Three hours on the afternoon of October 10th changed everything for this little city I call home. Mighty oaks that have stood through hundreds of storms couldn’t withstand the power of Hurricane Michael. The incessant roar of the wind deafened the sound of giant trees crashing all around as we crouched in a closet and prayed without ceasing. Roofs are gone, businesses closed – even the hospitals are on life-support after sustaining major damage. Our schools have yet to reopen, our churches are now open-air because roofs and walls are gone, debris is piled up everywhere. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Just as looking at a photo of the Grand Canyon fails to touch the enormity of the landscape, it’s impossible for the news media to convey the devastation an entire region has suffered. I’ve seen the photos of the aftermath of Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina. But it’s a whole new thing to live in a city that has suffered so much loss. Everyone who lives here has lost all semblance of normality.
Leading During Extreme Change
Everything I’ve ever learned about life, leadership, and resilience, is needed right now. Here are some lessons I’ve noted during this first phase of recovery:
- It’s important to do what you can to help. But no one can fix the mountain of difficulties most people are facing like it’s an item on our to-do list. Focus on what you can do and take action on simple things while staying in your lane. The back-story is I realized the first day working at a point of distribution (POD) that I am not gifted at unloading trucks in 95 degree heat. I can serve far more effectively connecting needs with resources than doing physical labor. The physical help is needed, but I’m not that good at it. I do not belong on ladders or roofs. I have other gifts. (See the NOTE at the bottom – this is one way I realized I can help.)
- Good communication is a game-changer. Being without cell phone and internet for almost two weeks caused high levels of frustration and inefficiency. When the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, it’s tough. Of course this has direct application to face-to-face communication. Ask questions. Listen. Share ideas. Ask for help.
- There’s a crucial difference between empathy and sympathy. Empathy is compassion that works to help. Sympathy takes on the burden and carries it. I am reminded of the question I ask in starting one of my Leadership Workshops. How many people can you lead across a raging river on stepping stones? How many can you carry across? You can lead an unlimited number by showing the way.
- There’s enough destruction out the windows without spending your social media time perusing all the photos of devastation and mayhem. That’s a recipe for depression. Find a way to laugh in the midst of chaos. Humor is a safety valve that helps relieve stress. I have advised several people to take an hour to watch silly clips on YouTube or watch a funny movie. It might feel inappropriate but you can’t carry the weight of the world around. It will crush you.
- There’s always hope. Even if all you give is a hug and a drink of water, you can dispense hope wherever you go.
NOTE: As a way to support those working on moving from a setback to a comeback, I have organized a FREE closed Facebook Coaching Group called Win from Within. This is a private group offering networking and support for businesswomen who are in a position to lead through extreme change. Even though there are days we want to hide and eat chocolate. I am inspired to offer encouragement and practical resources for recovering from a major setback to those in Panama City and Florida’s Panhandle in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. The group is open to others staging a comeback from whatever circumstances life has thrown them. Did I mention it’s free? Email Beverly@BeverlySpeaks.com if you would like to be part of this.