It has certainly been a year of unusually challenging weather throughout the country. Between incredible snowstorms, severe tornadoes, and excessive amounts of rainfall, many businesses have been impacted in unprecedented ways. HSN just reported that their first quarter earnings were down partially due to the severe weather. Several of my Vistage members in Florida also faced unanticipated demand reductions this winter due to the snowstorms up north. Weather issues impacted transportation, and many of their customers were unable to ship their products up north, causing delays and reduced demand for my members’ products and services. Additionally, people were snowed in for days at a time, reducing purchases and productivity since they could not get to work.
Just this week, one of my Vistage members reported that they had to shut down one of their offices for a day due to the severe flooding and road closures in the Florida Panhandle. Business may be impacted for several more days as damage is assessed. Thankfully none of my members’ employees were harmed in any of the severe weather events. However, business cash flow and profitability have been negatively impacted due to weird weather. What is a leader to do?
First, make sure you have the appropriate insurance policies in place. Talk to your insurance agent to make sure to have business interruption insurance in addition to coverage for property damage or loss. While it will not cover the indirect reduction in demand for some of my members, if your business is directly impacted it can provide a valuable safety net. Second, you should build contingencies into your business plan. Make sure your net profit margin isn’t razor thin in the first place so that you can handle unexpected downturns. And make sure you have appropriate lines of credit available to help you manage cash flow through unanticipated situations. Third, a disaster preparedness plan is crucial for longer, more severe disruptions. Do your employees know what to do? How to communicate with you and one another in case phone lines are down and electricity is unavailable? How often do you revisit and update the plan?
As a leader, it’s our job to deal with unanticipated situation. The best leaders plan for the unexpected.
The shooting that occurred this week in a movie theater between a man who was texting during movie previews and a retired police officer made national news and has generated a lot of discussion. For those of you who have not heard about this event, what has been reported so far is this: A man was texting in the theater before the feature movie began, and an argument ensued between the man and a retired police officer who was seated nearby. The outcome of the argument was that the man who was texting was fatally shot by the other man.
Everyone seems to have a different opinion about what is acceptable behavior in a movie theater. Most people say that talking on cell phones in the theater is distracting and unacceptable. Some feel that any use of a cell phone, including texting or reading emails, inside a theater is rude. Others say that until the feature movie begins, texting is fine – who wants to see previews, anyway? There are dozens of opinions, and while I have seen most theaters include a statement on the movie screen about turning cell phones off, I suspect the policies will become more clearly defined and communicated as a result of this incident.
Apparently this movie theater had a policy of not allowing guns in the theater. Questions are swirling around that policy. Does the policy also apply to law enforcement, retired or active? Was the policy clearly defined and communicated to theatergoers? How is the policy enforced?
Those same types of questions could apply in your business. Do you have written policies and procedures? Have they been clearly communicated to ALL of your employees? What about communication to customers and vendors? How are the policies being enforced? What’s the protocol for disputes or disagreements? Let’s learn from this unfortunate event and make positive changes in our businesses.
Photo by: fd / Foter.com / CC BY-NC
As I was reading the paper this week, I was struck by some bizarre headlines. First, there was the mayor who admitted to using and purchasing illegal drugs and yet insisted that he was a positive role model for kids. Really? How interesting. He was also videotaped threatening to kill someone. He was asked to step down and has refused. He doesn’t sound like someone I’d like my kids to emulate!
Another bizarre headline this week was the announcement by London’s Metropolitan Police that the spy whose body was found stuffed inside a locked gym bag at the bottom of his bathtub, likely died in an accident with no one else involved. Huh? He died accidentally and then locked himself in a gym bag? That’s a trick even Houdini might have found challenging! What does that conclusion say about the judgment of that police department?
These bizarre headlines are just two examples of how we are bombarded with mixed messages from a variety of sources. While these types of stories might make for interesting discussions at the water cooler, they certainly do not increase confidence in the judgment or leadership abilities of the organizations involved.
