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  • Writer's pictureBurk Moreland

Does your team know what to do? How to insure your team is ready for the unexpected

It is with the heaviest of hearts that Superior Expo Services announces the unexpected passing of our General Manager and leader, Chad Thornton.

That statement was one of the hardest I have ever had to type for a client. Not only had I lost a client and good friend, but I also knew what Chad’s death meant for all of Chad’s employees, their families, and SES’s clients.

I have had the opportunity to work with Chad and SES for about 3 years now. During that time we have increased the revenue by more than double and increased the profit margins at the same time. More importantly we have started building a culture of accomplishment and family—a family that I am happy to say has included me as one of their own. I can assure you that I hope I don’t have to type another statement like that again for a very, very long time.

In the week since Chad’s death, I have spent extra time with his team, and several team members have come up to me and hugged me. They thanked me for helping to get the company to where it is today. If Chad’s death had happened three years ago—before we started working together, it would have been a personal disaster for him and his family and friends, and a catastrophic one for the company.

One of my main focuses for the last few years has been to understand and learn from the simple wisdom that guided Chad’s choices and made him the amazing leader that he was. Together, Chad and I spent many hours identifying and clarifying the many innovative ideas he used to build and improve his company. As a result, we were gradually able to better understand the thought processes that enabled him to build the successful team he created. Part of my goal was to share that information with his team.

Like a lot of strong leaders in small to medium sized companies, Chad had always been able to run his business out of his head—without assistance from anyone. In fact, he believed he was protecting his team by taking all of the responsibility and pressure on himself. However, the problem with that belief is that there is no room for the unexpected. As many of his team members told me: Can you imagine what would have happened had we not started the process of downloading the information several years ago?

It’s always easier to see someone else’s situation more clearly than our own. Now that the unexpected has happened, we can all see clearly that a critical part of being a good leader is allowing the team around you to have information and delegating responsibilities. It is the only thing we can do to prepare for unexpected tragedies like Chad’s sudden death. Even then, the waves of grief and pain caused by this kind of loss will ripple through a company and create temporary chaos, but if knowledge and experience have been shared along the way, they will eventually reveal a path, and order will be restored.

Today, I challenge you to take a good, close look at your own operation and ask yourself if you and your team are prepared for the unexpected. Can you take a vacation without a phone or computer for a week or more? Can you do it without working tons of extra hours before you leave and then again after you get back? If the answer is no (don’t worry, most of the time it is), please start the process of allowing others to help. Your family, your team, and your clients will all be better off. Invest a little in offloading duties and responsibilities. Fortunately, for most of you and your companies, you will never face the kind of sudden tragedy experienced by Superior Expo Services. For most of you, the main advantage of this kind of preparation and distribution of knowledge and responsibility will be the simple pleasure you receive from taking a real vacation.

Here’s how to start:

· Sit down with someone who knows your routine and write down all of the things you take care of during the week. Your list will be pretty long once you get into the details. And be specific, instead of “approve paperwork,” write “approve contracts” or “approve time cards.”

· Once you write it all out, decide who in your operation you truly believe in and trust. Start with just one person. You have probably believed, as Chad did, that you were protecting your team. The truth is that you have actually been telling them you didn’t believe in them. Once you actually allow them to help, you will be shocked at how much better they will feel and how much harder they will work.

· Start by giving your chosen person a few easy tasks. For example, what can you give them that will only require a ‘final check’ from you? A trial run—just so you can be sure they have got it? You could start with something small, but important, like matching up numbers on invoices—a task that requires only a small amount of your valuable time because it is something that is easy for you to spot check. Train them, show them, watch them do it, then check on it periodically and always, always give them permission to ask if they aren’t sure. It is very important to make it safe to ask questions.

· Now that a few of the easy things are off of your list, move up to items that are a little more difficult and find someone that can help you with those things. The procedure is basically the same for every level of responsibility.

Once you have turned over what you consider a reasonable percentage of responsibility, it’s a good idea to test yourself. Take a day out of the office and see what happens. Trust me when I tell you that it is not a “badge of honor” to always be the first one in and last one out. . . . Unless you are a sole proprietor, that is just a recipe for impending disaster. Instead of trying to do everything and trying never to ask for help, why not find some opportunities to enjoy the “fruits of your labor?” Believe me when I tell you that I understand that for control freaks like you and me, this process is never easy, but trust me when I say that it can be very freeing.

The only time guaranteed to any of us is the present. . . . Don’t you think we should make the most of it? Always plan for success, but don’t ignore the possibility of the something unexpected. Be sure your plans include a way forward in case you aren’t there to guide those you care about—teach them and make sure they are informed.

For help with this or to push your company to the next level, contact us today. or (832) 356-4585. Until next time, go be the rainmaker for your team!

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