Post-disaster wake-up call: Guy Rankin prompting nations to a recovery-ready mind-set

September 26, 2011

Can the world prepare to recover from disasters like Japan’s? Houston-based housing expert says yes, urges U.S. and world governments to forge recovery policy.  

Guy Rankin’s Blog – Full Story

We can’t prevent them. In many cases, we can’t even predict them. Natural disasters will happen; they inevitably kill, destroy and displace. Whether a struck nation faces staggering losses or mild, a disaster’s aftermath is something nations definitely can prepare for.

Japan’s plight following the March 2011 earthquake and resulting tsunami begs the question: What can be done to minimize residual damage after nature wreaks its havoc? As crews work to recover more than 25,000 missing or dead, Japan also must tend to more than 320,000 evacuees who have fled ruined towns and unsafe levels of radiation.

Watching the post-disaster challenges unfold, other nations began to explore their own ability to recover from disaster. How would we shelter hundreds of thousands of displaced people? Where would we find the food and water to sustain them if local supply is contaminated or wiped out altogether? How do we get that food and water to them when the usual delivery methods have been compromised? How do we supply required medicine and medical attention?

“We have the know-how to address ‘the disaster after the disaster,’” says recovery expert Guy Rankin, who led large-scale disaster recovery efforts along the Gulf Coast after an unprecedented series of hurricanes displaced more than a quarter-million people. He emphasizes that although we can’t control nature, we can adopt a controlled, systematic approach to tackling follow-on disasters of displaced people, destroyed communities, food and water shortages, access to medicine and health care, and more.

“First comes the understanding that one disaster often follows another,” he advises. “Expect it. That way, you understand the need for a recovery plan that can roll out even as you tackle the second or third crisis that comes.”

Rankin, executive director of Harris County Housing Authority in Houston, Texas, speaks from experience. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina brought 250,000 evacuees to emergency shelters across Houston. As Rankin and his small staff hustled to place evacuees in temporary housing throughout the region, Hurricane Rita was predicted to travel up the Houston Ship Channel with wind speeds that threatened to bring down the Astrodome. “This horrifying picture began taking shape: our biggest emergency shelter potentially collapsing on 25,000 people that we’re trying desperately to house!” Rankin recalls. “We were sending people all over the country to clear out the Astrodome, and then we had to evacuate Houston – a region of four million people – at the same time,” Rankin says.

In September 2008, Hurricane Ike made landfall near Houston, causing billions of dollars’ worth of damage and leaving the fourth-largest U.S. city without power for 14 days (or 21 days, in some spots). Rankin’s team mobilized a points-of-distribution system that dispatched 3,000 18-wheelers from the Astrodome to deliver water, ice, and food throughout the three most severely affected counties. “We fed several hundred thousand people in the area, all while electricity was out,” Rankin says.

Moving a quarter-million evacuees from emergency shelter to transitional housing to rebuilt communities, Rankin recognized shortcomings in the United States’ approach to disaster recovery. “The way the system is set up – and you’ll find systems like this worldwide – our disaster experts are not really recovery experts. They are emergency experts. They’re the ‘firefighters’ coming to bring you water and food during a disaster, making sure you have medicine and kits. Now, those are crucial things that need to take place, but there is no office in America called the Disaster Recovery Office,” he points out.

Every administration, every president, every country, whether a democracy or a communist country, approaches disaster this way, he continues. “Take Haiti, for instance. When disaster happens [referring to the January 2010 earthquake that claimed 230,000 lives], we run out, we send a bunch of bulldozers, we move the bricks and debris out of the way, and then we let time fade … and nobody really addresses the problem after the disaster,” he says.

Rankin doesn’t downplay the heroism and good will shown by the governments, nonprofit organizations and volunteers who rushed to help in Haiti. Yet, examining the quake from a recovery standpoint, he says these forces often “show up in helicopters, do their thing, pull out, and then there is no coordination of strategy for step-by-step rebuilding. This creates disaster after disaster because some 400,000 people – orphaned children or evacuees who’ve fled to the Haitian hillsides – are still looking for help from someone. But who is that someone?” he asks.

That someone doesn’t exist because there is no one person in charge to coordinate all the private relief donations, all the nonprofit funds and all the funds from federal and local agencies. Rankin points out a pressing need for a disaster recovery “czar,” a point person who coordinates the use of relief funds and oversees the disaster-torn area’s journey to put the community back together, step by step.

