Part of this column appeared in my weekly blog which I publish every Monday. I thought doubling up would be acceptable considering the content and our current state of emergency.
I live in the flood plain. I am on notice that I could be evacuated at any time if there is a dike failure or similar issue that brings water over, under or through the guards we have in place.
The flurry of activity in recent days made me stop and think about how there is a bunch of stuff that happens to get results, stuff we don’t necessarily see and in our narcissistic outlook we don’t even consider.
Using our recent flood situation here as an example, the river rose more than 12 feet in less than seven days. Our city successfully actioned their plans and resources four days prior to when we would have seen the water flowing over our streets.
Not only did they work around the clock, but so did the people who support them. If you are wondering what I mean by that, imagine one family who has both parents working more than 18 hours a day because of their level of responsibility to our city and also have two young children. Their reality is neighbours, family and friends come and stay, cook, clean and mow lawns.
If you see the water contained and our city successful, it is not the heroic effort of any one person. It is, in fact, the impressive effort of a high performance team that has been trained and coached and has planned for emergencies just like this — a 12-foot wall of water coming at us hard and fast.
Throughout my career and my life, I have had the pleasure of creating and being a member of high performing teams. In fact, I’ve studied them — their formation, what makes them high performing, what are the key characteristics and what the issues are that they face.
The City of Brandon is a good example of a high performing team in this flood situation because they took strategic steps that enabled them to function at that high performing level.
So, what did they do? They looked at where they had been — they reviewed the lessons of our 2011 flood situation and used it to make us better.
They improved our dike system, they fine-tuned their response plans and their Plan Bs. They went through evacuation and other simulations to enact situations and issues they could potentially face, so that when they faced them, they were ready.
They clarified roles and responsibilities within their leadership and they made sure people knew their jobs, their action plan and their supports. They communicated that plan down through their leadership team and they talked about it, I imagine — a lot.
I don’t think anyone could have predicted the 170-plus millimetres of rain. But predicting it didn’t matter, our team was ready. They were ready because they knew what to do, how to do and better yet, how to do it well.
I assume if we asked, they would have liked a bit more time, but wouldn’t we all like more time — all the time? It just doesn’t seem to work like that.
There are defining features of a high performance team. They include:
• a group of people with specific roles and complementary talents and skills;
• aligned with and committed to a common purpose;
• consistently show high levels of collaboration and innovation that produce superior results;
• tight-knit, focused on their goal;
• ability to interchange roles; highly skilled.
The City of Brandon exemplified each one of these characteristics in this state of emergency — from the people working behind the scenes ensuring evacuation plans were in place, and information to the public was accurate and timely, to the contractors working through the night to close in the dike at Grand Valley Road; from the many folks who dropped off evacuation pamphlets to those in areas of risk, to others who gladly made meals, minded children and mowed lawns so our municipal servants could be where we needed them to be, in the middle of controlled chaos.
My career has afforded me many critical situations, where the pressure is high, the time is short and the risk is escalating.
Our city, and I mean our whole city, battled the incoming water, the communications, the near tornado-like storms, the sandbags, the traffic, the anxiety, the worry, the long hours, the crest, the second crest, the constant calculations and the unknowns.
There are always things we can improve on, and that is part of what makes a team high performing. They are constantly asking, how can we do this better?
If you measure the city on our recent challenge I think you can, with confidence, say that they were a group of people who had specific roles and complementary talents and skills.
They were aligned with and committed to a common purpose, they showed high levels of collaboration and innovation that produced superior results so far.
They appeared tight-knit and focused on their goal — so focused, in fact, that when the crews were called in for safety reasons the night of the storm that ripped through our southeast part of town, they initially refused. They were intent on finishing their work on the dikes. It was only because they were given no choice, ordered, that they relented and took shelter.
Lastly, they have shown an ability to interchange roles and have proved to be highly skilled in fighting floods.
<t$>If you are a leader, and I believe we are all leaders — leaders of your families, peer groups, businesses and teams — having a high performance team is not beyond you.
But you must take the time to build it.<t-3>
You have to pour the foundation with a common purpose — assign, articulate and educate your team on clear roles in concert with ensuring they have the tools and resources to do their job.
You must be reviewing and constantly evolving your processes, you must create and solidify relationships that are based on mutual trust.
You must be open to innovative ideas, out-of-the-box thinking and diverse world views. You must share the plan, their piece of the plan and you must help them see their own abilities in how to accomplish the unknown and potentially the untested.
High performance teams don’t quit, they adjust.
What is your team doing that may be out of sync with your goal? What are their roles and are they clear? Would you consider them tight knit, focused? Do they collaborate and innovate? Do they want to be better?
Bravo and thank you to the City of Brandon — the employees, the volunteers, the families, the friends, the all.