Keeping a clear head, responding logically rather than emotionally, and seeing all the variables. These traits amongst many others are touted as key elements of crisis leadership. What is less often articulated is how leaders can actually manifest these qualities, and what procedures they can put in place to protect themselves and their teams from the consequences of rash decision-making.
Here we explore five real-time techniques you can implement to add strategy and repeatability to your crisis-management toolkit.
It’s important to remember that your role is about galvanising and bringing different skill sets together to affect the overall picture. It’s fine not to be the authority on every aspect of a strategy, that’s why your team exists! You must transmit your willingness to not be the expert. Once the stigma of being wrong or ill-informed has been removed from your team dynamic, information sharing and getting to the objective truth becomes easier.
With your team feeling free of restriction, it’s time to organise them into the most effective structure possible. Lean ideation units should be built to iterate through potential strategies and scenarios quickly. Understand what doesn’t work, and why that was the case and move this know-how forward into future versions of the plans you come up with. This model of team set-up has been described as a ‘Virtual War Room’, and right now, that imagery is accurate and helpful.
The knee-jerk reaction to an unexpected failure is to ask, “who?” However, the aim should be to improve the collective understanding of why this happened and, more importantly, how this failure can be leveraged into future success. Avoid the trap of blame and reprimand; view the failure as primarily another attempt to learn.
The debrief is an opportunity to gather as many perspectives as possible on what has been learned from experimentation. Draw on the openness you have established and encourage everyone in the debrief to forget seniority or organisational politics. This exercise is crucial for understanding how improvements can be made going forward, but it is only as effective as the level of comfort your team has about their ability to share openly.
Now is the time to shift direction based on what you have discovered through these controlled phases of learning and adaptation. It’s important to be transparent when outlining the plan, account for changes you have made and discuss the challenges and how they were overcome, rather than simply pretending that the process you went through didn’t happen.
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