While arguing the need for a disaster recovery officer, Rankin also plans to advocate for laws to streamline recovery efforts, outlining the steps and timelines to be observed by those who receive money for recovery efforts. “We know what to do to put communities back together, and we know how long it should take,” he says. But often, delays come when those who carry out the recovery must wait on funds and approvals and bureaucracy.

The lessons Rankin has learned through Katrina and Ike recovery efforts extend beyond housing – even beyond U.S. borders. Any nation can plan for the known challenges to shelter, food, water, infrastructure and health care after a natural disaster. According to Rankin, the magnitude of recent disasters in Haiti and Japan must prompt them to do so, because “only then do nations become more agile in responding to the chaos and rebuilding from the rubble,” he says. “We have the engineers. We have the technology. We have the know-how. The question is do we have the will to set this kind of planning in motion?”


Guy Rankin, IV is the Chief Executive Officer for the Harris County Housing Authority (HCHA), a governmental agency which serves more than two million people and a service area of approximately 1100 square miles. With over 20 years of housing and community development experience, Mr. Rankin has garnered an international reputation of excellence for planning, housing development and recovery through accomplished change and innovation. Under his visionary leadership, HCHA has grown from a troubled agency to one of the best housing authorities in the country as recognized by the U. S. Department of Housing & Urban Development.

Linda Singerle is a journalist and writer for Wynn Solutions a company that offers customized services, including keynote speakers , corporate training programs, employee assessments and marketing services. Wynn Solutions provides its clients with the tools they need to create and sustain successful business relationships.

The REAL Truth about Change Management

January 26, 2010


Let’s get real! The main reason people don’t want to change is because no one wants to be a senior beginner.  If people believe their value or expertise will be undermined as they’re forced to adapt to the new way, resistance to change is the natural reaction.

Transition does not feel the same for everyone.
Some adapt well (but not as many as you’d think), some struggle but manage to adapt, and some lose the will to live! Several studies show that when an organization’s most talented people decide to leave, it’s during times of change. The people who are committed, naturally good at what they do, and driven compulsively to succeed have the most difficulty with change. It’s a lot easier to be totally flexible when you pretty much sucked anyway. My (melodramatic) point is that adaptability is a wonderful trait to have in an employee; it’s just not a trait you are likely to find in your superachievers.

If you hope to not alienate your superachievers (and your regular achievers) during times of change, you’ll need to make sure they feel valuable during and beyond the transition. That means the people in your organization have to be influential and not just knowledgeable about how change works. It means you’d better have their trust or be real good at rebuilding it quickly when a message like “We need to double our production with existing resources” hits the street. It means the change has to make sense to the people who can make or break your success, not just to your liquidly flexible, mediocre masses. And if you do not like what I’ve written and you are having a hard time adapting these concepts, congratulations – you’re a talented superachiever!

So what’s actually working?
Spend some time proving to your people how valuable they are during transition by making the change as easy as possible. Also, make sure the people with giant mouths in your organization who have the ear of masses know how the change will benefit them personally. You want to make sure those big mouths are flapping for you, not against you. And finally, quit using the phrase “We need to do more with less” as if it’s somehow motivational. It’s tough even for your diehard leaders to get behind that verbiage when in reality the goal of most humans is to actually do less with more! Instead, tell people the truth behind the change: “We are trying to be more profitable so we don’t have to cut your pay, which might cause you to scare off the customers!”

Alternative truth for the politically correct 
“We are trying to be more profitable so we can afford to keep doing what’s best for the customer and our employees.”

Change Management Speaker
Change Mangement In-House Training Programs

business success

What’s Goin’ Down With Garrison

Lately, my time’s been spread almost equally between delivering keynote speeches, contributing weekly to the Washington Post’s online column “On Success,” and meeting demand for my new book The Real Truth About Success. Already in its second printing, the book is now available in six languages and electronically in a Kindle version. Audio’s next! Plans are being made for distribution of the book in 20 countries! After many book signings and radio interviews, I’m glad to find out that success and truth are so universally in demand.

Thanks, everyone, for making The Real Truth About Success a success 

I’m grateful …
To my publisher, McGraw-Hill, for their hard work and guidance and making sure the book is available at all bookstores and online outlets. We are thrilled about it being a top seller – having a second printing so soon is great news!

