This article is the second in a two-part series dedicated to helping crisis team leaders and team members prepare for their next crisis. You can read part I at this link.
As a newly minted member of your organization’s crisis management team, it’s normal to have a ton of questions (and probably anxieties) about what it really means 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 crisis management team member 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’ll quickly learn that there is no substitute for experience.
But you can still take some simple steps to help you “suit up” to respond to your next crisis.
Here’s what you need to know.
What You Can Expect as a Crisis Management Team Member
As a crisis management team member, you probably understand that it’s your job to run into the metaphorical burning building and put out the fire.
But what about the many hours of training and conditioning that come beforehand? Or the painstaking hours of mop-up, investigation, and de-briefing that are necessary to make sure the fire is really out and that it doesn’t happen again?
Your role on the crisis management team (CMT) extends far before the crisis and well after its resolution.
Here’s what you can expect at every stage.
Before the Crisis
Prior to a disruption, crisis management team members are expected to participate in discussions and activities calculated at improving the organization’s overall preparedness. This likely includes:
- Participating in developing plans for potential disruptions
- Integrating incident management processes that exist today in your area(s) of day-to-day responsibility into the crisis management process
- Regularly participating in exercises, such as tabletops, simulations, and other scenario-based training to build muscle memory for future crisis situations, and
- Leading efforts within your specific day-to-day job to better prepare your organization for disruption.
Monitoring Developing Situations
Being a member of the crisis management team means that you are expected to constantly be wearing your crisis management thinking cap and monitoring day-to-day happenings for incidents or disruptions that could become a broader crisis situation.
In the event of a potential emerging crisis, you should be prepared to notify the on-call crisis leaders, explain the situation and your specific concerns, and begin the crisis management activation process if needed.
During the Crisis
As an activated member of the crisis management team, you will be expected to provide both your subject matter expertise from your day-to-day role and your view as a leader throughout the crisis management process.
On a granular level, this includes:
- 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 to inform the executive briefings
- Providing candid feedback and advice and pushing the team towards decisive decision making during the overall crisis response
- Fulfilling any role requested of you by the Crisis Leader, including wearing multiple hats during an activation to ensure an effective response
After the Crisis
In the aftermath of a crisis, short-term recovery efforts will be necessary to ensure that critical business functions remain operating, facilities are secured, employees and operations are relocated if necessary, and that immediate needs for employee wellbeing are being met.
In the long-term, CMT members can expect to participate in after-action and lessons-learned processes to better prepare the organization for future disruptions.
What it Takes to Be on the Crisis Management Team
As a member of the crisis management team, you are part of a cadre of hand-picked leaders and subject matter experts from within your organization who are called on to provide direction, support, and expertise during a crisis.
Take a moment to feel good here. Because if you’ve made the cut, it means you likely already possess several skills and capabilities that aren’t easily taught but are essential to performing effectively on the crisis management team. These include:
- Subject matter expertise in your specific area of operations
- Perspective to think strategically and tactically at the same time
- Extraordinary situational awareness and the ability to pivot quickly as needs change
- Performing well under pressure
- Being a team player and demonstrating a willingness to actively participate in all aspects of the crisis management program, including preparing, practicing, responding, recovering, and learning
- The ability to work collaboratively to represent your function within the crisis management team and then represent your function on the CMT back into your organization
- Cross-functional leadership, or the ability to lead both vertically and horizontally across your organization
While you may already be confident in many of the above areas, you can and should continue to hone your skills and capabilities.
Your business is counting on you to decisively and effectively lead your organization through its next crisis. You can’t afford to wait until it’s “go-time” to suit up.
What can you do to prepare?
Suiting Up for the Crisis: Your Next Best Steps
- Training and Exercises: In the hands of a capable crisis team leader, you should be meeting regularly with the team to engage in training, such as tabletops, 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.
- Formal Training: Formal learning opportunities, such as 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 develop skills specific to your particular role on the crisis management team.
- Book Learning: If formal training and mentorships aren’t available to you, there are many good free and low-cost resources such as books, articles, and podcasts to help you learn more about the crisis management process and best practices.
- Articles: Our Ultimate Guide to Crisis Management provides a great overview of everything you need to know about Crisis Management.
- Networking: Finally, taking the time to talk with experienced incumbents on the crisis management team can give you invaluable insight into how the team works within your specific organization 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 experience, organizational insights, and new opportunities to further your career.
If you’re new to crisis management, you can learn more with our Ultimate Guide to Crisis Management and our free Crisis Management 101 Intro Course. If you need help in building out your crisis management team, you can learn more about our Crisis Management services and setup a time to connect with our experts.