Crisis management, to many of us, is a process. A plan. But in today’s world, it’s also a set of skills that leaders must have as they navigate the unknown.
While coronovirus has disrupted all our lives, leaders carry an extra-heavy weight during crisis. Right now, they’re doing everything in their power to keep the business alive while also supporting disrupted teams, being a watch dog over employee health and morale, and having to make impossible decisions to part ways with people they care for.
Yes, we’ve seen crisis before. There was the sudden tragedy of 9/11, the Great Recession of 2008, and too many natural disasters to count.
But this – a pandemic spreading across the globe at terrifying speed, nations issuing shelter-in-place orders, disruption shutting down public institutions and our economy… No previous-crisis experience could have prepared us for this.
Which is why crisis management processes and plans aren’t enough. Business also need leaders with crisis management skills, including:
In a crisis, the need for clear, concise, and timely communication is more important than ever. There are new policies to communicate, along with state-of-the-business announcements, town halls, and team check-ins. Leaders must be ready to engage the right people at the right time and inspire action.
Navigating crisis isn’t a pleasant experience, but leaders who respond with composure, optimism, and hardiness will gain the trust and support of their people. No matter what adversity they face, they’re able to think quickly and decisively, remain energetic, and persevere through challenges.
Outside of crisis, innovation can take shape through ideas or experiments that help the business stay sharp or get ahead. But in crisis, innovation becomes about survival. Leaders must be able to embrace challenges and change calmly while thinking outside the box to drive the business forward.
In a crisis, structure, normalcy, and routine are the first things to go. Leaders must re-establish structure by adapting strategies and processes to the current and changing needs of the business. Structure doesn’t mean being rigid or inflexible. It means anticipating problems and addressing them quickly.
In times of uncertainty, leaders must still be able to make decisions with confidence. They may not have all the answers, but they proactively gather input from diverse sources so that they understand how all groups are impacted. This is how they build influence, get buy-in, and drive change.
Above all, support is what people need most from their leaders during crisis. Leaders must provide clear direction, positive connections, and decisive judgement – not only to keep productivity up, but to help people see the light at the end of the tunnel and find meaning in the work they’re doing.
As businesses navigate the current crisis and the unknowns ahead, these are the leaders they need at the helm: Leaders who are naturally good at managing crisis, or who, with a little development, will be ready to rise to a future occasion.
Dedicating a few minutes to better understand your own leadership skills and the skills of those around you will go a long way in helping you leverage strengths, close gaps, and emerge from crisis stronger than ever. It’s professional development for yourself, and a way to build healthy crisis management behaviors into your company’s CulturalDNA.