To the global groups who are making things happen for us. Having the book released in multiple languages is great (it looks like about 14 so far) but I’m not sure how accurately my material will translate. How exactly does one say “psychotic BS” or “jellyfish managerial style” in Korean? My agent says not to worry. She’s great, by the way; special thanks to you, Wendy. Question: When the audio version is released, will people in other countries think it’s me speaking their language?

To Linda for making this book happen even with my crazy schedule. You are like family and a key factor in the success of the book and Wynn Solutions Team.

To Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstore personnel for coming to my speaking events and making the book available to attendees. (Special thanks to the woman in Nashville in August who worked by herself and did not panic when panic was an understandable option!)

For the great reviews we have received from readers, media, Facebook users, Twitterers, corporations, and associations. I really appreciate all of the good feedback! And thanks also to those who have posted positive reviews at to help sell books online.

To the radio show hosts who’ve actually read the book before the interview. I have radio experience and know that skimming 10 minutes before the broadcast is the norm.

And finally to the all the interviewees involved in the research (even those who hung up on me!) for the valuable information you provided. This book could not happen without your willingness – to tell the real truth about success.

Change Management Speaker Garrison Wynn Opens the ACCA Service Managers Forum

March 23, 2009


Article from: Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration News

Article date: November 3, 2008

HOUSTON — Service managers play a key role in the success of a contracting business. In addition to usually being the key technical troubleshooting resource in a company, they often manage the largest single department in the company. At a meeting developed exclusively for service managers, more than 300 attended a variety of management training seminars.

Garrison Wynn, a leading authority on change management, opened the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) National HVACR Service Managers Forum on October 9, with an entertaining and educational keynote address about leadership and communication.

Wynn, a former standup comedian, kept the attention of the audience with a humorous knack for relating his own experiences, both the successes and the failures. He sent the audience home with many take-aways that could be practiced by each when they returned to the world of work. Some of his key points included:

* Agreement is the foundation of accountability.

* People are more likely to agree with people who agree with them first.

* People buy into what they can understand quickly.

* The most successful people can define value in less than 20 seconds.

* People want the same things: love, money, and prestige. Therefore, there are multiple solutions for a single problem.

While talking about effective communication, Wynn reminded the audience that their own leadership is critical to the success of the people they are managing.

“The people you manage are usually at a different level of understanding. If you talk at the height of your intelligence about what you do, you may not communicate effectively,” he said.

Wynn also discussed how managers must understand the difference between more experienced and younger workers. “People under 30 are accustomed to being praised and rewarded along the way, before they reach the end goal. Over-30s expect to get praise and reward at the end.”

According to Wynn, it is a very different mindset and requires an astute manager to understand how to manage both types effectively.

Wynn co-authored “Speaking of Success” with Steven Covey and Ken Blanchard; it is available in bookstores. 


Getting Great Results When Things Aren’t Really That Great

January 26, 2009

Transition – it’s the word of the times, isn’t it? Right now, as so many organizations go through significant change, the phrase “business as usual” seems like an oxymoron. “Usual? There’s nothing usual about the way I’m doing business in this economy,” you might point out.

Your organization might be going through a merger, expanding or decreasing its employee base, or just operating in a difficult economy. Whatever the transition, the scenario affects your organization’s business processes, sales, and employees. What’s interesting to me is that when times are tough, when there’s an issue with the economy, some businesses do really well and some do not – and these are businesses in the same industry! For many, the economy is like pizza: When it’s good, it’s really good, and even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.


What I see making a big difference are attitude and belief. If you’re walking around thinking things are tough, that’s the mind-set you have. What you focus your attention on is what your life looks like. It’s the vibe people get from you. It’s going to be the way you present things. Looking at life through loser-colored glasses can undercut your chances to succeed.

So can you just believe your way to a rosier picture? It’s not really about thinking positive thoughts and then just watching and waiting as good things come your way. That’s a simple way to state the premise of Rhonda Byrne’s successful book The Secret, but I have to say I’m not buying it. In fact, I think The Secret is definably not the secret. It makes perfect sense that any book telling you that belief without action will create success is definitely going to be a best-seller. While I think it’s important to have a belief system, there’s more to success than that.

