Tornados, Turnover, & To-Do Lists

On the night of December 10th, 2021, primal instinct came over me. We had no more time – the F4 tornado was here. While it ripped through the field beside us, with all 5’3″, 115 pounds of my body, I desperately shielded and white-knuckled the bodies of my three children on the back floorboard of our SUV while my husband covered our daughter in the front.

With the vehicle rocking back and forth and the horror of a roof flying overhead, it was at that moment – when there was nothing I could do to stop the destruction – that I recognized that I am a leader in this family, I should have seen this coming, and I should have better prepared everyone for it.

My question to you today is: As a leader of your organization, could there be destruction coming in your future that you should be preparing for, too?

The Reality & Risk of Losing Top Talent
I’ll remember December 10th, 2021 for the rest of my life. All day I had heard warnings about the storms that were coming to our area that night – regional and local news stations issuing Storm Watches, my Sonic carhop eerily cautioned me to “Stay safe out there, tonight…” as she handed me my late-night ice cream snack, and my weather aficionado best friend had texted me several times with warnings about the storms that were coming.

Honestly, all of it fell on deaf ears. I heard the warnings, I did not heed the warnings. We are good, it won’t happen here, they’re blowing this way out of proportion…all the thoughts that crossed my mind earlier that day.

In all reality, I’m still processing the events of the experience that day. However, because my professional expertise is in developing leaders, I cannot ignore the leadership lesson that is emerging from it all.

You may not have been in the wake of the tornado I’m referencing in this blog. However, there are two specific potential “disasters” many organizations are being warned about right now. What is interesting is that although the warnings are being sent out, few are working on or preparing to mitigate the risk. My fear is that you may hear the warnings, but not heed the warnings…then find yourself white-knuckling your past success as unstoppable destruction happens among your organization.

Here are the two potential “disasters” I encourage you to take notice of today:

In large part due to the pandemic, many organizations are rapidly losing top-performing talent for opportunities that better serve the individual employee’s needs. #TheGreatResignation is the trending term for this issue, and one quick Google search will provide you with numerous reputable studies as proof.

For some organizations, you’ve lost top talent. Mass turnover has already happened in the last year or so and you’re already working to rebuild.

For others, you’re in the middle of the storm, losing top talent, and you’re working to stop further destruction.

And then there are those who are just now hearing the warnings of the potential destruction headed their way and are wondering if this will really happen to their team.

With that in mind, where do you find yourself, your organization, today?

The other potential disaster you should be aware of is the #TheUltimateRedefining. Again, largely due to the effects of the pandemic, many employees now have new, different expectations inside the workplace.

Many of my own clients have multiple positions, performance expectations, and goals in their organization that must be ultimately redefined in order to combat low employee engagement, burnout, turnover, and overall poor performance that is happening recently.

Is that true for your organization?
Start With Your Culture

Here’s is what we know:

  1. When the organization does not have a culture that is helping them grow personally and professionally, employees may: 1) ‘quit and leave’ (#TheGreatResignation) or 2) ‘quit and stay’ (Hence the need for #TheUltimateRedefining).
  2. The Contagion Effect. As others in the organization choose to perform poorly or even quit, other top performers start wondering if they can/should do the same – it can become a nightmare on multiple levels.

To avoid mass destruction of your workforce and bottom-line – leadership is critical. Leadership drives organizational culture, and “culture” is at the heart of the solution to these challenges.

An organization’s culture must be crystal clear, mutually understood, and expertly executed among all levels of employees to reap economical and purpose-driven benefits in today’s business environment.

“To avoid mass destruction of your workforce and bottom-line – leadership is critical.”

The reality is that an organization’s culture drives everything the team does and does not do – from strategic planning, to side conversations around the office, to serving customers, to personal and professional development opportunities – and everything in between, every word, every decision.

With that firm realization in mind, I have questions for you to consider: Can every one of your employees easily and correctly define the culture of your organization? Have you asked them? Do you like their answers?

More importantly, is everyone in the organization consistently living out the intended culture in today’s chaotic work world? Have you observed them doing so?

If you’re uncertain or you answer “no” to those questions, it’s time to take action. I’m not one to sit around and pontificate about an idea – I am fueled by action. Even more than that, I’m fueled by you achieving success through action! So what’s the next right step if resigning or redefining disasters are looming or have already hit your workforce? Start planning to intentionally transform and reinforce your culture.

Triage Your To-Do List
Let’s get your mindset right before we touch on the to-do list for culture transformation.

Time is money, right? For many successful professionals, this concept runs deep through their veins. Many in management positions are task-oriented, list makers, and serotonin producers when it comes to checking tasks off the to-do list. And here lies a challenge for leaders when it comes to culture development – it will never be checked off your list. Your team, your market, your competitors, and your customers will evolve. Your culture must, too. Therefore, your to-do list should follow suit, year after year.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and I went with a church group to ground zero to help clean up soon after. Victims of the storm were triaged by professionals before resources were deployed. I saw it first hand. Now, the same triage strategy is fueling the clean-up efforts from the tornado in my community even as I write this. As organizational leaders, the same must be done for a culture-transformation initiative in your organization – whether you’re prepping for disaster or recovering from it.

Here are two foundational considerations to begin strategizing transformation goals and tasks.

  1. 360 Onboarding, Re-Onboarding, & Awakening
    Think about new hires, those who’ve lost a co-worker, and all you wish to impact through culture transformation. Consider how current employees may have evolved through experiencing a pandemic. Everyone needs to fully understand the organization’s purpose and the role their individual success plays in the big picture.. And if the organization’s new goals don’t line up with an employee’s current and/or future goals, it is time for a difficult conversation to be had so both parties can move forward, better.
  2. Comprehensively Developing Leaders at All Levels of the Organization
    Culture is effectively transformed through simple, practical processes that can be scaled and followed by employees at all levels of the organization. Imagine all the incredibly positive effects of your employees operating off a standard process for empowerment, delegating, handling conflict, goal setting, performance evaluations, decision making, running meetings, and more.

The to-do list arising from strategically planning culture transformation, beginning with these two considerations, will reflect just how complex this ongoing process is – which is why you must triage your to-do list. Answer the questions: What’s most important and when will we address all items on the list?

With a clear vision (#1) and fully equipped employees (#2), leaders can unleash their teams to achieve mind-blowing success.

Focus Your Actions, Fuel Your Future
You may be wondering what happened to my family, our home, and our community that night. It feels so strange to answer this concern because our story is unlike so many we love. Our family suffered zero physical damage that night. However, almost 100 lives were lost in KY. Many of our neighbors and friends lost everything.

Don’t let the headlines fool you though, there is an incredible bright side to all of this! Every single person I have talked to that has lost so much emphatically claims how thankful they are to be alive, how appreciative they are of the support from friends and strangers from across the world, and how they’re inspired to move into the future with more of a servant’s heart to repay the kindness shown to them.

With all the prep in the world, an F4 tornado can wreak unimaginable havoc. However, the same is not true when it comes to disasters or challenges that may strike your team this year.

You are responsible for your success – own it. Whether you’re leading up, down, or both – you have the power to influence the culture of your organization which means you have the ability to prepare for a disaster and minimize the damage.

Culture that breeds success personally and professionally – it’s what works in today’s world. And in a world where there’s more than enough destruction, we need more people stepping up to lead the way into a better, brighter, stronger future. That’s worth getting out of bed, prepping, and tackling in 2022, right?

© Alyson Van Hooser  All Rights Reserved.


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