Leadership During Disruption

Last week was certainly a strange one (and I’m sure not the last); the team here at Raving, like most of you, were in limbo, waiting for the postponement of NIGA; reworking travel plans and strategizing around alternatives to better serve our clients.

Our annual Native Strong Comedy Slam and Jam held during NIGA will be rescheduled for next year, although we’ll continue taking bids for our online guitar auction – more information to follow. Special kudos to many of the sponsors that bought tickets and tables – they told us they bought the tickets to support Notah Begay III Foundation and although there was no official event, they still wanted their money to be donated. You guys rock and the kids through the NB3 Foundation still win this year. And a special nod to the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego who refunded every cent of our investment, no questions asked.

The impact this will have on our industry is real and still very unknown. As leaders, we must run our operation and make the best decisions we can given the information available at the time.

However, in doing so, we must always recognize the constant news updates and uncertainty can be upsetting and distracting to our teams as we worry about the health of our families and elders or the impact on our  communities and personal lives; these are very real concerns.

Paula AllenPaula Allen, Raving’s longtime Partner, has addressed the topic of leadership during change and disruption several times – she’s written articles, spoken about it at conferences and has personally helped Tribes build stronger and more effective leadership teams. Her experience comes with the work she’s done with her Tribe, at her own casino, 7 Cedars Casino in Washington state.

Her mantra? When you have a strong leadership team, then you are strategically ready for change and disruption, whether that means your GM has just left, to dealing with construction chaos, to more volatile situations like natural disasters and emergencies as we’re facing today. She has told us again and again that “team members look to supervisors first to gauge how they should react to change, so we want our leaders to be calm and solution-oriented. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring the emotional impact – lead your managers and supervisors so they may lead their employees.”

Last Friday, we checked in with Glenn Smithson, Paula’s General Manager at 7 Cedars Casino, to see how his leadership team was using their tried and true leadership skills that Paula has been sharing to deal with the current situation. Here’s what Glenn had to say:

“We’ve established communication channels, protocols, and programs already in place so yes, it does make it easier when we get a challenge of this nature. You asked me how we are helping to address our team member’s anxiety and concerns. It’s through our proactive actions and our regular communications that are giving our community comfort.

“For example, we have several communication vehicles that we regularly use to post updates and checklists. This is not new. We have a public health and safety officer coming here to speak to the management team, so we all stay informed. We have daily reminders to update and educate all team members. We communicate regularly, so our employees know how and where to get information.

“We have a four-hour deep clean we regularly do on the slot floor before the doors open; now we are doing this clean hourly. We’re also cleaning our chips. We’ve ramped up all of our procedures and protocols. You’ll see additional hand sanitizers throughout the property.

“We’re also working closely with our health provider so that team members are not financially impacted (such as waiving deductibles) if they become sick; truly we are turning over every stone to make sure our staff sees our support. Our staff and our guests can see we are going above and beyond, and I do really believe that gives them great comfort.”

Little CreekFarther south in the state, the Little Creek Casino Resort management team all met at three in the morning last week, to do a deep clean of their property. Not only was it a chance for management to connect and do some team building, but it also sends out a message that “we’re all in this together.”

I believe we are all going to learn a lot in the upcoming days, weeks and months and I invite you to share your stories with us. How are you bringing comfort and reassurance to your team members and guests? Make sure to send in your stories and press releases to our editor, Chris Faria at chris@tgandh.com at Tribal Gaming & Hospitality Magazine; share what you’re doing and learning. We can share your news with a larger audience.

This too will pass, and this too will make us stronger teams and better operators.

Thanks, as always for your friendship and your support. We’re here to help any way we can.

Deana Scott
Deana Scott 5 Articles