to create the world as we want it to be, without the influence of what we may have tolerated in the past because it was perceived as “normal” in our previous life.
The ability to do this is an often-overlooked soft leadership skill. If you find yourself in the fallout of a disaster or extreme situation, embrace the possibility for what it could be. Invite those around you to see that opportunity too. Together, you can create a culture for success, greater safety and comfort within the group, and a team that performs really well together. Know, too, that a Category 5 event is going to bring up new tensions. You will find that as the dust settles, tensions rise. Teams find themselves in the throes of a new self-created “storm” as people adjust to the new normal. Depending on how this is handled, it can either be highly motivating or highly destructive. You can prepare first by being aware that this is a normal aspect of human interaction.
Manage the Catastrophe after the catastrophe.
I noticed among my fellow hurricane survivors, starting at about a month after the storms passed, as the dangers subsided and we adjusted to life after the fact, people were quick to anger and conflicts were common. That was our opportunity to band tighter together to find new ways to resolve these tensions, deepen our trust in the group and motivate ourselves to keep going to do the jobs at hand.
If I am taking an inexperienced crew out for a day-sail, the most important goal is to return safely, live body count intact. In fact, the one question that is asked of any captain to find out if they are truly competent is, regardless of whatever conditions were endured and overcome at sea, “did you dock the boat safely?” Untold dangers may have challenged the vessel offshore, but to dock safely at the destination, the crew must come together, motivated to do whatever it takes to make a safe landing. That is a successful outcome.
I find, when putting people into unfamiliar situations, most are eager to learn, pitch in, take a chance to try something that they may never have done before. At sea, as often in business, all we have is each other. And, it is difficult at best, if not impossible to manage the boat (or business) alone. Each of us must make the most of our capabilities, keep each other safe and accept conflicts as a part of the norm to be handled as such, rather than allowing them to cause further destruction.
These practices can allow a great organisation to sail through any Cat 5 event and come through thriving – the ability to not be defined by previous norms or roles, to create a safe container or culture where everyone steps forward to do their best to contribute, where no one is afraid of conflict because it is understood that it is an acceptable part of the process that is handled in a way that everyone understands and cooperates with, and where diversity of opinions are welcomed, promoted and encouraged. In the post-Cat 5 world, teamwork is valued over the individual. The greater the diversity of voices, the greater the outcomes, whether you are climbing Mount Everest, sailing to a distant port or navigating the work week.
Manage the Catastrophe after the catastrophe
With preparation, planning and a roadmap for managing the inevitable, any organisation, team, or family can survive and thrive following a Cat 5 situation. Creating “disaster management” systems, knowing what tools will be utilised during normal conflicts, establishes an environment of safety,
Cooperation and motivation.
These strategies can be implemented at any time, before or after the Cat 5 event, so disaster doesn’t have to be the death knell to the team. Establishing “expedition rules” in advance can shore up your organisation to prepare for anything, but such practices can also be established to manage the catastrophe after the catastrophe. If you are prepared and willing, you can motivate the team to come together to create the culture that everyone desires, where each member has a voice that is respected, where conflicts are a natural part of the norm and managed easily. In the aftermath of the Cat 5 event, we can create a stronger team, a more diverse and cohesive culture and, really, a whole new world in which to thrive.
In this continuing series, I will share with you some key strategies to weather any Category 5 event, both during and in the aftermath, to not only lessen the impact, but to come through thriving. These are the “7 Barometers of Resilience” that I introduce in my upcoming book.
More to come…