Take Charge Amid a Crisis
No one wants to think about a crisis taking place. But whenever major, serious events or tsunami-sized waters surface at work, those are the times in which you, as the leader, must visibly take charge as “the leader.” Moreover, while it’s great to count on your team members and empower them to display initiative, you need to be front and center, vividly displaying active and engaged leadership when confronted with such moments of truth. Through your actions and communications, you’ll better control your own destiny and build your reputation as one of those strong leaders who is fearless, caring and competent in the face of such enormous challenges.
A good example of taking charge amid a crisis is former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s proactive, invested and involved response to the 9/11 attacks on New York City. As soon as he possibly could, Giuliani got out in front of people, confirmed the seriousness of the situation, informed people of what was being done, and gave them whatever reassurance he could in the midst of a frightening, tragic moment in his city and our nation’s history.
You will hopefully never have to manage through such a terrible circumstance and event, but the overall approach that you take to all types of challenging opportunities and crises at work can make or break your credibility and effectiveness as a leader. So here are several ways you can ensure you’re taking charge:
Embrace your role. When tough times hit, don’t hide away or hold back in your office and delegate to others what needs to be done simply because you’re unsure of how to handle it, whether you can handle it, or if you can maintain face. Put those distracting doubts aside and discipline yourself to look at the situation as an opportunity to take charge. Will you handle the situation perfectly? Maybe, maybe not. But in such times, people are relying on you to step out of your comfort zone, take change and demonstrate courage. Letting them down would be equivalent to committing a leadership sin.
Have a plan. When a crisis hits or big business troubles suddenly erupt, you don’t often have much time to react. However, part of your leadership responsibility is to form a solid plan on the fly. This should include two parts: a plan of action and a plan for communication. The plans don’t have to be complex, but they do need to include goals and strategies you can believe in and deliver upon. Then act quickly and passionately because if you wait, you might not get another chance. As military hero General George S. Patton, Jr. once said, “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”
Over-communicate. In the absence of information, people will make up their own versions of what happened and are likely to criticize their leaders for not communicating effectively. So when a tragedy or crisis takes place, ramp up your communication levels and be the primary voice for your organization. If you have to get all your executive partners on the phone and doing a conference call in the middle of the night to prevent the dissemination of erroneous facts, do it. If you need to call a media conference at 7 a.m., do it. Such efforts will help prevent the spread of misinformation while enabling you to demonstrate your courage and conviction in this moment of truth. Also, have a communication plan ready and available. Such a plan can be created in advance so when something major goes wrong, you can review and possibly tweak it in a few minutes’ time. This solid communication plan, backed by your personal commitment to communicate with those affected, will assist you in managing the situation both effectively and professionally.
What would be some key components to a solid “crisis” communication plan?