It may be a bad business decision or the loss of a major customer. Perhaps a natural disaster will strike to destroy property or interrupt the supply chain. A key employee could be injured or diagnosed with a serious illness.
Leading during times of crisis will require focusing on feelings, paying attention to facts, and keeping an eye toward the future. Here are a few tips for each of these three areas.
Focusing on feelings includes acknowledging your own, and others’, fears. A crisis is sure to create a wide range of emotions and fear is often behind the anxiety or anger that emerges. Being willing to ask team members how they are feeling is one way to quiet the fears and reduce the anxiety.
Paying attention to the facts might seem obvious, but a crisis tends to easily distract and obscure the truth about what is taking place. Holding regular team meetings where the focus is on clarifying information and defining roles can help. Encourage everyone to ask questions and willingly admit when you don’t have a ready answer.
Keeping an eye toward the future is challenging when things are in turmoil on a daily basis. It might be helpful to set a few short-term goals as a way to ensure that people see beyond whatever fires they are busy trying to contain. Show flexibility with any new ideas or processes that might emerge. Celebrate successes as a way to show everyone you are making progress.
During a crisis, leaders should also make sure everyone understands his or her role and how their day-to-day activities may change. Discuss how team members will stay in step with each other and how the team will achieve results in spite of the disruptions.
A crisis doesn’t need to destroy your business or career. It might be just what you need to grow and learn as a leader.