Shortly after hurricane Andrew swept through Homestead, Florida in 1992 a friend of mine expressed amazement at the massive devastation that was left in its wake. What stood out most in his mind was not the degree of destruction, but rather the houses that were left standing in the midst of it all. In an area that had been totally destroyed, there would be a row of houses, or sometimes a small subdivision that, surprisingly, would be left standing and virtually in tact. So being the inquisitive person he is, he began to investigate how this could happen.It turns out that this was no accident. During construction, most of the homes that stood strong were reinforced with simple little devices called hurricane straps, or strong ties, as one company has come to refer to them. As you can see from the picture above, these little devices were designed specifically to prevent the massive devastation that can be caused by the strong winds of a hurricane. They are now standard building code for new structures in hurricane prone areas. I am told that they can should be best installed while the home is under construction. It is possible to add them later, but it can be incredibly expensive, and is certainly not the remedy to take just before the storm hits.
As the news of the approaching storm spread across the airwaves in 1992, I am sure that many home owners scrambled frantically to save their homes. They did what they had been instructed to do, or what they had done in past hurricanes. They boarded up the windows, stacked sandbags to prevent flooding, and tied down anything they thought might blow away. Unfortunately many, those desperate efforts were futile. As hard as they worked, it was simply too little, too late. Their homes were destroyed.
Robert and Sandra Harris’ house was the only one on Wiggins Street in Pascagoula, Mississippi, that remained standing after Hurricane Katrina hit After being battered in several prior storms, the Harris’ tore down their house and started over, this time with hurricane straps and more. Noted in a FEMA report entitled: Only House Left Standing: Building Code Saves House.
When it comes to weathering the storms of life and the challenges of leadership, Strong-Ties are best put in place during the construction phase. Some of us were fortunate enough to have parents, friends, pastors, teachers, mentors and leaders who helped put these Strong-Ties in place early in our lives. Others of us were fortunate to be employed in progressive organizations where the executives believed in leadership development, talent management and succession planning. These organizations had the values and the vision to provide training, tools, experiences, mentors and resources to ensure their leaders had all the tools required to be effective and successful, and to guarantee that they had the bench strength in place to warrant the future success of the organization. Those who have had these opportunities count themselves blessed, and many are intent on paying this gift forward.
Others have encountered the storms less prepared and have some rebuilding to do. Fortunately those storms can have a positive effect for leaders. In fact one well known leadership research group has shown that leaders attribute most of their leadership effectiveness to all that they learned through the storms they have encountered in their personal and professional life. It is these storms that have impressed on them the necessity of incorporating Strong-Ties into their lives and into their businesses. Unlike the house devastated by the hurricane, we have the fortune of being able to learn as we go, and incorporate Strong-Ties as soon as we recognize the need for reinforcement.