With the COVID-19 pandemic turning companies on their heads in 2020, business leaders have faced immense challenges in leading their employees through unprecedented stages of crisis. Those challenges continue to linger as the new year unfolds, so business owners and managers need to build a strong plan for anticipating and responding to the demands of the times ahead.
Times of crisis are a true testament to your leadership skills, and while many crises are often unpredictable, it is possible to prepare yourself for them ahead of time. Leaders are the ones that employees turn to for guidance and support, so maintaining a level head and optimistic outlook is crucial as you grasp the scope of the crisis. The following tips and practices can help bolster your abilities in crisis management.
PRACTICES OF CRISIS MANAGEMENT
The instinct to act quickly during a crisis is well-founded, but when not managed properly, it can result in missteps that worsen the impact of a crisis. As important as it is to act quickly, leaders should take adequate time to assess the full scope of the situation before responding.
Before anything, leaders should gather and organize as much relevant information as possible. This includes what exactly transpired, who the stakeholders are, and how those stakeholders were impacted by what happened. Gathering a complete understanding of the crisis as quickly as possible also helps prevent the spread of misinformation, which can be as damaging as the crisis itself.
When assessing a crisis, leaders should also consult directly with stakeholders, if possible, as well as subject matter experts that can help inform the best possible decisions possible.
Transparency should be the cornerstone of a leader’s response in any situation. Whether speaking internally with employees or externally with other stakeholders, leaders should invest in a streamlined method of communication. There is a variety of ways to do so, like company newsletters, online blogs, community boards, social media, press releases, etc. The best solution for you will depend on your company size and type.
Prompt, honest, and clear messaging is vital when communicating during a crisis. Stakeholders resonate with authenticity, so when crafting a message, leaders should refrain from cliches or deflection as much as possible. Messaging should address what happened, the action steps the company is currently taking to address it, and what stakeholders can expect moving forward.
Communication is also a two-way street, so leaders should establish formal channels for receiving feedback and information from stakeholders. This is an example of something that you can do in preparation for a potential crisis and spring into action when needed. Feedback channels allow you to gauge employee, consumer/audience reception, and more during and after a crisis so you can continue prioritizing your stakeholders’ interests.
When guiding a company through a crisis, leaders should inform their decisions based on the company’s foundational goals and philosophies, with an emphasis on the well-being of their stakeholders. Staying in tune with your company’s roots, you can preserve the core of your business and its operations.
Companies can plan for this by establishing KPIs that are reflected by the branding, culture, and performance of the company. When such KPIs are tested by a crisis, they should be revisited as they can be a marker for assessing how well the crisis was managed overall.
On the other hand, periods of crisis can reveal gaps in a company’s operational methods and standards, so it is equally vital for leaders to be willing to shift their goals and philosophies to evolve with time and circumstance. For example, perhaps the management was not considering the employees’ feedback into consideration, or the company’s policies or resources were outdated or scarce. If such points surface as the cause or result of a crisis, then it is up to leaders to enact the necessary changes within the workplace.
It is up to leaders to continuously assess their company’s culture and systems to determine areas of improvement and set the proper standards, regardless of whether a crisis is at hand. Once again, such measures can and should be taken regularly so that your business can be ready to overcome a crisis without notice.
Often, a crisis can be avoided altogether if leaders implement such practices into their operations proactively, rather than reactively. Other times, no one can see a crisis coming, like the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless, adopting an adaptive and flexible attitude is one of the greatest attributes in managing a crisis effectively.