Mother Nature empowers No-Compromise Leadership

November 5, 2012 | By Neil Ducoff | 5 Comments

I’ve lived in Old Saybrook, CT, for over 32 years. It is a small town bordered on the east by the Connecticut River and the south by Long Island Sound. When Nor’Easters or hurricanes come barreling through here, the wind, rain and high tides take a terrible toll. Just before Labor Day 2011, Hurricane Irene inflicted severe damage on shoreline homes and businesses. One in particular was the Dock and Dine Restaurant at Saybrook Point.

Dock and Dine is a local landmark situated right on the Connecticut River; they have been offering fine seafood and magnificent water views for over 70 years. Irene’s heavy wind gusts, turrets of rain and storm surges destroyed the popular docks in front of the building, ripped off the roof and swamped the eatery with 18 inches of water. After 12 months of extensive renovations, Dock and Dine reopened two months ago on August 24th. Last Monday, Hurricane Sandy flooded and pounded the restaurant once again. The owner had work crews in the next day cleaning up the mess. That’s determination. That’s no-compromise leadership.

From Maryland to New England, there are countless stories of homes and businesses damaged, destroyed, and without power or communication. In every case, there is a leader making one critical decision after another. In times of crisis, no-compromise leaders rise to the challenge to keep their families safe, their employees working and their customers delighted. The stress is unbearable; there is always another shoe waiting to drop, and the only option is to be the leader. Rest will come when the crisis is over, people are safe, and the company secure.

Here are some no-compromise thoughts about leadership in times of crisis:

  • Fast and furious decisions: When things are chugging along, so do problems. It is easy to procrastinate or endlessly debate the best solution to a problem because the true sense of urgency just is not there. In times of crisis, there is no time to gather opinions or debate a solution. You gather the data available and you make the best decision possible at the time. It doesn’t matter if that decision is popular or not – if it needs to be done, it gets done. Very often, these crisis decisions are the best ones. Furthermore, they are decisions that should have been made long before. I’m not suggesting that all decisions be made with “crisis urgency,” I am suggesting that a leader’s ability to make good decisions in times of crisis means they can have the capacity to make faster and better decisions all the time.
  • Leading through uncertainty: Hurricane Sandy was a storm of massive proportions – nearly a thousand miles wide – on a path to collide with the United States most thickly populated region. It was scary and intimidating knowing what was coming at us. Leaders step up in these times to initiate contingency plans in case the company cannot function, loses power and communication capabilities. Uncertainty yields to clarity. People need to know the “what, when, how and why” of what to do in times of crisis. This simple truth is the most effective way to get a company back to work and productive.
  • Expecting and getting accountability: In times of crisis, there’s no time for push back, conflicting agendas or debating every possible, “what if …?” Decisions must be followed by action and progress. The natural byproduct of a crisis is urgency. Urgency to stop the pain. Urgency to fix what’s broken. Urgency to get to a better place. Urgency to get back to normal. Leaders can get more accomplished in times of crises because the urgency factor has everyone’s attention to get results. Simply put, everyone is accountable for achieving the desired outcome. In the normal flow of business, accountability is driven by rapid and thorough information flow, scoreboards and check-in systems. You do not need a crisis to get everyone engaged and accountable – you just need to think like a no-compromise leader.
  • Doing the impossible: Some of the most extraordinary business gains, ideas and innovations that occur during times of crisis just do not seem to happen during calmer times. The lesson here is that your company is just as capable of doing and innovating extraordinary things any time – if you lead them. Do not wait for a crisis to unleash your company’s true ability to do great things.
  • Never forget: Surviving a crisis and getting back to growth, profitability and good times must become part of your company’s brand story. It’s like, “remember the Alamo.” Looking back at times of adversity and how the company and its people came together strengthens your culture. It reminds you and those you lead that courage, determination and execution exist in your culture. Never forget.

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Categories: Business Builders , Leadership , Monday Morning Wake-Up , No-Compromise Leadership

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  1. Perfectly articulated. I’ve talked to hundreds of salons and friends over the last week _ online and via phone – and every single one was “over prepared” based on their Irene experience. Even moreso, were the ones who were not affected that much to go out of their way to help others. Again, this is a great example of No Compromise Leadership in that they could have just stayed home and weathered the storm while watching the news, but they put aside their own situation and opened their businesses and homes to others that needed help.

    Great column today, Neil – thanks!

  2. I felt like I was watching a movie as the storm charged in and took over the east coast. Having been there for Strategies classes and having relatives in New York right off Long Island made me distinctly aware of the area as “people” and not just an “area”. Since Sandy showed up right after the Azana shooting here in Milwaukee, it feels nonstop as tragedy goes but also in leadership strength and direction. I am blessed to be a part of some of the bright spots here in MIlwaukee in the aftermath of the shooting and greatly appreciate the stories from your area as well. Please continue to share all the good.

  3. Fantastic MMWU! And. it is so very true! Sometime we have difficulty feeling a sense of urgency. We either become comfortable with the mediocrity or oblivious to the rising waters, maybe both. And even if you survive the storm, what’s on the horizon? Al Roker tells of another storm brewing in the Atlantic, a Nor’Easter. There is always something looming! Tomorrow is our big team meeting. I am bringing my Urgency Dial along with me!

  4. I needed this encouragement this week. After a slower than normal September and October tempers have flared, and finances have struggled. This weekend I had to ask myself “What are you going to do about it?” Which led me to begin action. Just like the people up north we will band together and get through this time, then look back on it later and laugh.

  5. Very well stated as usual Neil! Planning and decisions have to be made so people know where and what to do as soon as possible. Procrastination never gets things done, good leaders do.


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