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5 Ways to "Crisis-Proof" Your Team

Posted on March 14, 2015 at 9:35 AM


If you lead a team for long enough, you will likely face a crisis at some point. Internal things that you rely on every day will break some day. External forces that you plan for can go haywire. Whatever form a crisis takes, leading your team successfully out of the crisis gives you a chance to demonstrate your leadership and quick thinking skills. If you lead your team successfully through a crisis, you might come out with rosier career prospects. If you get tripped up by a crisis, you might not come out of it at all.

 

The best way to ensure you get through a crisis is to prepare for it before it strikes. Much of the damage that occurs is in the first moments after a crisis strikes. If you can prepare your team to react appropriately and quickly to a budding crisis, you can significantly improve the odds of emerging successfully. Here are five things you can talk to your team about now to prepare them for the inevitable crisis.

 

Pre-Define “Crisis” – A lot of bad and unexpected things happen every day, but not all of them should be considered a “crisis.” Leaders should set some clear criteria to help define what a “crisis” worthy of crisis management looks like. Events that pose significant risk to life or safety are obvious criteria that would qualify as a crisis. Things that break the law are another. Beyond that, leaders should give their teams a clear sense of what the threshold is in terms of other potential harm that would qualify as a crisis. Threshold criteria can be measured in terms like monetary losses or number of customers impacted. Setting a common understanding of the difference between something your team members should handle on their own versus what they should raise an alarm to you about will help everyone do their jobs better with less stress along the way.

 

Communicate Up Immediately – If something does happen that meets the definition of “crisis,” team members should immediately communicate it up the reporting chain to you before they spend time looping in others who are not directly affected. Precious time can elapse if a team member tries to contact their peers and others who are indirectly involved before “letting the boss know.” A leader should make it clear to their team that they should always hear bad news from their own team first and never from a third party, or worse yet, from their own boss. By getting informed first, the boss can more quickly assess whether the situation does indeed require crisis management mode. And if the situation is a crisis, the boss can also quickly deploy additional resources immediately, including themselves, potentially. The boss can also make sure that they are the person who informs the higher ups in the organization, showing they are on the case.

 

Go Low Tech – Technology gives us many channels to choose from in communicating with our boss and others. Many people prefer more passive and less intrusive manners of communication such as emails or text messages to communicate. You should make it clear to your team members that if they think they are seeing a crisis, they need to make you know in the most direct form possible. They should call you on your mobile phone or find you in your office. They should not leave a voicemail, send you an email or text you and wait for you to respond. You should make it clear that they have not done their job of informing you until they get confirmation from you that they heard you.

 

Talk in Facts and Data – When a crisis unfolds, it is easy to get caught up in the confusion and panic that might also occur. When your team members are reporting about the crisis back to you, they may end up amplifying the panic and passing on distortions or erroneous information. The way to prevent that is to train your team to gather facts and data that they can confirm first-hand, not just pass on, and give unwarranted credence to, rumor and reactions they observe. Not only will this data help you understand the extent and impact of the crisis, it will also let you know objectively whether it is getting better or worse over time.

 

Prioritize Properly – As the boss, fixing a crisis in your area is a top priority that you might be losing sleep over. After all, part of your role as a leader is to be the person accountable for everything that happens on your team. The buck stops with you, as the old saying goes. If things go really, really badly, you may be out of a job. Don’t assume that your team members have the same urgency as you do about managing the crisis. If things go really badly, your team members may only have a piece of the overall responsibility and be able to survive. It is much harder to replace a whole team than a team leader. If you are planning to put in extraordinary effort and hours to fix the crisis and you expect your team members to do the same, you need to tell them. Don’t just assume that they will know that the crisis at hand overrules everday work schedules and priorities.


So in your next staff meeting, communicate the above thoughts to your team to make sure you are on the same page about what managing a crisis means. It won’t help you prevent a crisis, but it could help your career survive one.

 

 

Categories: Crisis Management, Operational Excellence, Security