How to Lead in a Crisis

I’ll be honest. I have a child who gets on the New York City subway to get to school, and the Coronavirus news is getting to me. I have a brother-in-law who is an epidemiologist, so I call him to get talked down from the ledge. But a mother’s worry can easily outpace reason when your most precious are involved.

Which got me thinking about the workplace in an age where change and uncertainty are so ubiquitous. It feels like a low-level crisis all the time.  So I found a good article on crisis leadership with lots of ideas.

What it boils down to is:

  • Centralize communication.  Have one person in charge of an initiative
  • And have a playbook, meaning make sure there’s one vision and one person is updating everyone, frequently
  • Look at scenarios.  What might the impact be, or several of them, and what can we do to buffer that impact?
  • Uncover weaknesses in the status quo that might enhance the impact
  • Have a crisis-ready culture, meaning use that common vision so that everyone can make good choices and that those choices build on one another to increase the chances of a positive outcome
  • Get the facts, ask questions and listen.  (This is why I call my brother-in-law.)
  • Avoid impulses that will make you act too soon or stick your head in the sand and blame others.
It is very possible to change the outcome, even when things are happening fast around you.  Remember Apollo 13?  Slowing down to take a look is the first step.
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