As I am typing this, I am sitting on a picnic bench underneath the Marlin Fishing Association local gathering place. They meet on the second story leaving this incredible covered patio area scattered with picnic tables with the view of a beautiful marina with over two hundred boats of all kinds ready to go. There will be no going today however as we have had this storm sitting over the area for a few days now. The rain this morning is steady with bursts of intensity. This is my go-to place. I try to come every Monday morning and sit and write, it’s where I get inspiration. Today I am contemplating storms, like the one right now. These storms come and go in the summer, you might say there is either a storm present now, one coming, or one just leaving. As it is with the weather in this case, so it is in life. Our lives are complex with activities and relationships filling up all of our days. In each of those activities and relationships there are storms. Some are small, some are big, and some ebb and flow but rest assured, we are either in one, just leaving one, or just about to enter one. As leaders, we have a responsibility in storms. At these times people are looking at us and watching how we proceed. Those around us will learn a lot about us by our response. This is not bad, this is opportunity. We have the opportunity to look up, look around, look ahead, and look behind.
Regardless of where you are in the storm cycle and whether or not the storm is based upon professional or personal activities or relationships, there will be many lessons. In the storm is where fireworks happen and out of the storm is where the learning takes place. After the storm we get to evaluate how things went and before the storm we get to prepare how to respond. The key to storms is looking so lets take some time to discover looking: up, around, ahead, and behind.
Some storms are intense, especially the relational ones. Let’s just get this out of the way, all storms are relational or at least have relationships woven in there somewhere. During these intense storms it is very important to the people around you and in the storm with you to keep your head up. If you need to sulk and feel sorry for yourself, go in your office or your closet or with a close personal friend and do that. It’s ok to do that for a few minutes, then get over it and move on. If people around you even sniff defeat, they will lose interest in progress and see the storm as a show stopper and they will give up. The storm may indeed be a show stopper but we can lead and learn even through failure so keep your head up.
One of the greatest comforts I get in the storm is that I am not alone. Loneliness in a storm can be devastating. As humans, for the most part, we were designed to be in community. This is true in many aspects, especially storms. Look around you, see that there are others walking with you and others who have already walked through something similar. Looking around and gaining understanding that this is going to be ok gives hope. That hope is very contagious and will permeate to those around you. Contagious hope can be the very force that gets you and the team through a major storm.
As the saying goes, keep your eyes on the prize. Chris and I have written so many times on Cultureinfusion.com about being missional. Be intentional about keeping the main thing the main thing. Being missional and focused and driven to keeping it that way will help put storms into perspective. Some storms are just roadblocks. In project management roadblocks are assessed for risk and impact. How will these storms keep us from our mission and what can be done to either resolve them or move around them? Keeping your eyes focussed on the goal helps remove emotion from the situation as well. That doesn’t work all the time, especially with relational storms, but it can help. Talking about the goal with others will keep everyone on the same page.
Finally, we look behind. Evidence of successfully navigating past storms will bring incredible confidence to both you and others involved. Even if looking back means looking at failed navigation, look at what was learned from that storm. Looking back does not mean bringing all of the emotion from the past storm into the current one, it means looking at the circumstances and seeing how you came through. History is our best teacher and even though many storms I have walked through were of my own making, I still learn from them. Here is where my faith kicks in. God has never dropped me on my head, never, in any storm I have ever been through. As I evaluate past storms, I always see His hand there and that always gives me great comfort in the current storm. This of course impacts those around me as they see me walk with comfort, it, like hope, permeates.
In leadership we navigate storms all the time. The review process after the storm is our opportunity to take our circumstances and relationships to the next level. We must be committed to learning from storms. This concept is deeper than most think. This is the antithesis of the grass is greener mentality. Why it is that the average tenure for employees today is somewhere in the two-four year range. My assessment is that in most cases storms are not dealt with appropriately. If you walk out of a storm and things are still weighing on you either circumstantially or relationally, the storm is not over, there is more work to do. The grass is greener mentality says this is too hard and over there is better. Over there is arguably not better, it is just different. Storms are there too and they will have to be navigated. One thing is certain, where you go, there you are. Our ability to appropriately look around during storms can be a guide everywhere we go, professionally and personally. It is time to start looking around and leveraging storms to make a difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us.