Organizational Preparedness: Training An Equal Through Receptive Leadership - 11 Leadership Tips Going Into 2018
Every year as the year comes to a close I stumble upon a memorial video of sorts reminding us of those public figures lost. Although I don't know them personally and only studied, watched or enjoyed them, it does put into perspective the reality that is time and what we make of it during our time on this amazing planet. This article was prompted by Time magazines “These Were the Celebrities, Leaders and Icons We Lost in 2017”.
It's this type of thought process that allows us as humans to want to do more, make resolutions and become better people. I personally think about my children, my legacy and if anything, I have done or will eventually come to do through the grace of God will be "enough" to make a difference leaving a lasting impact on family, friends, colleagues and yes, even perfect strangers. Whether we see death as expected, unexpected, accidental or hurtful and unbelievable, what is certain is that it is in fact part of the journey.
As a 24 year U.S. Navy veteran and Senior Enlisted Leader, I always asked my Sailors to identify their equal. With uncertainty, they would retort full of confusion wondering where I was going with this request. I would continue by asking if they each were a single point of failure. To amplify I would give scenario’s that would involve tragedy and sudden loss. “If you die in a car accident during your lunch hour today, who would pick up the pieces and responsibilities YOU were in charge of to ensure your job, just as you did it, continues to get done?” Their answer? “Well no one Chief. I have an alternate I have been training but I don’t think they are ready.”
Although I dramatically went directly to a death scenario, man power loss is provoked by many variables. From illness, divorce or even the sudden relocation of a spouse, losing an employee is never easy. As a leader, it is your responsibility to ensure a fluid process is in place to augment the loss of not only yourself but those whom you lead and are in charge of important departments and tasking within your organization.
In 2012, Alison Green from “Ask a Manager” was asked by a reader seeking, “My boss died very unexpectedly this past weekend. I was given a mental health day to recover, but I don’t know what happens now. The CEO and VP are out of the office for the rest of the week, presumably to deal with his death, so I’m rudderless.” The reader continues and asking, “There’s been no talk of hiring a replacement, but it’s only been a few days. I’m worried about my employment, if they’ll decide to simply cut the department or try to promote me into his position (which I do NOT want). What do I do if they try to load me down with his work (which is enormous)? Or try to edge me out of the company? I was looking for other work before this incident, but now I feel like I have to stay at least a month to help them get back on their feet. But after that, I don’t know what to do.” (Source: http://www.askamanager.org/2012/10/when-your-boss-dies.html)
Why leave an employee disgruntle, confused and misguided? Just as we hold ourselves accountable during the good and bad times in our careers, we must always keep in mind those around us and the effects of our personal agendas on the organization as a whole. The expectation should be real and forthcoming for any and all organizations to maintain a disaster preparedness plan that covers both individual and mass casualty procedural compliance to continue to succeed as a company and as individuals. This is something that with little effort can relief the stress and anxiety caused by unexpected events. This equal or “relief” (that would augment the gap caused by the unexpected event) should not make the person they are training with feel as if they are being replaced. Total transparency and training in the organizations disaster relief plan is a must while allowing all involved to properly step up in the event something should come up.
Entering a new year while looking back at each of our individual achievements is perfectly fine. Setting a bar, meeting that goal and wanting more in the year to come is perfectly fine. Remember, every experience and every achievement is a moment in time; however, one must always ask, will I get the chance to write my next chapter?
Here are some leadership tips heading into 2018!
- Be a receptive leader, not reactive. As a leader, you must open your door and allow constructive feedback to be heard and nourished. Action will always beat reaction therefor allowing you to shine in moments of crisis. Discuss the “what if” scenarios with your team and see where your organization stands.
- Who’s the boss? Whether you are the CEO, a department head or a senior leader, everyone has a role in ensuring proper preparations are made. As a leader, you must exercise the courage to inform seniors of vulnerabilities within the organization. Saying, “It’s not my problem” is not a choice. Once the crisis takes place, the accountability and work load will fall on someone…will that be you?
- Never die with the secret. Equal opportunity and equal knowledge are two different things. Training a junior as an equal shows your organization you are putting their best interest first. Where in some cases some pieces of information can’t be shared (i.e. credentials, combinations, etc.), a plan to temporarily or permanently have a junior fill a senior role is important. That all starts with weekly training sessions and professional mentorship. Knowledge is power!
- Be the best version of yourself daily and prepare. Remember tomorrow isn't guaranteed. Never assume your role is ready to be filled. Make a plan, discuss it with your staff and ensure every corner is covered. Ask yourself, “As the owner/ senior leader what will happen to all of my employees in the event I perish?”
- Don’t be threatened by a junior becoming your equal. Your equal, not your replacement or boss. When you show them that you care enough to train them, it allows them to develop trust while being on the same page and at the ready to assist you in a time of need. Your peers and juniors will emulate your behavior and style. Make it an infectious office practice.
- Hard work never hurt anyone. Or has it? What will lack of preparation for a sudden loss of an employee feel like? Why wait to find out? If you do, YOU might be the one picking up the slack. Unless you are the type of leader who doesn’t mind going back down the “corporate ladder”, BE READY! Wouldn’t it be easier to already have someone equally trained? I always recommend you never forget to work side-by-side with your junior personnel always displaying your humble side showing you have not forgotten where you came from.
- Leaders are never alone. Although it may feel like it, you’re NOT. Someone has already been there or will likely face the same situation or circumstances. Remain calm and ask for help. Remember, "A true leader is one humble enough to admit they don't know it all!" Seeking assistance through a very difficult transition or time within a group/team setting is difficult for all. Speak with your team and provide the right assistance and resources.
- Avoid single point of failures. You would be surprised how many little things we all take for granted daily. Who does this, who does that…to some it all seems so fluid. Disrupt one thing and their entire world falls apart. “I haven’t had coffee today because Margie used to make it for me. She is no longer with our company and I have no idea how to run the coffee machine. Do I look like a barista to you?” A small but very possible example of how entitled and spoiled we can be. Make your life easy and establish an organization flow chart that will allow you to count on a second person for the same task/responsibility.
- Fired? Why not train. Sometimes we create the issue, the “gap” if you will. Have you ever thought of the value in turning a mistake into a training session? In some cases, an employee may have been in the organization for years. Hard worker, an indispensable asset of sorts which created the codependence you have on all of your staff members. So why get rid of them? Now more than ever affording to “start over” is not feasible and filling the gap with a new hire is at times impossible within your time constraints. Reconsider your approach and act on fact not impulse. There may be an opportunity to salvage the situation, keep an employee and have the entire organization rise victorious! However, never forget; praise in public, counsel in private.
- Live by your core values. "YOUR OWN" on top of those instilled by your organization. We are all individuals who bring a unique set of skills and experience. Stop trying to impress or be like the other person. Your boss or leadership will notice your efforts in making these plans with priority, reason and purpose. Present the “in case this happens” scenarios to senior leadership and put a plan together.
- Make it personal. Too often leadership is caught up in achieving the goal, making the mark or even the dollar amount. Organizational climate and office moral is the responsibility of ALL leadership. Find the time to make withdraws after making the many deposits. Incentive based practices, bonuses or even organizational family events that promote unity, teamwork and family are just a few suggestions. Make your organization the talk that others want to walk.
“Always two there are, no more, no less. A master and an apprentice.” Yoda.