In this episode of the Managing Uncertainty Podcast, Bryghtpath Principal & Chief Executive Bryan Strawser discusses Part 2 of ‘Suiting Up for the Crisis’, focusing on being a part of the Crisis Management Team. This series is dedicated to helping crisis team leaders and crisis management team members prepare for their next crisis.
Related Episodes & Blog Posts
- Blog Post: Suiting Up for a Crisis Part I: The Crisis Leader
- Blog Post: Suiting Up for a Crisis Part II: The Crisis Management Team
- Episode #55: Crisis Leadership Roundtable
- Episode #105: Taking care of yourself during a crisis
- Episode #117: What Successful Crisis Management Looks Like Internally
- Episode #130: Suiting up for the Crisis – The Crisis Leader
Hello, and Welcome to the Managing Uncertainty podcast. This is Bryan Strawser, Principal and Chief Executive here at Bryghtpath, and in this week’s episode, I want to take us to part two of our series, Suiting Up For A Crisis. This series is dedicated to helping crisis team leaders and team members prepare for their next crisis. Part one was about being the crisis leader, and in part two, I want to talk about being a part of your organization’s crisis management team, or CMT.
As a newly minted member of your crisis management team, it’s normal to have a lot of questions and probably some anxiety about what does it mean to be a part of this team? What are the expectations of me as a crisis management team member? How does my role as a member of the crisis management team impact my normal job responsibilities? What, if anything, can I do to prepare?
Like me and many others who walked this path before you, you’re quickly going to learn that there’s no substitute for experience, but you can still take some simple steps to help you suit up, so to speak, to respond to your next crisis. So here’s what we think you need to know.
First, what can you expect as a crisis management team member? Well, as a member of the CMT, you probably understand that it’s your job to run into the metaphorical burning building and help put out the fire. But there are many hours of training and conditioning that come beforehand, and the painstaking hours of mop-up and investigation and debriefing that are necessary to make sure that a fire is really out and that it doesn’t happen again. Your role on the crisis management team extends far before the crisis and well after its resolution. Here’s what you can expect at each stage.
Prior to a disruption, I would expect a crisis management team member to participate in discussions and activities calculated at improving the organization’s overall preparedness because this is your only chance to be able to do that.
My friend Juliette Kayyem at Harvard University describes this as being left of boom. You’re on the left side of the incident of the crisis, and so you have this opportunity to invest in preparedness. This might include things like participating in building developing plans for potential disruptions, integrating an incident management process, taking processes that exist today in your area of day-to-day responsibility, and integrating those into the crisis management process. You might regularly participate in exercises like tabletops and simulations and other scenario-based training to build muscle memory to help you in future crisis situations, and you may lead efforts within your day-to-day job, within your day-to-day silo in the organization, to help better prepare the overall company for disruption.
Being a member of the crisis management team also means that you’re expected to constantly be wearing your crisis management hat, and you’re monitoring the day-to-day happenings in your job and in your surroundings for incidents or disruptions that can become a broader crisis situation. In the event of a potential emerging crisis, you should be prepared to notify your on-call crisis leaders, explain the situation and your specific concerns, and then begin the activation process for crisis management if needed.
During the crisis, as an activated member of the crisis management team, you’ll be expected to provide your subject-matter expertise from your day-to-day role representing your organization, but also your cross-functional view as a leader throughout the crisis management process.
On a granular or tactical level, this might include representing your organization within CMT meetings and calls, providing updates regarding conditions, progress, challenges and requests from your respective area, as well as providing key information that inform your company’s overall view of the crisis, providing candid feedback and advice that pushed the team towards decisive decision making during the overall crisis, and lastly, fulfilling any role requested of you by the crisis leader. That might include wearing multiple hats during an activation to ensure an effective response.
After the crisis, in the aftermath of the crisis, short-term recovery efforts will probably be necessary to ensure that critical business functions remain operating, that facilities are secured, that employees and operations are relocated, and that immediate needs for employee wellbeing are being met.
In the long term, crisis management team members can expect to participate in the after-action lessons-learned process to help better prepare the organization for future disruptions.
So what does it take to be on the crisis management team? Well, as a member of the team, you’re a part of a cadre of handpicked leaders and subject-matter experts from within your organization who are called upon to provide direction, support, and expertise during a crisis. So take a moment to feel good here, because if you’ve made the cut to be a part of your crisis management team, that means you’re already perceived to possess several skills and capabilities that are not easily taught, but these skills are essential to performing effectively as a member of the crisis management team.
Those would include things like subject-matter expertise in your area of operations; perspective that lets you think strategically and tactically at the same time. You possess extraordinary situational awareness and the ability to pivot quickly as needs change. You perform well under pressure. You’re a team player, and you have demonstrated a willingness to actively participate in all aspects of the crisis management program, including preparing, practicing, responding, recovering, and learning from those crises. You have the ability to work collaboratively to represent your function within the crisis management team, and then represent your role on the CMT back into your organization with your peers and with your boss. And lastly, you possess cross-functional leadership. You can lead both vertically and horizontally across the organization.
Now, you may already be confident in many of these areas, but you can and should continue to hone your skills and capabilities as a member of the crisis management team. Your business, your organization, is counting on you to decisively and effectively lead your organization through its next crisis, and you can’t afford to wait until it’s go-time to suit up.
So what can you do to prepare? Well, here are your next best steps. The first is training and exercises. In the hands of a capable crisis team leader, you should be meeting regular with the team to engage in training, such as tabletop simulations and other scenario-based training. These exercises are the next best thing to experiencing an actual crisis and will help you build the muscle memory needed to respond effectively to an incident.
The second is formal training. Formal learning opportunities like courses and mentorships can give you a more in-depth understanding of the crisis management process. You might also want to consider available courses and training that can help you to develop skills specific to your particular role on the crisis management team.
The third is book learning. If formal training and mentorships are not available to you, there’s many good free and low-cost resources like books and articles, and podcasts to help you learn more about the crisis management process and best practices. There’s even our blog at bryghtpath.com/blog.
And finally, networking. Take the time to talk with experienced incumbents on the crisis management team within your organization, and your peers and crisis management leaders at other companies. They can give you valuable insight into how the team works within your specific organization and in the industry and what you can expect as a new member of the crisis management team.
Above all, keep in mind that your participation as a crisis management team member will stretch you in every way imaginable, but it’s also a unique chance to gain leadership insight, organizational experience, and new opportunities that will help you further your career. If you’re new to crisis management, you might be able to learn more through our free crisis management 101 intro course here at Bryghtpath. And if you need help in building out your crisis management team and training, you can learn more about our crisis management services at our website, and even set up a time to connect with our experts.
That’s it for this edition of the Managing Uncertainty podcast. We’ll be back next week with another new episode. Be well.