By Owen Manningham:
Regardless of how prepared you may be, as a leader, a crisis is most likely to throw you off balance as it threatens the very existence of your business. Whether it is internal such as technological, financial crisis leading to layoffs or external such as the current health crisis of COVID-19, your team will be looking to you to help them put whatever is happening into perspective. Remaining calm amidst all the worry and anxiety when you just want to scream, is easier said than done. Which traits should you possess in order to steer your team forward during a crisis? Here are a few of them.
You probably will be walking on unfamiliar waters, but you will be required to promptly adopt an emergency response plan and adjust as the situation changes. You will need people to help you with the plan, thus you should put together a crisis management team composed of members who are knowledgeable of whatever is happening. Have another team in place that will take care of the operations to ensure that productivity doesn’t halt due to the crisis.
Clear, honest and prompt communicator
When a crisis hits, you will be in so much pressure to normalize things as soon as you can that you may forget to communicate your actions to your employees. The employees know there is a crisis, and just as you are worried about your business, they too worry about the security of their jobs, which might slow productivity. Ensure that you communicate on time, through the right channels, of what you are doing about the situation, and if the point of action changes, be sure to let them know.
Letting them remain in the dark will only fuel gossip and rumors. Keeping them updated with the right information will kill any rumors and gossip as well as put the employees at ease during the crisis. They will have the confidence that you are capable of tackling the issue and concerned about their welfare. If the crisis is external, get the facts straight from the relevant sources and concerned bodies, so that you present factual and verified information to your employees. Coach them on what they are supposed to do during the crisis and provide the necessary resources that they may require.
It’s during a crisis that the listening skills for managers are tested. Each individual in your team will perceive the crisis in his or her lens, thus suggestions are bound to bombard you. This is the time to have your listening skills at the top so you are able to listen, comprehend and respond appropriately to the suggestions. When listening skills for managers are sharpened, they are able to decipher even what is not being said, which could actually be helpful. Remember that the contributions of your employees to the organization are different, and thus the crisis affects each differently. You can’t apply the one-size-fits-all strategy in a crisis, listen to your employees individually so that you may be able to tackle their worries and questions.
Present, available and reachable
Being human, you will be scared, anxious and maybe confused. The thought to hibernate and get away from it all leaving your team leaders to deal with the situation will be over your head oftentimes. You, however, need to remember that you are the leader and act like one. Be proactive, stay calm, take initiative and stay present and reachable. When employees can’t reach you during a crisis for decision making, they will likely fall into a panic and make operations to stall. Show up at work calm, collected and confident. If you are held somewhere else, ensure that your employees know how they can reach you at all times. On days that you can’t be present at work, have a flexible leadership chain so that whoever is present can be able to take over from you, a department head or a supervisor.
As time goes, you will be able to put the situation under control and you will finally have a clear picture of what was happening. This is the time to reflect on the actions that you took and put them into a complex system that can be used in the future in case of such a crisis. Help your team in the recovery process as well as in adjusting to whatever changes that had to be made.
Leading a team through a crisis and remaining sane is not an easy feat. However, with the above traits you will be able to sail through and emerge victorious as well as gain confidence with your employees. Remember to always send positive vibes and maintain a calm front even when it feels like everything is falling apart.