It doesn’t matter what type of industry you’re talking about – the fact that you will one day find yourself in the middle of a crisis is not a question of “if,” but “when.”
If you’re the type of person who thinks that you can never plan, prepare, and strategize enough to ward off any potential dangers before they happen, you’ve just lost a game that you never truly understood in the first place.
The key to being a successful business leader therefore becomes “how do I get both myself and my organization ready for the types of crisis events that I am likely to face?”
While it’s true that you can’t prepare yourself around a crisis, you can prepare yourself through one by keeping a few key things in mind.
Effective Communication in a Crisis
Regardless of the type of situation you’re talking about, when trying to mitigate the damage associated with a crisis in the world of business the importance of effective communication cannot be overstated enough. The crisis that you find yourself in wasn’t created in a vacuum. It likely wasn’t caused by any one thing.
The Power of Collaborative Leadership
One of the most valuable assets you will have at your side during any crisis situation is the input of those around you. While it’s always important for someone in a leadership role to take ownership of problems when they arise, you also need to understand that a solution to that problem isn’t going to be created in a vacuum. Make no mistake: long-term, viable solutions will only come about with the input of many stakeholders.
From that perspective, your job in a crisis becomes less “find the right, single decision that will put an end to your problems” and more “identify the people who I can bring together that will enable us to collectively solve the problem as soon as possible.” Start with everyone who is directly involved. If you’re going through an IT-related crisis, bring together your heads of the IT department and all those who are directly affected, for example.
As a leader, one of the qualities that likely got you to where you are at this point in your career is your decisiveness. In a crisis, however, this takes on an entirely new context. It isn’t just enough to bring all the stakeholders to the table – you actually have to be willing to collaborate with these people and to listen to what they have to say. Stop saying things like “here is what I want you to do to solve” and start asking questions like “what are WE going to do to get this job done?”
Along the same lines, you have to be willing to listen to unpopular advice if you’re going to mitigate the damage of the crisis you now face as much as possible. If you have an idea, you shouldn’t be looking for three different people who will tell you that you’re right. You should be looking for the three different people who are willing to tell you you’re wrong. Who are willing to stand up to you and say “here are the reasons why I think this won’t work,” or “I think this will only make things worse because of X, Y and Z factors.” Don’t look for “Yes Men” and “Yes Women” – look for people who are less concerned with looking good and more concerned with actually accomplishing the same goal.
Leading Collaboratively by Example
Similarly, one of the single most important things you need to remember is that in terms of collaborative leadership in the face of a crisis, you need to lead by example. One thing that has no business in a crisis is emotion. Yes, things are getting pretty bad and yes, the consequences of these current events could spell long-term disaster. However, if you want people to gather around you to collectively come up with an effective solution, you need to remember that people are looking to you now more than ever. You need to lead by example.
To guarantee that your stakeholders are firing on all cylinders in the way you need them to be, they need to be calm, cool and collective. They need to be positive. They have to actually believe that they have a chance at beating this thing, even if all evidence points to the contrary. One way to guarantee that none of this will happen is for you to start acting like the sky is falling.
If you have to deliver bad news, try to do so in a way that avoids panic. Always try to be realistic about what the future might hold. Make sure that you’re presenting yourself as the strong, even-keeled leader that you have always been and set the tone for everyone else. Pay attention to your body language and other non-verbal cues that may telegraph anxiety or stress to help avoid these two qualities from rearing their ugly heads at the most inopportune moments possible.
If you believe that this group of people has the ability to solve whatever challenges appear before them, they’re all going to believe it, too.
These are just a few of the core qualities that will carry you far in the midsts of a crisis, regardless of the shape that event happens to be in. Though the specific actions you take and the directions you give will vary depending on the situation, one thing is certain – your most valuable asset is and will always be the people around you. Only by immediately opening up communication to relevant parties and by drawing all stakeholders to the table for true collaboration will you have a chance of navigating the rough waters of a crisis successfully and coming out the other side in one piece.
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Bryghtpath has developed the crisis management strategies, frameworks, and plans for organizations ranging in size from the Fortune 25 to local, small businesses.
Drop us a note via our contact form or give us a call at +1.612.235.6435 – we’d love to chat about your needs and how we might be able to help.