Leading Your Team Through a Crisis

March 30, 20200 CommentLeadership

If you are in any sort of managerial role during the era of the global coronavirus pandemic, you know that your daily “to do” list just expanded to include activities you never thought imaginable. You have to continue to lead and oversee per your job description, but there is also a whole new facet that emphasises panic control and crisis management. There may be a need to learn entirely new ways of communicating and managing via remote and virtual scenarios, as well as keeping an office staff safe and healthy.

And because all of this has come at the world in an instant rather than a long, slow buildup, many organisations just don’t have systems or infrastructure in place to handle things effectively. The Australian Government has this to say about crisis management: “Crises demand fast and effective responses, it is important to establish authority early. A clear understanding of the role and responsibility of all of those involved in the response is also critical.”

Now, that is a basic approach to management during a crisis, but leadership and management are not exactly the same.

How can you lead your teams through a crisis? What fundamental methods should be applied in order to facilitate any major transitions as well as the “new normal” that will be the end result of the current global pandemic, and any future crises?

We have several tips to use:

Transparency – Being open and honest during a crisis can seem counterproductive as it may insight panic or worry. However, managers have to overcome any inclinations towards withdrawal or tightening the lines of communication. As one expert at The Muse noted, “going radio silent on your team when they know something is up” is only going to churn up conjecture, negativity and fear. 

Taking control of the narrative, however, is only possible when you use openness and honesty to the greatest degree possible. Yes, you may be unable to provide every detail or answer but being as responsive and informative as you can maintain a level of professionalism that can do nothing but reassure. It also ends speculation and fear. Be open to Q&A sessions, daily check-ins, frequent updates, and email campaigns that enable comprehensive updates.

Set Limits – While we just encouraged openness, you must remember that there will always be fine lines to walk where information sharing is concerned. Naturally, this varies from situation to situation and may even change on a daily basis. However, as a manager, you must be sure about the point at which information must have a filter or a more appropriate answer can be provided.

A good tip to use is to have a pre-arranged answer for those questions or concerns that cross the line. As an example, a manager can safely say “I don’t know that today, but promise to provide an update as soon as a decision is reached.” This is honest without being secretive or worrying.

Practice Self-Awareness – Taking phone calls outside of earshot, closing your door as soon as you speak with upper management, letting it be known that meetings happen after hours…these are only going to leave people feeling uneasy. If tension is in the air, such patterns will only reinforce a sense of confusion. This is a time for morale-boosting. Checking in with the team, offering them a virtual or real-world managerial presence, and recognising even small efforts can greatly boost the sense of leadership you create rather than weakening it through suspicion.

With so many new responsibilities emerging each day, managers in any sort of crisis situation need to be as organised as possible. One way to get ahead of the curve is to have a few strategies and behaviours in mind even before you are called to the challenge. 




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