Terri, programmer for a Northwest region tire company, told Session 3B of the Leadership Development Lab:
"In July 2002 during the Biscuit Fire, I was asked to be the "Blue Cap" kitchen supervisor for the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief kitchen in Grants Pass, Oregon. It was my first time in this position and was told that I would follow around the outgoing "Blue Cap" for a day before being left on my own.
When the morning assignment briefing meeting was over, I discovered to my amazement that the outgoing "Blue Cap" was gone. I was on my own. The crew was having a very difficult time getting the new 2,500 meal kitchen, which replaced a 25,000 meal kitchen, set up. Once we got the kitchen up and running, the Health Department showed up to inspect our kitchen because a young woman had died over the weekend and food poisoning was suspected. The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) follows very high standards and we passed with flying colors and were issued our temporary restaurant license.
Then the Red Cross representative came in and asked me to put together a list of spare supplies we could send to another kitchen they were setting up. It was 11 a.m. and the truck would be there at 1 p.m. to pick up the supplies we could spare Ė a two hour notice. It
was my first day. I had no idea what my inventory was or what I would need for my own meals for the next five days. We were already behind in getting lunch out because of the setup delays and a meal plan for a much larger kitchen than ours.
We got all of our meals out (a little late) that day. I kept a cool head, handled each problem calmly, and met with my crew to get their input on the new food plan.
I stayed up late that night and reorganized our formal operating plan and meals. The next four days went very smoothly.
The lesson I learned from this experience is that even when everything is falling apart around me and the pressure is on, to handle each problem calmly and reassess after the crisis is over. I learned that when I do take the time needed to reassess and make a plan, things always get better!
The action I call you to take is to stay calm and handle problems as they arise. Donít get ahead of yourself with worry and excessive concern. The benefit you will gain is you and your team will successfully get through those crises that occur in every business. Then by really learning from those inevitable crises, you begin a pattern that will eliminate root causes of crises and you will be able to operate in a calm, sane, productive manner even more of the time."