When you’re a leader, dealing with crisis situations is just part of the job. As much as we plan and prepare, sometimes a crisis is just going to come up. It doesn’t mean don’t plan and prepare and manage risk. When a crisis occurs we can’t start analyzing how we could avoid it. That’s important and that comes later. The most important thing to do right now is to solve the crisis. I hope you’re not in the middle of a crisis right now. If you’re watching this because you are, keep that thought about moving forward in mind. Apply these five tips for surviving a management crisis to get you and your team through it successfully.
Surviving a Management Crisis Tip #1 – Don’t Panic and Be Honest
This may be a target that’s moving at you quickly, but you can handle it. Admit to yourself and to others that there actually is a problem. Bad news doesn’t get better with age. You want to move quickly, but don’t panic and don’t cut corners. If you have to act fast, act deliberately but thoroughly as you need address this crisis.
Surviving a Management Crisis Tip #2 – Assess the problem
Identify the problem and root causes. It’s critical to understand the whole problem and all of its components. The root causes may not be immediately observable. Dig deeper to understand all of the different facets of what caused this crisis. If you just start applying band-aids to the bleeding, you might miss the broken bone poking out that’s causing the bleeding.
Surviving a Management Crisis Tip #3 – Address the Crisis, Not Everything Else
Don’t use this crisis as an excuse to solve every other problem in your organization. Often, I’ve seen leaders use this sense of urgency to address their personal pet peeves about their organization. The solution becomes more unwieldy as the crisis spins out further out of control. Get out of crisis mode first. Get to the point where you can move this issue from crisis to something important, but not an emergency. Address the long term solution later.
Surviving a Management Crisis Tip #4 – Create Multiple Courses of Action
Don’t bank on one solution or put all your eggs in one basket. You might have different members of your team address the crisis in different ways until it’s resolved. Communication is key to ensure your team isn’t working at cross purposes or stepping on each other. Your job as a leader is to coordinate, deconflict and keep the communication happening.
Surviving a Management Crisis Tip #5 – Debrief When the Crisis is Over
Now is the time to address the long term solution and post-mortem how we got in this situation. Lead your team through an honest discussion about where things were missed, who was accountable and how you can keep from missing those things again. Remember, accountability isn’t about finger pointing or blame. We’re trying to find where process, communication or the team broke down and how to keep it from happening again. Sometimes the answer is simple. A key team member was out sick and no one else knew what needed to happen. Sometimes it’s more complicated. There could be structural problems in team communication or work flow. Identify the impacts of those issues and create long term solutions to handle them in a deliberate way. A lot of times leaders have a knee-jerk reaction to a crisis which usually leads to more problems later on. We can avoid this by taking conscious steps forward towards long term solutions that address root causes.
Like I said, I hope you’re not in the middle of a crisis right now, but if you are, try these 5 tips. Remember not to assign blame initially. Move quickly, but deliberately, and focus on getting out of crisis mode and not trying to solve every aspect of the problem right now. I’m sure you’ll do great when you handle your next crisis at work.