Its Friday at 4 pm and you get the call. Something bad, perhaps really bad, just happened. You are in charge – so now what?
Take a deep breath, and follow these tips to lead during a crisis:
- Gather all of the information: The facts are important – and often will trickle in over time. Get all the facts available in the first few minutes. Ask good questions:
- What happened?
- What is the location of the incident or threat?
- When did this incident occur?
- Is there an active threat to employee, customer or patient?
- Was anyone hurt? If so, what do we know that how many people and their status?
- Is law enforcement or emergency service needed, been notified, or on the scene?
Not every detail will be available but gather enough to determine the magnitude of the issue.
- Decide whether or not to escalate: Ideally, there is a pre-determined threshold for launching into crisis-mode, but if not, there are some triggers that universally require escalating into crisis response:
- Active shooter incident
- Death or major bodily harm caused by the company (such as a recalled food, product or drug) or done to an employee of a company (such as an assault)
- A major breach of classified data (containing health or financial information),
- A natural disaster that causes significant harm to a company facility or team
- Terrorist attack at a company location
- Major news story about a company policy, employee or executive misconduct
Of course, there are plenty of other incidents that could propel a company into crisis-mode. Generally, if the threat has or could lead to significant harm to your team or your bottom-line, it is worth escalating.
- If crisis escalation is the direction, bring your internal team together to address their roles (if not, skip to the end of this list). This likely includes communications, social media, HR, the on-site leader at the location, and other leaders as it makes sense (such as IT for a data breach). Schedule a conference call and room for everyone to connect within the next hour. As the leader, share a brief overview of the incident, the reason for the gathering, and walk through each person’s role to determine what their next steps are going to be. This is also a good chance to identify anyone that is missing. Have a note taker capture the meeting and each person’s next steps to send a summary out afterward.
- Engage external partners. If the incident warrants external partners such as the police, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Safety Transportation Board or other regulatory agency, reach out to identify a point of contact and open line of communication.
- Record and learn: Once the situation resumes to normal, be sure to gather the team involved for an after-action discussion. Every incident is an opportunity to practice the response process and identify areas that need improvement.
If an incident doesn’t require crisis mode yet, it doesn’t mean its not an emergency. And it still needs to be addressed. Smaller incidents can become crises if they aren’t handled well and taken seriously.
The most important part of decision-making during a crisis is to keep calm and act methodically. Having a crisis plan or general protocol for assessing incidents helps you do this.
By following some simple steps, like those above, you’ll focus on the facts and make rational, timely and smart decisions. Others may be panicking around you – don’t let that influence your approach. It is human nature to lose composure and deviate from the plan when a crisis hits. You will best serve your company and brand by being the level-headed leader. Use this guide and your crisis plans to lead your team through an incident.
Can we help you?
Building an effective crisis management process that incorporates crisis management, crisis communications, and other functions within your firm is what we do here at Bryghtpath.
Bryghtpath has built the crisis management plans and frameworks for many Fortune 500 organizations, non-profits, and public sector agencies. Our firm has more than a century of experience in developing actionable plans to help prepare organizations for the unexpected. Learn more about our approach to Crisis Management in our Ultimate Guide to Crisis Management.