Most companies – and most people – who succeed when times are tough make sure they get more focused on the needs of the customer in the moment. To succeed, we can’t be stuck in the long-term needs we’ve identified over the years. That’s probably not where the customer’s head is right now. You’ve got to sharpen your focus on what’s really important to customers here and now. If your customer’s treading water (which is nothing more than controlled drowning), throw him a life preserver. You can teach him to swim later. Once you’re past the crisis, there’s always time to get customers back on track with what you know will benefit them long-term.

Act in the moment

Attitude and belief can help you through a tough time, but not by flat-out ignoring difficult circumstances or willing them to magically disappear. You have to first recognize that tough times are temporary and then work quickly to address the needs that arise during difficult conditions. So don’t let the media tell you what your life looks like; remember that good news does not sell newspapers. Have you ever noticed that really depressing news stories are often followed by Prozac commercials?

You can’t just will a sluggish economy to pick up instantly, but you can believe that it will bounce back over time – it always does. With that attitude, it makes sense to take action to meet people’s most pressing needs until things bounce back and you can return to “business as usual.”

Suppose you work for a company that’s going through changes and you’re afraid your division is about to be cut or your job is in jeopardy. That’s when you have to figure out what your boss really, truly needs … besides a vacation. You might have to forget for a moment how brilliant you are and how all your grand ideas can push the company in fabulous new directions. Instead, you need to ask: What’s a big deal right now? You stand to benefit greatly by turning your focus to the company’s immediate needs. If you’re doing work that’s really important to your employer here and now, then when the chopping block comes down your boss will be looking in the other direction. It’s like if you and co-worker are being chased by a bear – you don’t have to outrun the bear, just your co-worker.

Critical and even negative thinking can have great strategic benefit, allowing you to spot trouble on the horizon. But when you insist on looking at life through loser lenses, it prevents you from seeing the effort you need to make.
People and companies that are really successful during times of transition often have to work a little harder, investing more thought, more time, and even more money to do as well as they did before. But even though they expend more resources to perform as well as last year, they’re not losing ground in a company-wide shake-up or industry-wide slump. Odds are, they’re still moving forward. When business picks up again, they will have cemented their usefulness to employers and customers and can resume a better version of “business as usual.”

Change management speaker
Change management information, training and keynotes

Don’t Let The Media Tell you How Scared You Should Be

January 20, 2009

Does bad news have you running scared?

Good news does not sell newspapers. There’s no money in good news. No one clicks on a hyperlink that promotes an article called “Life is Good.” But come across a link that says “Headless Body Found in Topless Bar” and you’re clicking through – because that’s news!

While we’d like to think all news outlets work tirelessly to create balanced reports that reflect the good and the bad, the news industry is as capitalistic as any other. Simply put, good news doesn’t draw audiences so it doesn’t generate revenue. News is supposed to be bad. They show you really bad news and then try to sell you the “Addiction Cure” book. I’m not the leading authority on addiction, but I’m pretty sure it takes more to sober up than some guy’s book! Though I’ll admit that CNN and Fox News these days would drive my church-going grandmother to shots of tequila!

In our busy world, round-the-clock news channels are useful and popular. After we’ve put in long hours on the job to make ourselves look indispensable, we like to sit down at whatever hour of the day to catch the news. The problem is that there’s not enough sensationally bad stuff happening to take up all the airtime, so they have to make things look terrible. Crime is down about 35 percent since the ’70s, but that kind of truth will make us grab the remote and switch to reruns of Star Trek.

As I watched CNN a few weeks ago, the anchor literally said, “Here is a story that may be developing.” May be developing? That means there’s no real news, but they’re going to try to make something into news because they’ve got to fill 24 hours. The other day I saw Wolf Blitzer (no way that’s his real name – it sounds like a hair gel for dogs!) appear in the “Situation Room.” I think if you create a “Situation Room,” you are going to have yourself a … situation. It’s like creating a vacuum that sucks bad news into it!

The local news outlets don’t have as much airtime to fill, but they still try to promote panic through teasers leading up to the late-night broadcast. Panic is great for ratings. On my local station I once heard something like “Coming up at 11: Things that are killing your children.” But it’s only six o’clock now! In five hours my children could be dead from this stuff you won’t tell me about yet!

