Prepare Well:Eye of the Leadership Hurricane

As for so many on the East Coast, the last few days have been all about hurricanes, as we prepare for Hurricane Sandy. It’s fascinating to watch the varying approaches from neighbors and friends. I wonder, are we all working to prepare for the same storm?

One friend posted her tongue in cheek Facebook update that she had made 12 jars of strawberry jam, just in case. Another shared that she had “cleaned the house from top to bottom and done all the laundry.” I glanced for a moment at my laundry piling up, and then moved on.

My husband, a fireman, shared that many people with medical conditions will call for an ambulance now, so that they can be safe and get the support they need if the electricity goes out.There are some for whom thinking ahead is a matter of life and death.

As leaders, how we prepare and respond to real and figurative hurricanes is vital. Our teams are watching us more than ever looking for direction, but also for emotional cues.

Times like this call for a complex balancing of critical leadership priorities. As a kid, I always thought it would be cool to be the guy in charge of closing schools for snow. I no longer envy that role. As a leader I find myself making very similar decisions, with serious potential consequences and many complex issues. It’s some of the most complex decision-making around.

  • How do we keep people safe?
  • What do customers need most during this critical time?
  • What must be re-prioritized?
  • What if?

How to Prepare Well

Get the facts

It’s easy to react to emotion and hype. Tap into experts and get the data you need to make rational choices

Plan for contingencies

Consider all the key variables at play and plan for each one. This takes time, but makes for quicker and better decisions when the time comes

Get the RIGHT people involved.

Everyone will have an opinion, much of which will be colored by their own personal circumstances and reaction to the crises. You want input, but this is not the time to go for 100% consensus.

Be prepared to regroup

Circumstances may change. Set frequent check-in points to assess new data and be prepared to


In times of crises, communication reduces stress. Communicate through many channels and then communicate again, not just what is happening, but why

Listen to your heart

Don’t start there, first get the facts. However, your leadership instincts can go a long way on this. Play out the various choices in your mind. Talk through them with trusted advisors. What does you heart say?

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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.


  1. My thoughts this morning are with my friend who works for a hospital in NYC. – “This is awful- Bellevue’s basement flooded, the hospital lost its power, and all backup generators and all equipment are destroyed. The tidal surge from the FDR means it looks like one big body of water- no one knows where the FDR begins or ends. I climbed fifty flights of stairs and have been up since 6am. This is absolute hell. Life and death decisions are being made right now and to bring the place back to normal will cost an absolute fortune. I reek of gasoline from having to form a human chain and pass it and oxygen tanks up the stairs. I was prepared for the worst, but this isn’t even the worst. We’ve pulled together and are truly making the most of this situation. I’m tired and hungry, but otherwise am fine so far.”

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