No one can predict when exactly a crisis will strike, as proven by the COVID-19 pandemic that’s swept the world. When disaster strikes, leaders will need to navigate the facts of the situation at hand to keep their business afloat. The best ways of managing during a crisis are deciding with speed over precision, adapting boldly, reliably delivering, and engaging with others for impact. These four tactics will guide you from chaotic disarray to a way to stay afloat.
Speed Over Precision
During a crisis, it’s more important to be able to make decisions quickly based on the available information, since often you’ll have to do so with incomplete information on hand. To do so, define your priorities first and foremost and list out the three to five most important ones that need your focus. In intense situations, you’ll be forced to make trade-offs, so rather than thinking about every possibility, make a smart trade-off based on your previously listed priorities. Name a few people who can make decisions when you cannot with a strict list of when to escalate an issue, and because of the crisis at hand, don’t punish any mistakes that might be made. It’s better to misstep than fail to act entirely.
Circumstances constantly change while in a crisis, so you’ll have to be able to adapt rapidly and adapt to the situation at hand. This means deciding immediately what you will not be doing and publicizing those decisions while tossing any irrelevant plans of action. Strengthen or build direct connections to your front line runners to establish a network of leaders; the internet makes this particularly easy to do.
Whether or not a crisis puts situations out of your control, the best leaders will take ownership and be accountable for situations that crop up during it. This means documenting your top five priorities and making sure that anyone above you agrees with them, then reviewing it weekly, if not daily. File a report to send to higher-ups, and have KPI metric reports given to you regularly. Most importantly, establish and practice a routine of self-care to keep yourself focused and level-headed in a chaotic world.
Engage for Impact
Taking care of your team is your most important job, and good leaders understand this. Be understanding of the circumstances and find ways to motivate, engage, and clearly communicate with your team members during a crisis. You can do this by connecting individually with them and sharing the highs and lows of the week. Focus on both your employees and customers to build and solidify trust between everyone—for example, you could propose payment schedules to customers instead of expecting a once-and-done sum, and offer empathy and compassion to your employees while ensuring their health and safety.