Live and lead long enough, and at some point, you will find yourself navigating a crisis where the rulebook hasn’t been written. We’re at one of those points right now.
If you pause for a second and tune-in to your deepest emotions, they likely run the gamut of concerned, confused, uncertain, and even frightened.
Focus on those feelings for a moment, because those are precisely what your team members are feeling. These emotions are powerful for each of us, and you, as the leader, play a big part in helping ensure they don’t translate into paralysis, panic, or ugly dysfunction.
You don’t have all the answers. No one does in a crisis. However, your behaviors go a long way to gaining the collective support of your team members in pursuit of one answer and solution at a time. Put these ideas to work in pursuit of being you at your best in this challenging time.
Eight Ideas to Help You Lead in a Crisis
1. Display Calm
Panic is the enemy of productivity and progress in a crisis. Yes, you have the same unsettled feelings as everyone else, plus the added pressure that everyone is watching you. No one feels good about a boss running around with their hair on fire. Redouble your efforts to present a calm, concerned demeanor. You’ll be fighting your internal emotions, but this is one fight you have to win.
2. Exhibit Cautious Confidence
No one appreciates when the boss turns on the fake sunshine pump in a crisis. We all recognize disingenuous cheerleading and false confidence. It has the opposite of the intended effect. Instead of pumping artificial sunshine, your team members need to perceive you are confident in them and in their ability to find a way forward through the fog and create positive outcomes, one problem at a time.
3. Remain Connected
The aloof leader or the fortress leaders who lock themselves inside boardrooms during a crisis are both useless and destructive. People need to know you are engaged, involved, and connected to the situation and their efforts. Resist the temptation to hunker down and debate the future implications of this real-time crisis. Now is the time to be visible and involved.
4. Create Community Virtually
While social distancing precludes traditional approaches at gathering and working together, redouble your efforts to use the tools in front of you to keep people connected. Help people re-center by connecting with team members via video or audio and give them opportunities to share ideas, cheer about victories no matter how small, and genuinely be reminded they are a part of something bigger than themselves.
5. Over-Communicate. Daily
In times of crisis, people need to hear what’s happening, what you’re thinking, and to be given a forum to share what they are thinking. There is such a thing as too little communication, and it increases the stress-level in the workplace exponentially. Get the stress out by sharing. Make sure what you share is transparent. Don’t pull punches, but retain that cautious optimism in your tone.
6. Constantly Show You Care
In times of crisis, humans are capable of extraordinary efforts. People care and will provide super-human efforts to overcome obstacles. Tap into this by showing how much you care for your employees, their families, and for everyone’s health and safety. Every decision and every action you take has to fall on the side of genuinely caring.
7. Challenge Yourself to Reframe Your Thinking
I’m still running into managers and firms who stubbornly resist the idea of remote work for individuals who have no real need to be locked in place. That’s a dominant logic that needs to be blown up and eliminated from the minds of these resistant managers. As for business as ususal…well, nothing is as usual. Embrace it.
8. Invite Experiments—All Ideas are Welcome
A crisis where there’s no single solution demands experimentation. It’s time to live up to those words on your firm’s statement of values that says, “We encourage experimentation.” Experiments, by definition, fail, until they work. Emphasize the speed of learning and adaptation and let people run with their investigations. Redouble your efforts to create environments where they can collaborate in search of solutions.
The Bottom-Line for Now
There’s more to do than articluated here. This is a start. We’re on the brink of a new normal, possibly with this miserable virus in our lives until (hopefully) a vaccine is identified. While the near-term implications might feel crushing, it’s imperative we all stand-up and find a way through the fog together. If you have the privilege of leading, it’s time to serve and support with everything you’ve got in you. It’s time to be you at your absolute best.