Approximately three weeks ago, my law office, which rents space on the first floor of a mixed-use commercial building I own in another entity, was flooded when pipes in an overhead unit froze, broke and poured hundreds of gallons of water through the floors and ceilings from the second floor to the basement beneath my office. In the weeks since, I have learned several important lessons. Life can be like that.
The most insightful things I learned are about my shortcomings as a leader. I learned that when a crisis happens, I, as the leader, need to fully assess the severity of the situation. What really is the problem? How bad is it? It was 4-5 days before I began to understand the true severity of the situation and how ugly the problem was. Until that time, I believed we could continue working from our respective homes and do everything virtually. My first mistake as a leader was failing to fully assess the extent of the problem. The full impact of the damage affected our ability to compute, type, edit and print documents, and have access to files.
My second failing as a leader was not clearly communicating with my staff. While I was doing my best to try to continue with my workload and responsibilities, my staff was struggling and working valiantly to preserve and protect the contents of the office, including moving hundreds of files and all the salvageable equipment and furniture. It was 10 days into the disaster when I realized the extent of the demolition needed to remediate any potential mold growth and other problems. By that time, the insurance adjusters from the respective insurance policies had been consulted and had given the green light to ServPro to come in and begin a massive demolition and remediation project.
My third failure is intertwined with the second, and that is failure to gather complete information from team members as to what they saw, knew, felt and thought. Because of those failings, we struggled to formulate a plan for what needed to be done going forward. I want to avoid the temptation to blame this on the fact that I was out of town for 2 days on a previously-scheduled business trip. The bottom line is that I clearly blew it.
The fourth mistake I made as a leader was not having an emergency backup plan already in place. The very idea that my office space would become untenable had never really crossed my mind. I had contents insurance for it in the event someone broke in and stole things, but I never really thought about it from a property inhabitability standpoint.
This brings me to another big mistake I made regarding insurance, which I will cover in my next post.