Most of us remember exactly where we were and what we were doing at certain times in history. Think of 9-11, the John F. Kennedy Assassination, the mortgage crisis in 2008; very few are still around that remember Pearl Harbor. Whatever the event, it brings a sense of uncertainty of what is to follow.

Such are the times that we deal with today, although it is an invisible enemy that leaves us with many questions. As in the above-mentioned events, although we may have known someone who was impacted, it probably was not us directly. This is different: Do we stay home? Do we have the right supplies? What do I need to have on hand? Do I have a job? How does this affect my finances? My family? My retirement? All legitimate questions that probably no one person can provide you the answers you need.

That is why it is so important to have a voice that can calm the circumstances and provide you with guidance to help you through this time. This is the opportunity you have been given by being chosen to be in the positions you have to help those in your charge to make it through. This is LEADERSHIP.

People Over Profit

Over the past weeks, there have been many tough decisions made. It also has been a time that made me very proud to have been a part of Indian Gaming to see leadership step up and make those calls. Whether CEOs, General Managers, Tribal Councils or Directors, they put people over profit. Early before it was mandated, I saw notices from San Manuel Casino in California, Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures in Minnesota, Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel in Iowa and Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Wisconsin and many others saying in order to protect their guests, their team members and vendors, they would be closing for two weeks through whatever time necessary to protect their safety. Instead of procrastinating what to do, they chose to run towards the fire and be decisive.

In times of crisis, it is not only important to make decisions it is important on how you make them.

Just as important as the message, it is how you deliver it that has a huge impact. For team members, this is a time of great stress. Being sincere and calm with your message projects a sense that things will be alright. Honesty and transparency lets your team and guests know you are giving them facts and stomping out any rumors that may be floating around. Having some flexibility in an industry that is rigid with rules might provide some empathy to your team, letting them know that you care. At the same time, if you are making changes, make sure you are documenting those changes and communicating as to why.

Have a Plan in Place

Communication is essential. Letting your team know how information will be distributed going forward will give them a sense of awareness. Provide phone numbers to call when questions arise, with trained personnel that can give informed responses.

Maybe just as important, what have you learned from this? How prepared or underprepared were you? Did that business continuity plan that maybe hadn’t been reviewed for a while live up to what it was supposed to accomplish?

This also presents an opportunity as a leader to show your vision for the future. This will not last forever. There are still many things that can be done during this time.
Projects that maybe have been put on the back burner can be elevated to complete prior to reopening. When you do reopen, do you have any special marketing events to welcome back guests and team members to let them know just how valuable they are? Being prepared for the future never stops, even when time stands still.

Family is Family

Of all the things that I have seen that shouldn’t surprise me, is how the Tribes have treated their team members. When we talk about the significance of Tribes being a family it does not stop with you being an Enrolled Member. Every person associated with your casino is a part of that family. So, when casinos closed and had the ability to continue to provide benefits and salary and choose to do so, that tells you all you need to know about how they value those people.

What did surprise me in the comments sections of those postings was the feedback from how many team members thanked Tribal leaders for taking care of them. And from the guests applauding the Tribe as well for looking out for their team members and looking forward to the day they could return to a safe and fun environment.

Now that is a Loyalty Club that I want to belong to and that is what Leadership is all about.

Be safe to everyone out there and when the opportunity presents itself do a little extra for someone who could use the help.

Dan Stromer