As a leader, are you wondering about how your team is coping with the crises that are causing social distancing in all of its forms – school, work, reduced hours and curfews? Is it just good enough to wonder, shouldn’t we be asking our teams? A friend called me up, just to ask me how I was coping and yes, I told her and at the end of the conversation, I thanked her for asking me. The conversation also allowed me to ponder on what has been in my subconscious and it highlighted the stress and tension I felt by our new “normal” or “abnormal”. This is a leadership trait, expressing empathy and reaching out to your team at this time will motivate and show that your care.

Novel crises can test leadership ability, decision making, and strategic thinking abilities according to Mary Galligan, Deloitte Advisor. As a leader you are trained and experienced to manage people and situations, however, the methodology used by organizations in dealing with the disruptive and sudden emergency may be challenged and leadership styles can vary based on the required response. While many companies have a crisis management plan in place, they may not have tested their plans, or the plans may be inadequate.   

As leaders, in times of crisis, stakeholders should be embraced and importantly speak to the media and explain the situation and your intended actions plan. Use the crisis as an opportunity to build stronger partnerships and ask for help if you need it. 

You have to be strong support and guidance for your team as they should be able to fall back on you. Your confidence in the process is a mark of continuity for your team and true leadership skills are required. The following are tips for leaders in crisis management:

We should lead from the front. Demonstrate confidence, by steadfastly taking charge of the situation and making sound decisions based upon facts; The leader may not be the best choice to lead the response to a particular crisis. He may need to delegate this responsibility to an expert.

Control the workflow of the team. Always communicate with the team on what is currently happening and do not ignore what may be deemed simple information at the beginning of the crisis. Be sure of the sources of data and intelligence before disseminating it. To avoid major crises and in some cases unrest, all issues are to be attended to early. Be flexible and aware that in a crisis people reaction change and situations change and the leader should respond decisively;

A Leader should be alert and aware of the business climate: Detect the early signs of crises or unrest and warn team members, as it is your duty to outline precautionary measures in avoiding, mitigating or transferring risk in emergency situations. As the leader, you need to ascertain what the crisis is, and its impact. This may mean a reworking of the crisis management plan and this should be done in a timely manner.

Within Reason, Leaders must try to avoid the negative impact of a crisis. The main responsibility of a leader is communication within the team and effective communication throughout the organization should be more frequent in times of a crisis. Teams should be encouraged to keep in constant contact, discuss issues and to propose a workable solution to overcome the crisis. It is crucial when working with virtual teams that there is constant communication among team members.

As a Leader you should not panic:  Propose solutions and clearly articulate your vision to address the crisis, thereby fostering calm and focused teams. Ask your teams to face the tough times courageously, determined not to panic, while not forgetting a sense of humor. Encourage teamwork and always offer direction, particularly while working with virtual spaces.

Leaders must show empathy towards their team:  Your team should feel that you are there for them and if possible, recommend crisis management training for team members. Make the connection with your team, so they know you care – a good question: How are you coping with John?

Planning is essential to avoid or mitigate emergency situations. As leaders we should take decisive action as well as timely decisions and delegate responsibility to team members; The planning for a crisis is your responsibility as a leader and if that was not done, it should be a priority once the situation normalizes;

Some essential systems and procedures should remain to function: Make the decision quickly regarding essential areas that will remain operational for the uninterrupted flow of the organization. Ensure there are pre-approved alternative plan that is communicated to the team;

Disallow negativity to impact the organization: Motivate employees to trust the team, believe in their abilities and the capabilities of the organization. Make clear the implications of malicious rumors on the company and communicate the swift action and consequences intended to be taken with violators.  

As a leader, you will take the risk to emerge out of a crisis situation as soon as you possibly can and you can only do this through your ‘team”, by clearly highlight the roles and responsibilities of each team member during the crisis.

There are lessons to be learned during a crisis situation and it is the leader’s duty to ensure that clear records are kept during the crisis and the lessons learned are clearly communicated to the team so should this situation reoccur the team is sensitized on how to address mitigate that risk.