Crisis Management in Action

In our last chat, we started looking at the ways many of us handle crises in our professional lives, as well as the various aspects involved in an effective crisis management plan.

We began with the contemporary adage, first said by Sir Winston Churchill, “You should never waste a good crisis” and then quickly dived into some points that came up during a senior leadership meeting I had held recently with some of my team in the East Caribbean.

During that meeting, we unearthed seven major aspects, and in our chat last time, we touched on the first three of those:

  • Self-Management as the first step in Crisis Management
  • The need to be flexible in our planning to best adjust to changes (and other crises) as they may come;
  • And a call for leaders to always consider the needs, wants, and rights of their people – not only of their teammates, but also their clients, communities, and all stakeholders.

We got off on the right track last time, so let’s jump right back into those aspects with the remaining four.

Facts are friends
Even with all the planning in the world, many of us are likely to be caught on the back foot when a crisis rears its head. There simply is no way to know what to do when we do not know what to do. However, within every crisis there are opportunities to grow, to develop, and above all, to learn. Successful leaders remember this and they make it a priority to arm themselves with as many facts as possible.

“Invariably, we are bombarded with opinions masquerading as facts, unmask them! Misinformation proliferates exponentially!”

The fact remains (no pun intended), there are fewer effective teachable moments like a crisis. In an age where social media can fuel fires in record speeds, facts are gold. With every crisis, leaders have the opportunity to mine that “gold.” What’s more, they have an opportunity to supply the market with as much real gold as possible.

The truth is that we can use crises to accelerate our leadership growth curves and become more learning agile. We can apply past lessons to new and unfamiliar situations. At the onset of COVID-19, many comparisons were made to the Spanish Influenza outbreak (for obvious reasons as they are both viral pandemics). But what other comparisons to world changing events can leaders make in terms of the pandemic’s socioeconomic impacts?

Leaders can often achieve greater clarity of focus and purpose in sifting through facts as they compare crises and devise strategies. What worked then? Can it work now? What didn’t work then? Why didn’t it work? How can we improve on that? These are just some of the questions that every leader should encounter as they get the facts.

Resilience is Power
Tough times don’t last; tough people do. It may take consistent and constant messaging and reassuring, but in the final analysis, it is always worth it. You and your teams have worked hard to get to where you are. Don’t let that be undone by a crisis.

There are going to be moments when we second guess ourselves, which is perfectly normal. However, a crisis is also the perfect opportunity to draw strength from our strengths, whatever they may be.

An organisation’s greatest competitive advantage is its resilience in the face of adversity. Our teams can provide this resilience. But first, leaders must demonstrate strength through resilient leadership.

Communicate...clearly, quickly, frequently
Effective crisis management is predicated on effective communication. Continuous communication is the cornerstone of any effort to manage the anxieties that may be tearing our teams and organisation apart.

As leaders, we should strive to be that calming influence for the most vulnerable and, in turn, talk with our teams to best inspire confidence. Our utmost objective must be to give leadership, support the teams, and mobilise required resources. We may not have all the answers, and that is ok. The answers will come. But they won’t come as we like if we give in to our natural “command and control” inclination. Instead, leaders should use every opportunity to listen just as much as to talk to our people.

Communication is a two-way street. And the leaders who either face or head in the wrong direction do their teams and themselves an even greater injury than the crisis itself.

Positively positive…It is Never Over
Too often, we become so enrapt by whatever ongoing crisis we are facing, that we shorten our outlook to only focus on immediately solving that one thing. Having a positive mindset is critical. Regardless of the adversity, it will not be here forever.

Specifically, in the case of the pandemic, there will come a time when life, as we knew it, will come back. That should be our primary focus as leaders – not just on the way things are now but in sharing our vision for how we can make things better in the future.

The leader who is able to stay upbeat and, more importantly, focussed on the bright side, is the one who is best able to rally their teams through the bad times and better position them for when the good ones return.

Crisis – where opportunity meets challenge
Crisis Management can be a tricky subject for many because no one likes to think of the bad times. But, as we have already seen, the bad times are going to happen. So why not be ready for them when they arrive?

We should always be mindful that in the midst of every crisis, there are opportunities. Opportunities to either succeed or to fail. I believe we are all aware of that. But how many of us are mindful that success can breed complacency while failure can breed innovation?

In any event, with every crisis, we need to be careful that our successes in managing them don’t lull us into false senses of security or accomplishment, while, at the same time, understanding that our failures are not the final word in our respective leadership narratives.

As I said, it is a tricky state of affairs. Fortunately, during our chats, we have been able to tease out a few tips that can help us stay on the right side of history, so to speak.

Self-Management, Flexible Planning, Take Care of Our People, Seek the Facts, Be Resilient, Communicate with a clear purpose, and Be Positive – these are just a few of the strategies that you may want to consider.

And, if we are exploring things to consider, as much as the Churchill quote has become a mantra for today’s leaders, I would like to add one more of his (and a personal favourite of mine) for your consideration when it comes to effective crisis management.

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

What are your thoughts and strategies for dealing with crises in this New Normal? Let’s share and have a chat about how we can further steel our organisations, our teams, and ourselves in the face of adversity.

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