In 2018, we made the decision to remodel our kitchen. Now we’re in the middle of another renovation…but not by choice.

As I’m sure you know, Mother Nature was not kind to those of us in Texas last month. Ice. Snow. Prolonged periods of subfreezing temperatures. (I’m trying to avoid the word “unprecedented,” but it really was unlike anything we’ve ever seen down here!) Our homes, water systems and electric grids are simply not equipped to handle it. Neither am I!

After four frigid days without power, the tankless water heater in our attic ruptured and saturated the dry wall above our kitchen and den. The domino effect eventually caused part of the ceiling to cave in.

Thankfully, no one was injured. And the truth is, many people in our state suffered much worse, including the loss of precious lives. But I learned some valuable lessons from this experience—ones that apply to life in general, as well as to leadership. I’d like to share them with you.

First, you can never be too prepared.

I might have been skeptical about that saying before, but now I’m a true believer. We were operating under the false assumption that a Texas winter weather event would last 24 hours or less, just like it always does. We were wrong. (It lasted more than a week.)

When the first ice storm hit, we were already low on food staples and bottled water. I don’t have a big pantry and I hate clutter, so I tend to restock frequently versus buying in bulk. The batteries in our flashlights hadn’t been replaced in years, and none of our cars are four-wheel drive. Needless to say, after we burned through a few decorative candles, we were in the dark. No back-up generator or butane lanterns. On the first day without electricity, we had already run out of bread and resorted to eating peanut butter on rice cakes.

We may never have another storm like that in my lifetime, but you can bet I will be ready!

I’m also getting much more comfortable with the concept of an overcrowded pantry.

Second, never underestimate the vital importance of personal relationships.

When the inside of our home reached 45° F, some of our dear friends (with heat and power!) generously invited us to stay with them. One of our neighbors offered to check on our house and our pipes while we were away. Within 10 minutes of coming home to a disaster, we had six men helping to sort through the soggy mess. They showed up with industrial fans, a commercial-grade water vacuum system, buckets and towels. What would have taken us days to clean up only took hours. And while many people in town were on weeks-long waiting lists for water pipe repair, a local plumber we’ve been loyal to for years arrived within four days to install new equipment.

From every angle, the relationships we had developed and nurtured over time literally saved us in the middle of a crisis. There’s no way to quantify that value; it’s priceless.

So how does all of this translate to you? Consider your level of readiness to weather the metaphorical business storms you may not see coming.

  • Are you fully prepared to handle the challenges of an unexpected disruption?
  • Have you been intentional about building the kinds of relationships that can help sustain you during rough times or a crisis?
  • Are you willing to remodel the way you work and lead to become a more effective manager?

Today, life in the Lone Star State is beginning to return to normal for many people. For others, it will take much, much longer—processing the loss of loved ones or rebuilding from the ground up. In the meantime, the lessons I learned during this challenging experience will remain top of mind for me, both personally and professionally.