This winter, my first in the south, has been different. Southern cities are not equipped to deal with the amount or frequency of snow and ice this winter has brought our way. If you live in the north, or have lived in the north, allow me to expand on the meaning of “not equipped.”

Not equipped means plows don’t clear turn lanes, restaurants close at the sight of a snow flake, malls close or delay opening by four hours, and schools cancel classes for an entire week. Someone on Twitter asked this morning, “Where are all the people in Nashville? This place is a ghost town.”

Not equipped. Got it?

This morning I woke up in the midst of another snowstorm in Nashville. It has a name. Call it winter, or Thor. I’m not touching that one. Or, the fact that someone decided to start naming winter storms.

I learned today, Nashville has officially had over one inch of snow for the first time in over four years. That gives me perspective. Today, the snow bubble burst and had to be reset.

We don’t know when more snow or ice will come, just like we never know when circumstances may change. As a leader who works with leaders, that got me to thinking, “How can leaders respond to unfavorable or unexpected circumstances?”

Here are six things this winter has reminded me about leading others through storms:

1. Learn from Experience

Two weeks ago, we were hit by a snow and ice storm. It took three days for sidewalks and streets to get shoveled, salted, and plowed. Admittedly, I live in a new complex. The management was completely unprepared for winter weather. This type of weather is uncommon. At one point, the fire suppression system had to be deactivated after pipes burst in several places in another building.

I wondered what would happen if we had more snow.

This morning was different. By 9 a.m., a plow came flying through, cleaning the road, and dropping salt. They learned from experience and responded differently to this storm. Circumstances were similar, but the response was different. As a result, so is our ability to navigate the parking areas. Leaders, are you learning from your experiences?

IMG_59462. Once Through is Good, Twice Through Is…

After the plow went through, I looked out my window to see if I could get to my car. Grateful that the road was plowed, I noticed something that would have never happened in other cities. There was a single path. The driver didn’t clear two lanes, only one. There was no second pass around the complex to clear a wider path. The truck made one pass at plowing the snow and dropping salt. It went through once and the driver was done. For those of us who are recovering perfectionists, “once through and done” is a hard sell. I’m still learning.

3. Pace Yourself

In less than five minutes the snow plow sped through the streets and cleared a path for cars. The truck driver knew the task and got it done. Leaders with the skills to navigate, know when to move quickly and when to slow down. The snowplow driver was moving so quickly this morning s/he was running the risk of creating road kill. Thank goodness, it was so cold and snowy, no living creature, human or beast, was outside to get in the truck’s way. I’ve been reminded often this winter of the importance of pace.

Moving on…what other reminders has winter offered?

4. Make Deposits to Enhance Movement

As the truck cleared the way, it dropped salt, melting the layer of ice beneath the snow. Salt was a deposit that resulted in taking something away so people could drive and walk without falling. The deposit cleared the way for movement. Perhaps the question to ask is, “Are the deposits I am making in the lives of others creating space for movement or hindering movement?”

5. Over-Deliver in Serving Others

My phone rang. It was not a number I recognized. It was the dry cleaner. They called to apologize for the weather. Really, they called to apologize that the weather meant my dry cleaning would not be ready when promised. I was to pick up two pairs of pants after 5 pm today. “Your items will be ready tomorrow. I am very, very sorry for the inconvenience,” said the woman on the phone.  She apologized, explained when I could pick up my clothes, and reassured me this was not a normal practice. The call took all of one minute, but made a huge difference.

I was blown away a dry cleaner would bother to pick up the phone and make a call on a snowy day. The last thing on my mind in the midst of a winter storm is getting to the dry cleaner. But, they didn’t know that. While this is my first time to use that dry cleaning service, they have a new customer. They over-delivered on their service.

6. Play! 

From police officers having snowball fights with kids at a local park, to city management sending texts inviting people to “stay home, stay safe, and build a snowman,” to the Kentucky town that posted a warrant for Elsa’s arrest, the winter storms have reminded me of the need to play. A sense of humor can go a long way in unfavorable circumstances. Play and laughter can ease tense, unfavorable, or unwanted situations. Leaders, are you having fun with those you lead?

FullSizeRenderHere’s what I know: Winter may have won, but, I am thankful for the reminders about leading through the storms.

This time next year, I’m looking forward to using the pool I look at from my kitchen window. It is open, but as you can imagine, no one is swimming.

One last question: Anyone up for a snowball fight? Or, how about a better question:  How many days until spring?