Preparing For The Unexpected

Preparing For The Unexpected

Preparing For The Unexpected

By Mark Wager

Considering how much work it takes to prepare for what we expect to happen in business it's not a surprise that we find it difficult to deal with the unexpected yet it's when we have to deal with the unexpected that we look to our leaders for guidance. Nothing is more unpredictable than nature. When nature decides to make us aware of her presence, whether it's in the form of an earthquake, a cyclone or floods, nature presents leaders and businesses the challenges to overcome. Like every challenge the probability of success increases in proportion to the amount of preparation you commit to.

Businesses have to make very difficult decisions about how to deal with any crisis and while business is not first on anyone's thoughts during these times it does raise some interesting questions as to how businesses need to plan for not only natural disasters but any event that could jeopardise it's future. In this article I look at what leaders can do in order to prepare for the unexpected.

People come first
No matter how important your business may be to you, people have to come first. Any decision you make during a crisis has to have the welfare of people at its very centre. Even if there's a 1% chance of danger to people then as a leader you have to take it as an absolute certainty and act accordingly.

Update your contacts list
When Christchurch in New Zealand was struck by a serious earthquake five years ago I know several businesses who couldn't react effectively because the contact details of their employees were out of date. They couldn't get hold of their employees to confirm if they were ok and to advise what was happening with work. Ensure that you have the contact details of all your staff and emergency contact details and more importantly that these details are regularly updated.

Information is the key
Decisions can only be made effectively when you have access to the correct information. During times of crisis information is the key. Ensure you have access to the radio, television and if possible the internet. Social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter are invaluable as you are able to access information in real time. I recall being in one office and we had received an alert about a tornado heading our way. When we checked the usual met service websites they had crashed due to the large amounts of people visiting their sites. It was at this time that I went onto Twitter and found all the information I needed and it was in real time.

Clarity of communication
During a business crisis you don't want your organisation to have many voices as the situation can change so rapidly that you need to limit the possibility of false information being released. Keep the communication coming from a single source and this information is being disseminated through various channels. Again social media can be invaluable to utilise tools like Twitter and Facebook to provide regular updates to your employees and your customers. Also ensure communication is regular as in stressful situations if there are gaps in communication people tend to fill their gaps with their own fears and concerns.

Plan and prepare
Quality leaders do not become quality leaders by accident they have the ability to see ahead and plan for any eventuality. Not only do they plan but they prepare as well. They have emergency plans in place that are available around the organisation and these plans are in place in order to ensure that the welfare of the staff is of paramount importance and the business can return to business as usual status as soon as possible. A lot of businesses have details of what to do in case of a fire but when was the last time you ran a drill? I know businesses who run through crisis scenarios in order to test their systems and to highlight any risk areas.

Ask yourself what would your business do in a crisis situation, how could you cope? What if there were no communication channels available? No electricity? Even if there's no leader? What happens to your customers, your staff? Don't wait to answer these questions until you have no option but to answer them. Take time and answer these crisis questions now and hope that you never have to action them but in an extremely rare case, if you find that you do then you might find that not only can you save your businesses but more importantly the welfare of your staff as well.

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at

Posted: Monday 6 June 2016

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