Your employees are looking to their managers to remain calm and maintain a sense of perspective, says Gene Klann, author of “Crisis Leadership: Using Military Lessons, Organizational Experiences, and the Power of Influence to Lessen the Impact of Chaos on the People You Lead.” It’s your goal to keep things operating as normal as possible, he adds. That’s a tall order, indeed, but he offers some suggestions.
First, communication is paramount and it’s best to communicate face-to-face, either in person or through virtual channels.
“With a plethora of tools for hosting and personalizing virtual meetings, quarantines don’t have to stand in the way of your group coming together face-to-face,” he says.
Next, key information should be handled with the 3 Rs: review, repeat, reinforce.
“If information is shared only once, it cannot be assumed everyone has received it — or if they did, that they understand it,” he says.
Repeating and reinforcing information daily and via multiple delivery methods helps it to sink in and be retained. When information regarding what is happening is scarce or non-existent, people revert to gossip and rumors and also tend to “MSU” it. That is: Make Stuff Up.
“Invariably, what they make up will be worse than reality, no matter how bad reality is,” he warns.
Dedicate organizational resources for future crises.
As any crisis transitions from its urgent phase, the time pressure will ease, as will the need for split-second decisions, he explains.
“At that point, the plan must evolve into a more complex system that looks at recovery and getting things back to normal — whatever the new normal looks like. If a similar emergency unfolds in the future, will you be prepared?
“Experience shows that key resources are seldom placed in reserve for contingencies. And if they are, they’re usually inadequate,” he says.
Maintain perspective in a crisis.
During a crisis, leaders are often focused on the emotional turmoil of their direct reports and others in the organization, but it’s equally important for leaders to take care of themselves, he explains.
“A crisis can exert a high impact on human needs, emotions, and behaviors. We may not be conscious of this, but our behaviors send messages to others about our own underlying needs and emotions,” he says. “Whatever leadership role you play, you need to be aware of your own emotional turmoil, its effect on your behavior, and its influence on your leadership abilities.”
Get grounded. Take 5-minute private breaks. Practice relaxation techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing. Don’t neglect spiritual exercises and activities as they fit your individual beliefs.
Prioritize and focus. Keep meetings short. Be more assertive. Say “no” more often. Be more conscious about managing your time and priorities. Concentrate on only major issues. Skip secondary tasks.
“By paying attention to your own emotions, needs, and behaviors, you will be better prepared to handle the human dimensions of the crisis. As a result, you will be more capable of containing the crisis, regaining control, minimizing damage, and effectively preventing, defusing, and reducing the duration of an extremely difficult leadership situation,” Klann says.