Media feeds the worry-prone

Don’t let the media tell you what your life looks like. It’s their job to put us on edge and keep us tuning in to see what we need to be worrying about next. That’s how they pay their bills. And we’re gullible enough to make all these new outlets solvent – prosperous, even! We are programmed for bad news. You are stuck in a traffic jam because of an alleged car accident, but when you finally pull alongside the wreck, you think, “That’s nothing! For the 20 minutes I’m delayed, I should at least see an injured person on a stretcher.”

If only we could convert worry into a viable fuel source, we could get busy consuming it instead of letting it consume us. Think about it: Worry is sustainable. It’s renewable. Self-perpetuating, even – I know people who get worried if they run short on things to worry about. “Things are going too well,” they reason. “Something’s bound to go wrong soon.”

We all know people who think like that. We also know many people aren’t thinking like that right now. Most people would say things aren’t going so well at the moment. We saw gas prices surge over the summer and we’ve watched unemployment rates creep steadily upward. Now we’re wondering whether our jobs are safe and obsessing over a recession – are we in one? Are we headed for one? How long will it last? Will I end up a bag lady (which is a hard thing for a man to deal with)?

Who determines such things?

Apparently it’s the news media. Back in mid March, CNN reported “Three-Quarters Think U.S. in Recession.” The source? A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey. The 74 percent of respondents who said they believe we’re in recession probably got the idea from watching CNN in the first place. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the survey headline convinced the other 26 percent to change their minds!

Keep in mind that television news programs qualify as entertainment. Unlike newspapers, their credibility doesn’t suffer much if they misinform; they don’t often issue retractions. They can say things that are untrue and you will believe it. TV news shows cast for talent just like sitcoms do. That’s why you see so many blond female lawyers in their late 30s telling us what’s going on these days. Demographic studies show we are more likely to watch and trust them. They cast people like Nancy Grace to tell us about tragedy because she carries so much tragedy and anger in her eyes. If she were doing toothpaste commercials, she would still personally freak me out.

Why Worry?

Worrying about something cannot prevent it from happening. And if something we’ve worried about does happen, all that fretting won’t increase our odds of surviving it. When we face tough times, attitude and action help; angst does not. Action and adaptability create opportunity. No one has ever worried themselves out of worry!

So don’t let the media work you into a frenzy about some prolonged recession that dominates your every thought. If you fret about it all day, life will still be nothing more than a series of great times, good times, mediocre times, and bad times. And, true to life, markets go up and markets go down. That’s how the world works. But the prevailing tendency is for recession to be short-lived and for steady gain over the long term.

If we could hold tight to that thought even as news outlets harp about the horrid here-and-now, the fog of worry that brings some people to a standstill might fade to a light mist, giving them enough visibility to inch their way forward.

Even so, some folks will still allow worry to warp their worldview. Here are some words of advice for those who hope not to be one of them: Worry is not the symptom of a problematic life; it’s the problem. Situations pass that make our lives difficult; it’s the worry that stays with us that makes us ultimately unhappy.

Imagine how conversion of anxiety into a fuel source could reduce our worries about the economy and environment …There’s just one problem with that: Less worry would mean less fuel. And then we’d have to find more stuff to worry about so we could keep chugging along.

Keynote Speaker Garrison Wynn’s Top Keynote: Making the Most of Difficult Situations: Changing Marketing, Changing Times

Am I Really Resistant to Change?

November 6, 2007

Dinosaur ManChange is not the big problem of course its resistance to change. If things stay the same I will not lose my expertise and my value. Ok sure, I will be “dinosaur man” but I will be an expert dinosaur man. I will be like the guy who works at the museum; my information is old but I am positioned to where old information seems to have relevant value. Sounds Ok I guess, but the truth is I am just resisting the inevitable (no offense to museum employees around the world). My fear of not being valuable has created a reason for me to stay in the dark. It’s like making buggy whips for horse carriages, there is a market for the Amish I guess but even they will upgrade eventually. When we are driving “mind-controlled hover cars”, they will have model T’s (my apologies to the Amish if this is offensive,; of course if you are Amish an on line then you probably have a 72 Buick you keep hidden in town). Changing behavior is not easy when you feel the result of the process will reduce your status and opportunities. Some people will just put Whiteout on their computer screen! Are we willing to take a look at the long term results of our resistance to change?

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