26 Aug Four Tips for Leading through a Crisis
Crisis, by definition “is a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger”. What you do (or what you don’t do) in a crisis as a leader can make the difference in how you, your colleagues and your organization survive that crisis. Ignoring it, avoiding it, or pretending like it doesn’t exist is counterproductive. “Hope” is a wonderful and virtuous concept, but “hoping a crisis will simply go away” is not the ideal leadership and management strategy.
Pull up your bootstraps, face the problem head on and get your hands dirty. The only way to overcome a crisis successfully is to maintain an honest and open outlook, learn from your mistakes and follow these four guiding tips on how to successfully get through it:
– 1 –
During the heat of the crisis, it is easy to fall into the “sky is falling” trap that is often set for us. People around you may be in straight-up panic mode! That feeling and mood can be contagious, and not in a good way. It is really important to step back, take a deep breath and try to gain some perspective on the crisis. Ask yourself these questions:
- Have we been through this before?
- What was the outcome the last time?
- What is the worst case scenario?
- Can we survive that worst case?
- How does this crisis compare to the really important things in my life?
– 2 –
(this is not blind positivity)
It is not all “rainbows and unicorns” and if you come off that way to your people, you could lose credibility and trust. Be realistic about the potential outcomes, but also maintain a “can do” attitude and the mantra “This too shall pass.” Optimism is about approaching a problem with an analytical eye and reassuring the people around you that, not only will you overcome the problem (as a team), but more importantly, you will be stronger for it. The “old” adage “Whatever does not kill us makes us stronger” is as true as it is old. Inevitably, you will encounter the “Negative Neds and Nellys” in the organization who will do their best to derail your optimism, but don’t lose heart. Optimism always wins in the end!
– 3 –
Bring “Calm to Chaos”
When the world seems to be turning against you, when the anxiety levels are through the roof, when some people around you are literally paralyzed by the crisis you are in, it is critical that you, as a leader, bring calm to that chaotic situation. Even if you are dealing with those same fears and anxieties internally, even if you are feeling that sense of panic too, you cannot display that to your team. If they see you calm in the face of adversity, guess what…they will start to feel that sense of calm as well. It is contagious, but in a good way (See #1) As a leader, you set the tone from the minute you walk into the building (or Zoom session). In her book “Contagious Culture”, Anese Cavanaugh, called on effective leaders to show up with their IEP (Intentional Energetic Presence). Why? Because it spreads like a virus and you can wield that power for good.
– 4 –
Take Care of YOU!
Far too many leaders forget about this very important point. If you are not tending to your own needs, if you are not properly managing all of that stress using healthy coping mechanisms, you are setting yourself up for failure. When we are under intense stress (like when leading through a crisis), our bodies start to build up the stress hormone, Cortisol. This hormone is released from our adrenal glands, and under normal circumstances and at proper levels, is essentially harmless. However, if Cortisol is left unchecked, not released from the body in a timely manner, it can build and build, ultimately becoming a toxin.
What can you do to help level out that Cortisol? Exercise regularly (Don’t say you have no time…make the time), Mind your nutrition, and get an adequate amount of sleep. Carve out the time in your calendar for these critical tasks. Because, if you ignore it, it won’t go away. It will catch up with you and then you may not be in a position to help the people you are supposed to lead in the first place.
One of the certainties of life, is that uncertainty will come: you can guarantee you or your organization will face crises in the future, large and small. But by following these tips, you will be better prepared to lead yourself and the people around you through that crisis and onto bigger and better things.