What are your headlines saying about you? Are you inadvertently sending mixed messages to your employees and customers? If you step away and look at all of your messaging from an objective distance, what does it say about your leadership and judgment? Does it inspire confidence? Or does it just provide additional fodder for those water cooler discussions?
Have you ever heard someone at work say, “Time to go into battle!”? I’ve heard people say that when they are heading into a particularly challenging negotiation, whether it’s with a customer, vendor or peer. I’ve also heard people say that when they were just talking about going back to work after a short break.
Why do some people use that phrase? Do they really see it as a battle? With most battles in war, there is a clear winner and a clear loser. And of course, as we honor our veterans on Veteran’s Day, many military personnel who head into battle know that they may not come out of it alive. I don’t think most of us in business have that risk with our daily “battles”.
On this Veteran’s Day, I’d like for us to consider a couple of different points. First, if you are one of the people who refer to a negotiation or your work environment as a “battle”, please consider utilizing a different phrase. By telling yourself in advance that it will be a battle, it is more likely to become one! You have just told your brain to expect a battle, and it will oblige. Studies have shown that what you focus on expands. (Have you ever thought about buying a particular make and model of car and then started seeing them everywhere?) Perhaps you could instead say, “Time to have fun!” Even if you don’t really think it will be fun, you have set a different expectation for your brain. It will be looking for the “fun” and you are much more likely to enjoy the experience along the way.
Second, most of us know veterans who have served our country. Please make a point today and every day to thank them for their service. They are the reason we are able to enjoy the level of freedom we have today. And many of even the youngest veterans have already experienced more “battles” and loss than I will in an entire lifetime. That’s quite a sacrifice that they have made for all of us.
Veterans, thank you for your sacrifice and service!
Photo by: B Tal / Foter.com / CC BY-NC
As I meet with people, I sometimes hear, “I love what I do. If it weren’t for the people I work with, my job would be great!” Sometimes that comment comes after a frustrating day, and the person is joking or just letting off steam. If I think the person is serious, I will try to learn more. If I’m talking to the CEO or business owner or even a high level manager, I’ll ask, “Who’s the boss? Why are you putting up with behavior you don’t like?” That usually generates a lot of excuses or explanations. Typical responses are that good people are hard to find, or that the people are good at what they do, they just aren’t good at interacting with others. Sometimes I’ll hear something to the effect of, “They’ve been with me a long time, so what can I do?” Or, “I’m already short-staffed, and a warm body is better than none.”
Really? Is that really what you believe? Do you feel that you have to tolerate poor behavior? If so, you have just lowered the bar for everyone in your company, and effectively granted them permission to perform poorly. What will happen to your best performers? Over time, their effectiveness and morale will diminish, or worse: they will leave for greener pastures.
A good leader will establish clear expectations and then hold people accountable for performing to those standards. A great leader will establish a culture of accountability so that employees will hold each other accountable for performance and help those who do not meet expectations self-select out of the company. Take a look around you. What are you tolerating? Take action before it’s too late!
Photo by: John Flinchbaugh / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
I recently stayed at the Gaylord Texan Resort for the Vistage International Conference. I woke up early to work out and discovered the fitness room was already crowded. I decided to take a power walk through the atrium area, which includes 4.5 acres of indoor gardens and winding waterways. While I walked, I thought about how the controlled indoor environment allowed me to put aside any worries, and just focus on my thoughts and my workout. I did not have to think about whether it was cold or rainy, or if any wild animals might be lurking, or if I might get lost. I had the freedom to wander where I chose, and I felt completely safe in the knowledge that someone at the hotel was watching what was going on outside and would certainly notify me if an external threat approached. The freedom from external worry was invigorating!
What if your employees had an opportunity to feel that same sense of freedom and peace? What if they were able to focus on their job without distraction or worry? What if they felt completely safe, knowing that their leaders were monitoring external threats and would notify them immediately if a threat approached? What if they were empowered to try new ideas that might lead to better results? Create this type of environment for your employees and watch both morale and productivity soar.