The shift into crisis management mode has been abrupt. Weeks ago, business leaders acted swiftly to pivot their teams, as organizational mandates were drastically changed. What was unthinkable in January has been operationalized. Care centers have shut down. Sturdy supply chains have broken. Exponential overnight surges in demand have tested people, processes and systems. Regardless of industry, location, or scale of business – company leaders have been forced to reckon with a new reality.
Terms like uncharted, never-before, unprecedented surround us. Growth objectives, M&A deals, and operational playbooks have been scrapped. In turn, leaders are shouldering a mounting load of unprecedented changes.
Leaders can, however, find solace in the fact that playbooks for effectively leading during a crisis do exist. Although each crisis is distinct and the effects vary by organization, there are tactics leaders can rely upon. When deployed, the following plays have proven to be dependable in crisis management.
Frequent & Dynamic Communication
For many, the shift to working from home brought on by state-wide lockdowns and social distancing orders has drastically impacted and reduced communication channels. Without constant interaction, it is critical for company leadership to increase communication frequency both internally with employees and board members, as well as externally with clients and partners.
Applying a dynamic communication playbook enables leaders to further streamline communications to all stakeholders. Methods of communication deployed by leaders include, company-wide emails, virtual town halls, regular phone calls and continued sharing of resources. Communication is the primary job for all leaders to effectively manage through crisis.
Leading with Transparency
The unpredictable and volatile environment created by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to uncertainty and fear globally. Employees have turned to company leadership teams to serve as a source of stability and answers, two tasks which seem near impossible during a crisis.
Leading with transparency and confronting difficult topics will serve to engender trust and credibility. By remaining direct, honest and empathetic in their communications, leaders can engage, rally and unify employees around a common purpose. Unifying belief within teams will help galvanize organizational resolve in tough troughs and build organizational readiness to rise to the new challenges, once the crisis has passed.
Rapid Organizational Adaptation
The ability of leaders to adapt quickly to new leadership and organizational playbooks is essential to crisis management. To adapt rapidly, it is crucial that company leadership rely heavily on their team members, approach the crisis from multiple perspectives, and remain agile to constant changes. Collaboration is key, and input from all team members is vital to generate ideas which can drive the organization forward.
Notable adaptations made during COVID-19 include, Health Care providers transition from in-office care to telehealth services, and manufacturing facilities re-engineering processes to meet the growing demand for medical devices and health care products.
Whether the leader in crisis is yourself, your CEO, or a leader guiding a team within an organization, using proven crisis management tactics will accelerate organizations forward.
Leadership tactics used in crisis management will leave lasting impacts across organizations and industries in a post-COVID world. Many of the leadership skills used now will permanently impact how leaders respond to crisis and growth scenarios.
Additional resources for leading in crisis: