Thursday, May 17, 2012

Work Like Today Is The Worst Day of Your Life

If you lived along the coastline of Louisiana the day Katrina roared ashore back in August of 2005, you could easily have called it the worst day of your life. But it can also be said that the events that followed proved we are often at our best when the climate is at its worst.

Orchid Ceramics had a small facility in New Orleans when Katrina hit and all of the employees there suffered personal trauma and huge personal losses. All of them faced unimaginable emotional shock in the first days after the storm and then ongoing stress set in later as the days went by, when they realized that the landscape of their lives had been changed forever. All of them suffered loss of property and faced months of restoring, repairing or rebuilding their homes. Some had lost everything.

In the aftermath, Maurizio Francescon, the manager of the New Orleans facility, chose to do something surprising and ensouling. He chose to reopen his retail store just days after Katrina hit, even though there was no power, no air conditioning, no lights and no customers. He set a required “return to work” date that was well out in the future. But employees could also opt to return to work on an earlier date, if they chose to do so.

How many employees do you think returned to work before the mandatory “return to work” date?

All of them.

In the days after Katrina, the team members found work ensouling. Work was a place to go and engage head and heart, a place to forget some of their personal drama, a place to draw support from others who were facing common challenges, and a place to rebuild a business together.

Manager of New Orleans, Maurizio Francescon (L) rebuilds a business and the lives of his employees.
Other employees around the globe immediately joined in with offers to help in any way possible. In the end, it was decided the best thing they could do was to pass the hat and offer to cover the property losses of their fellow employees. And they did just that. Their fellow employees raised enough money to “make whole” all of the property losses of the individuals in New Orleans, some of whom had lost literally everything.

The worst day in the lives of the team in New Orleans brought out the very best of each person in that company: both in those that were directly impacted by the storm and those that had the opportunity to come alongside to help.

Work can bring out so many good things in us. Don’t wait until a Katrina-size storm hits your business to learn that lesson. Use the challenges you face today to unite your employees and ensoul your workplace!

Work like today is the worst day of your life and you will be ensouled.

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