There Goes the Roof!

Posted on November 14, 2019

morning buzz

Today’s Morning Buzz is by me, Nina Vetter. Follow me on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

What I’m Reading: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World for our CCCMA Book Club that I started!

What I’m Watching: Fleabag. If you have Amazon Prime I’m begging you to please watch this show!

What I’m Listening To: Classical music to try to get myself to write more.

For my first buzz, I’m going to tell you a little story, so sit back and relax!

It was Wednesday, March 13, 2019 and I had been working as the Pueblo West Metropolitan District Manager since January 1, 2019. I get a phone call from our general counsel, “Nina, the roof blew off of our building.” The “building” he was referring to was the place that served as our town hall and housed twenty four employees. Turns out we did lose the roof, as well as our HVAC system, gas lines and water lines due to the March 2019 “bomb cyclone.” Fortunately, no was injured!

The next day we stood up a version of NIMS (National Incident Management System) that would work for us, and convened a group of key staff to help us move forward. Because the roof literally came off the building (as in you could see the sky from some of the offices) we could not work in the building. We knew we would be closed at least the rest of that week.

metro building

I could bore you on the details of how we worked through this, but I think it’s more insightful to share what I learned going through this incident that applies not just to emergencies, but also to leading in local government.

#1: Don’t forget about the people.

My amazing emergency team was quick to get to work on the logistics of it all, but I had to keep in mind the impact on our employees. For two days all our employees knew was that the roof had blew off, the offices were closed, and that we’d let them know “soon” what would happen next. I knew this would make at least some of our employees nervous, and understandably so.

I made an executive decision, with a little push back from some of my staff, that we needed to bring in staff the following Monday to discuss what happened, what we’ve been working on and what our next steps would be. We settled on a half day, brought in coffee and doughnuts, and asked employees to put together a list of things they needed from their office areas sooner rather than later, especially any personal items they wanted to retrieve.

#2 It’s just a building.

Weeks after we had relocated and things were fairly back to normal, one of our employees stopped me and said “thank you for your leadership during all of that. It was so reassuring that you weren’t panicking. It felt like it was all under control”. Was it? Not entirely, but remaining calm and reassuring our employees that we’d figure out how to make it all work was key to our success. Though truthfully, my rational brain tells me that an “emergency” is just a situation that can be resolved through smart and swift action.

san isabel

#3: Home is a feeling.

You may or may not be the person who is tied to their space, whether it is your personal home, your office, or your car. I am not one of those people, but I have met many people in my life who are emotionally affected when their space particularly at work is moved, changed or rearranged.

We were about to significantly change the work space of twenty employees. We would have people sharing offices who used to have their own offices, people in cubicles who used to have offices, etc. As we were relocating, I realized that the new space seemed stale and had no personality. I immediately went out and bought puzzles for the office and little decorations and candy for every cubicle so that when our employees moved in to relocate the next day there was at least a little sense of “home” and that familiarity of having puzzles to do during lunch break!

We’ve worked hard over the last few months on improving employee morale, ensuring everyone feels valued and respected in the workplace. It is possible to relocate twenty employees and still feel at least some send of “home” when you cultivate the culture, keep a positive and calm attitude, keep the traditions rolling, and never forget that in any emergency or tough transition always take good care of the people.

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