Amid all the negative news around the world, it is so uplifting to experience the miraculous events at the mine site in Chile as the Los 33 miners are safely evacuated after 69 days in a dark tomb half a mile underground.
Crisis Management Tips from the Rescue of Los 33
1. Keep the team together - the miners were pulled together as a team working for the same goals, with no one person more important than the other.This will be essential in the days to come as they face the media. [Another reason why media training of the miners was a good idea IMHO].
2. Assign specific tasks - each miner was given a responsibility - a medic became the doctor, another was responsible for the transfer of the packages up and down the shaft, a chaplain, the foreman in charge, etc. The miners organized themselves into three groups in different parts of the mine and operated like shifts to proved 24/7 contact.
3. Manage their expectations - they were told that their rescue may take until Christmas. Much discussion had taken place as to whether or not to tell the miners that. In the end, they felt that being honest with them was the best policy to create trust.
4. Prepare Plans A, B and C - rather than put all their eggs in one basket. [Although why they didn't just shove golf balls down there and hope for the best is beyond me :)]
5. Anticipate and organize. Underground and above ground, they drew upon top resources and got everyone working together in the best planned rescue operation ever.
6. Keep the miners physically and mentally active. They not only needed to stay in shape for the physical challenges to come (such as fitting inside a 28"wide capsule) but also to be mentally alert in order to withstand the ordeal and be better prepared for the world when they were rescued.
7. Make communications a priority. It was the key to the rescue operation and to morale. Being able to communicate with their families and supplies have been delivered two-ways through the boreholes in special tubes nicknamed 'palomas' or 'doves'. Video updates from the miners raised the morale of families and the Chilean people - which was also essential to the successful management of the emergency.
Los 33 - Heroes' Journey
Our televisions and computer screens are filled with a story that - if someone had pitched it as a movie - would be laughed off as ridiculous. That got me to thinking what is it about this event that has so captured all of the world in their incredible journey?
First, it has all the necessary elements of drama. I have been studying in recent years, Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey the template of which is often used for movie screenplays. Here are some of those steps in that journey and how the miners' story has followed its core elements.
Step 1. The Call to Adventure - the point in the story when the characters learn that their lives are going to change. When the mine collapsed the miners' world absolutely changed - instantly and forever.
Step 2 - Refusal of the Call. Often when the call is given, the future hero refuses to heed it. In this case, they had no option. But on an emotional or psychological level they may have had trouble genuinely believing that their could be a journey out of their nightmare. The first seventeen days - in which they were out of contact and presumed dead, it would have been completely understandable if they had fallen into despair.
Step 3 - Supernatural Aid - once the hero has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, his or her guide and magical helper appears, or becomes known. From what we can see on our television screens, it was not just the engineering or science that they men relied upon, it was the spiritual, mental and emotional resources that they had to draw upon. When contact was made a tiny shaft of hope was sparked.
Step 4 - The Crossing of the First Threshold - this is the point where the person actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of his or her world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are not known. When they began to communicate with the outside world, they became aware of the almost unfathomable journey that they were about to embark upon.
Step 5 - The Belly of the Whale - represents the final separation from the hero's known world and self. It is sometimes described as the person's lowest point, but it is actually the point when the person is between or transitioning between worlds and selves. In the case of the miners, the separation has been made and is being fully recognized between the old self and the potential for a new world/self. It is often symbolized by something dark, unknown and frightening [is this a screenplay or what?]. By entering this stage, the person shows their willingness to undergo a metamorphosis, to die to himself. [We are starting to learn of the miners' renewed commitments to family, and to make their lives truly meaningful, rather than taking them for granted.]
There are twelve more steps on the Hero's Journey. But the last four steps are worth noting here:
Step 9 - Rescue from Without - in Chile's case a throughly professional team approach from the rescuers brought them home.
Step 10 - The Crossing of the Return Threshold - the trick in returning is to retain the wisdom gained on the quest, to integrate that wisdom into a human life, and then maybe figure out how to share the wisdom with the rest of the world. This is usually extremely difficult.
Step 11 - Master of the Two Worlds - for a human hero, it may mean achieving a balance between the material and spiritual. The person has become comfortable and competent in both the inner and outer worlds.
Step 12 - Freedom to Live - mastery leads to freedom from the fear of death, which in turn is the freedom to live. This is sometimes referred to as living in the moment, neither anticipating the future nor regretting the past.
Of course the stories of the miner with a wife and girlfriend only fuels further interest in the story. But let's not lose sight of the hero's journey and what it truly means about the human spirit and the power that all of us have to transform our lives. We don't need a mine collapse to make such a transformation, but it often takes something cataclysmic to do it.
With all the talk about movie deals and sponsorships, little wonder that the 'Los 33' story will be coming to a movie theater near you!
Until next time....