A workplace crisis can bring out the best or the worst in you and your team. It can drive your team to the breaking point and test your ability to lead through adversity. Whether the cause is decreased sales, bad management, or mass layoffs, the most common casualties are workplace culture and team engagement. You risk losing good people, and if you’re not careful, your credibility as a Leader.
I’ve seen this play out way too often. Understandably, our teams lose their sense of safety and immediately go into panic mode. They’re so consumed by fear that they can’t focus on their daily tasks. They fear losing their jobs and their ability to provide for their families, but most of all, they fear the unknown.
When our team doesn’t know what tomorrow brings, they look to their Leaders for guidance and reassurance. How you respond in these situations can be the difference between success and failure. Here are 6 key strategies for Leaders during times of crisis:
- Be present. During times of crisis it’s essential that Leaders be not only accessible, but visible. Knowing their Leader is in the trenches with them, and feeling safe during trying times, can circumvent many of the people problems inherent in crisis situations.
- Communicate early and often. It’s important to gather the team and explain what’s going on as quickly as possible. Without a doubt, they will discuss what’s going on, and their imaginations will conjure images that are often much worse than the reality. Communication is always essential, but great Leaders double down during a crisis. Ultimately, your team will appreciate you keeping them in the loop.
- Be honest and open. For business reasons, we can’t always share the details of a crisis, but it’s critical to share as much as practical. When people feel included, they know their Leadership respects them and values their contribution.
- Focus on the fundamentals. The onset of a crisis is never a good time to take on new initiatives, but it’s essential that we maintain the integrity of the core business. This not only prevents exacerbating the original problem, but keeps the team productive and prevents them from dwelling on the negative.
- Maintain forward momentum. Speculation and commiseration around the water cooler can bring forward progress to a grinding halt. It’s far easier to maintain existing momentum on your most critical projects than to breathe new life into idle project teams.
- Focus on the right solutions, not the fast ones. Crisis management brings its own set of problems like uncertainty, confusion, and increased emotion. We can’t allow our sense of urgency to unduly skew our solutions. False starts and “do-overs” are the result of hasty decisions that often don’t solve the real problem.
How can the team hold it together if their Leader cannot? Great Leaders are unflappable, and actually thrive in environments where chaos, uncertainty and ambiguity prevail. Courage comes easier when you’re focused on the needs of others and not your own desire for safety, certainty and structure.
When navigating turbulent waters, your team will look to you for guidance, re-assurance, and safety. Be prepared, deliberate, and methodical in your execution. As a Leader, it’s up to you to be the beacon of light that guides the team to calmer waters.
“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” - Publilius Syrus
Do you agree? Let me know how you Lead your team through crisis situations.