By Thomas Glare:
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented businesses, companies, and communities with an unprecedented challenge. It has affected us not only emotionally and personally, but also financially. Many businesses have felt under constant financial threat and uncertainty due to things like stay-at-home orders and the widespread closure of many facilities. This has hit everyone across all sectors, whether you run a small business, a large conglomerate, or you produce online games.
What has certainly come to light during the pandemic, is the necessity for organizations to have crisis management strategies in place. Beyond this, effective leadership in crisis management is required to deal with a situation like COVID-19 that is continually changing. The enduring nature of the pandemic has also caused a high degree of stress for many businesses and employees as it has led to constant uncertainty. Businesses, therefore, must adopt resilient and flexible crisis management plans that help reassure staff and keep workflow functioning.
10 Ways to Build an Effective Crisis Management Strategy
- Appoint a Crisis Management Team
Creating a crisis management team is an effective strategy because it allows authorities from different departments to pool their resources. It also promotes effective action and allows individual units within the team to act independently, rather than waiting for top-down approval. This is vital when a situation is uncertain and is unfolding rapidly.
Employees and departments may need radically different responses across the same company, depending on the situation. This, for example, is the case with COVID as certain employees are more at risk than others, and certain work environments within the same company are more dangerous than others. Utilizing your team allows you to respond dynamically, rather than face the burden of making decisions for every department alone.
- Maintain Transparency
Times of great uncertainty tend to provoke panic and fear. When people feel adrift in a situation and feel that no information is coming from the top, this leads to speculation. It is better to maintain constant transparency with your staff and shareholders, even if the only information you have is very uncertain. Being honest about what you do and do not know builds confidence in your crisis management style. Employees and shareholders will not feel you are covering things up or denying potential risks.
- Know When to Seek Expert Help
A sign of a great leader is that they know when to delegate. A leader should always be in control, and this includes knowing when to hand over control to someone else. If you feel inexperienced coping with the magnitude of a crisis, bring in a crisis management expert or draw from your own staff. Those with extremely strong people skills, or the ability to frame staff requirements in a clear, productive way are particularly helpful in a crisis.
- Practice “Bounded Optimism”
One of the notable failures of government during the pandemic has been blind optimism accompanied by false promises. The public has been reassured again and again that everything will be fine, only to be slapped with ever more stringent and ongoing lockdown measures. Nothing breeds resentment or a lack of trust like this.
When you plot your crisis management plan, do so with “bounded optimism.” This refers to confidence that your company will weather the storm, but a realistic expectation that things will change or be temporarily difficult. This does not falsely raise people’s expectations but instills morale in your team.
- Be Adaptable
Anything can happen at any time. Whether you run a chain of casinos or a chain of fast-food restaurants, you must always be prepared for change. Too many leaders fall prey to “normalcy bias.” They assume things will stay the same because they usually do.
However, a crisis like a pandemic will change continually and adaptability needs to be built into your plan for how to respond. A good leader must be able to move on when something does not work or becomes irrelevant and must do so quickly and decisively. This ability reflects good crisis management defined.
- Strive For Efficiency, Not Perfection
A leader developing a flexible crisis management strategy must also understand that parts of the plan will fail. The aim of a successful crisis plan is to keep things moving in spite of imperfect circumstances. You shouldn’t expect it all to run smoothly when you’re in uncharted territory. Accept certain failures and move on.
- Take Responsibility
However, an effective leader should also be ready to accept full responsibility when things go wrong. A leader who is willing to graciously accept this responsibility inspires confidence. It is also an opportunity to learn from mistakes and adapt to find a better solution.
- Be Empathetic
Large-scale crises inevitably involve human tragedy. Effective leaders should be aware of this and maintain empathy with their staff during this time. Be understanding and accept that people’s personal lives have undergone massive disruption. It is not only good business practice, it is a necessary part of working with other human beings in a time of loss and high stress.
- Humanize Yourself
You also don’t need to let your staff forget that you, too, are human. Leaders do not need to be totally unaffected by personal events in order to create an effective crisis management strategy. Without offloading responsibility, allow your team to understand that you are in an unprecedented situation as well. This will foster a sense of teamwork and community among your staff.
- Democratize Decision Making
During your handling of a crisis, you should take employee and customer feedback seriously. While, in normal times, most things probably run smoothly, crisis situations can have pitfalls you cannot predict. As the leader, you can’t have eyes everywhere, so listening carefully to and engaging with feedback can be a great strength and can help you adapt where you need to.
When it comes to developing a crisis management strategy, there are a few routes we can take. We can call in experts, draw on the expertise of our team, and adapt as we go. Regardless of how you work, developing your crisis strategy will stand you in good stead for whatever the world throws at you.
Has your business been affected by COVID-19? What management strategies have you employed to deal with this stressful time? Share your expertise in the comments!
About the Author: Thomas Glare boasted an MBA from NYU and has worked in two major corporations until 30. He loves management, delegating and long-term strategy, and he currently lives in Washington, DC. Thomas is currently working on a coaching business Lucky Numbers dedicated to managers worldwide.