I sat on my couch in Virginia and watched along with the rest of the world Hurricane Ian’s path of destruction from Cuba to Florida. At each milestone, checking in on family members in its path and praying for all in harm’s way.
I was born and raised in the “bottom” of Daytona Beach. It is our family hub. Our parents moved into the neighborhood 58 years ago and weathered many storms. Our home was a fortress of safety from the storms.
As Ian descended on central Florida, Orlando, and then Daytona our sibling chat room was busy with the seven of us checking on each other with assurances that everyone in the family was safe, sheltering in place, and prepared to ride out the storm.
As the storm progressed, I watched the flood waters rise as the storm intensified. Still, the conversation in the chat was encouraging. Yet, the first sign of concern happened when a few windows were blown out by the winds. Within 20 minutes my great nephew weathered the storm and arrived at the house to board up the windows. The message in the sibling chat was informative. While cautiously concerned, I remained hopeful that there would be minimal damage.
Then I learned that we have multiple communication channels in the family. I received a call from my son in Chicago, simply saying mom is the family in Daytona okay. I relayed to him the messages from the chat, but all was okay. He said, really, okay, keep me posted. Immediately following I received a call from my daughter in Southern Virginia – Mom, have you talked to Auntie the house is flooding and they are going to a hotel in the morning. Wait What?!?!?
I immediately send a message in the sibling chat – “the pictures are horrible, is everything okay?” Silence and then the phone rings at 10:09 pm, It’s my oldest sister and caregiver of our mom. She states – the house is flooding; the electricity is out, and we have a reservation for a hotel tomorrow. Mom is fine, we have her settled, our baby brother will be there in the morning with his big truck that can get through the waters to help move mom. (Note – she stated the problem and the solution in 5 minutes or less, before I could start questioning) As is our family way, she took the message to each of us out of the chat and held a phone call.
The storm had hit home, and I was benched. On the sidelines, not able to assist! I was benched in Virginia, another sibling was benched in Atlanta and the third was benched in Orlando, dealing with the aftermath of the storm. Anyone who has ever met one of us knows, that benched is a hard position for us to be in…
In any organization, team, or unit there are multiple communication channels. A great leader knows how to responsibly engage and communicate with each channel. For us, it is our oldest sister. She engaged:
Channel 1: Active network – The team on the ground, in-person, and ready for action. It consisted of the three brothers in Daytona, the grandchildren, and the great-grandchildren – those who could spring into action. The role – was an evacuation, cleanup, transport of mom, and securing the house. Their response: “What do you need me to do”
Channel 2 – Informational network– to the Siblings. (just call us the worrisome three) Keeping us informed on what was taking place…our question “What do you need from us” We were in the supporting role. Managing the flow of communication with the rest of the family. She provided regular updates at the appropriate intervals.
Channel 3 – Informal network consisting of the grandkids (how my children knew what was going on) Their role – share the information with each other based on information received from channels 1&2.
As I reflect on the past 48 hours, I am reminded of the importance of teamwork and understanding each role. Each communication receives the appropriate message at the appropriate level, Active, Informational, and Informal. Although I am benched, I was still in the game as a supporting cast.
My sister orchestrated the perfect evacuation, rallied the right team players for the job, and managed those of us on the sidelines. At the end of the mission – she sent a picture of mom being cared for by one of my nieces, with a note saying “All is well, we are settled but exhausted. I have to lay down” She led through the 48-hour crisis. Deb and Mom are now under the care of my nieces in West Palm Beach. We were worried about the road trip but Mom loved it and is looking forward to her next adventure.
While it is far from over, the immediate crisis has passed. The recovery effort will be massive; however, we trust the team on the ground to manage and keep us informed.