Managing through crisis

Posted by Mitzi Branvold | Friday, April 24, 2020

Managing through crisis

Posted by Mitzi Branvold | Friday, April 24, 2020

If you’ve led a team for any length of time, no doubt you’ve dealt with an employee’s personal trauma or a difficult time for the business. But how does this change when everyone is facing a crisis together? Not surprising, the key word is together. The better you are at keeping everyone focused and moving in the same direction, the more successful you will be.

Here are 7 steps for leading through a crisis.

Be visible and vocal

When the going gets tough, the worst thing to do is hide. Even while you’re still figuring everything out, be honest about what you know, what you don’t, and your sources of information. A lack of communication will encourage misinformation, rumors and anxiety. Encourage employees to talk about what’s going on, and make it clear that you will do the same. Make sure everyone knows where and when to get reliable information. Give updates often to let everyone know what you are doing to handle problems.

Keep that team mentality

Give the clear message that you are all in this together and will help each other through it. Don’t let it become you against them, or managers and against front line. Make sure everyone knows that you have the best interest of the whole team at heart.

Set priorities and let everyone work toward them

Lead, but don’t micromanage. It’s difficult in a crisis not to throw yourself into the details, because you don’t feel confident about the big picture. It’s important to regain that big picture by identifying 3-5 top priorities. These might be employee safety, maintaining relationships, or customer service. The priorities should be tied to your company philosophy and mission. Define them and communicate them. This will make your mission clear, so everyone is united and knows how they can contribute. In larger companies, each department should find 3-5 priorities for their group that relate to the company priorities.

Involve employees and give them control

Feeling a sense of control is key to staying grounded through a crisis. Create a problem-solving team (or teams) and communicate who is collecting what information and who is making what decisions. Then encourage everyone to contribute ideas and help, so that they will feel energized and motivated to find solutions.

Recognize action and contributions

It may be important to make decisions and act quickly. Take away the fear of getting it wrong by making your mission and priorities clear so everyone can align their actions toward a common goal. Then be sure everyone knows their hard work is appreciated and is making a difference. Collect and share positive stories to create a spirit of overcoming obstacles.

Think and plan ahead

Initially, your priority may be to manage resources and assign tasks to keep business going. But ultimately, you want to hand this responsibility down the line and begin focusing on how things are likely to change. Consider what you can do now to make sure that you will get where you want to be over time. Think about how the obstacles of today may offer opportunities for tomorrow.

Offer personal resources

Economic, health and emotional stress are related and can become overwhelming. Consider offering an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) so you can refer employees who are struggling personally to a resource where they can get help. This lets employees know you care about them on a personal level, while also separating personal stress from the work environment.

Leaders who survive crisis are those who manage the present, but lead toward the future. Most important: don’t focus totally on the problems, but also on the opportunities.