The Floods of Irene Bring Out the Best in This Team (Tribe) of Employees


I saw my friend and Entrepreneur Mentor at church today.  He had called me the Tuesday night after the 500-year flood of the Mohawk River retreated back to its banks from its historic trek to Erie Boulevard in downtown Schenectady and the building where his company of 20+ years is located.  He was facing possible relocation to drier temporary quarters (and potential suspension of business operations), as he did not yet know how extensive the damage was to the building where his company leased space.  He was concerned about his employees, and he called me for a reality check.

Dear Mentor had good news to report today as well as best-practice tidings of how his Employee Team rallied to support him and the business that supported all of their families.

When it became clear that Hurricane / Tropical Storm Irene was going to cause epic flooding in downtown Schenectady, Dear Mentor called all of his employees after the storm subsided to ask their assistance in moving company-critical assets to safer ground before the Mohawk River reached and exceeded its flood stage.  It was Sunday, and it had not been a great day off at home for anyone, thanks to the effects of Irene.

Every member of Dear Mentor’s Employee Team showed up that Sunday to help move the business assets, and they brought reinforcements:  some of them brought their adult children and friends to help as well.  They all worked until midnight that Sunday.  At midnight, his team wished him luck.  At that juncture, no one knew if Dear Mentor’s business would be there after the flood.

After the State of Emergency was lifted in downtown Schenectady, Dear Mentor and his team were allowed back into their building to assess the damage.   The good news was that they didn’t have to move the business out of the building; the challenging news was that the business space was full of mud and without power.

The next day, the Employee Team again demonstrated their resiliency and engagement under the adversity presented by mud and a lack of electricity:  they voluntarily brought their personal generators and power washers from their respective homes, and they got to work.  Dear Mentor was not only grateful for their generosity, but inspired by the joyful collaboration.  “It’s not very often I get to witness these men enjoy the opportunity to let their inner boys come out and play as they used the power washers to get the mud out of the building,” Dear Mentor remarked, his eyes sparkling through noticeable fatigue.

As Dear Mentor shared his story, I knew it was his leadership and commitment that created the space for his Employee Team to rally and give of themselves to preserve their shared livelihood:  this in turn allowed the entire Employee Team to demonstrate the leadership stuff they are truly made of when faced with extreme adversity.

You can’t get nuggets like this from an employee engagement survey.

More importantly (and thankfully), it was not a familial vibe:  Dear Mentor is not their dad, but their Chief.  Dear Mentor and his Employee Team are an interdependent tribe of business warriors, and they demonstrated their commitment, prowess, flexibility, personal investment and generosity in one of the worst situations a CEO (or a tribal leader) can face.

Now that’s a tribe where I’d be honored to be counted as one of their warriors.

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