A few thoughts on the Leaders’ Role in Crisis Management
We are all in the very early stages of recovery from one of the more difficult times in most American’s lives. This includes the Leaders who are responsible for bringing our companies and economy back to health. If none of us have been through this before, how are we supposed to behave and what is required of our leaders? A helpful step in dealing with any new situation is to first define the problem. Ask the right questions to uncover the difficulties you and your company are dealing with. Are you still in ‘crisis mode’ right now, or dealing with the change in what is considered ‘normal’? Is what you’re facing truly ‘unprecedented’ or is it difficulty under a new name? Does the phrase “Economic Disaster” really apply, or is it “Opportunity dressed in work clothes?”
At its’ worst, the coronavirus pandemic was a crisis and the subsequent shutdown wrought economic disaster for many. As we head into summer, with the initial wave of affected coronavirus cases declining, our Leaders must press forward. Life inside many businesses will be forced to change and adapt to ‘post-quarantine’ world. Leaders of successful companies understand that this is not unlike the challenges the business has already faced. The tools needed to adapt to the ‘new reality’ have been applied across industries by multiple companies throughout time. A small sampling of problems successfully addressed includes changes in our marketplaces, changes in customer buying behavior, adversity in hiring, new and different competitors, innovative new products and any of a thousand other things that happen in business every year.
It is important that the Leader acknowledge something unplanned and unpleasant has happened, that people are concerned, worried and many may even be suffering. It is critical at this point that the Leader remain calm. Panic behavior by the company leader will result in erratic behavior from the rest of the company or department. This is the time for the leader to get out in front and truly LEAD. Leading in the true sense does NOT mean sitting in the background or office sending emails, scheduling meetings or leaving voice mails telling others what to do.
None of us know exactly what the future is going to look like, but we all know it will be different than the past. Your company can lament the fact that schools aren’t buying whiteboards right now, or you can switch your same production processes over to producing dividers for offices. Your restaurant can close up shop due to the new rules, or it can transform itself to a delivery model which actually grows sales, keeps all employees employed and provides a service for those unwilling to go out into society yet. Or, as we see in grocery chains across America, you can worry that the limit on the number of shoppers in your store at any one time will lower sales, or you can take the opportunity to increase the online shopping and drive through pick up of groceries to increase the velocity of sales. These are but a few examples of how the future will be different but, for those companies willing to adapt, better.
By leading through adverse times, you show your employees that you truly care. Shared adversity actually serves to build teams and brings people closer together. By being out front and behaving in a trustworthy manner, you earn the trust of your team and build a stronger business. In the end, it is up to Leadership. True Leaders will use this opportunity to move their organization in a new direction with a stronger sense of purpose.