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Leading Through A Crisis

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If economic forecasters are to be believed, 2016 is shaping up to be a very turbulent year for both the local and international market. In this environment it’s clear that nothing can be declared as a certainty.

Whether it be a minor setback or a major crisis, it is necessary for you to have the top leadership skills to be able to lead your team through all manner of challenging times.

While there is rarely a clearly defined path for navigating out of a crisis, there are a few tactics and communication policies you can implement that will greatly assist you to connect with your team and remove the obstacles that are preventing you from moving ahead stronger and better than before.

Be Honest

This is probably the most important thing to keep in mind when speaking to your team. An honest approach to the situation will determine attitudes towards it and how you will find a way out together as a team.

If you opt for the path of silence and the ‘closed door’ policy you are sending a message of negativity and distrust, this may feed the rumours and displeasure that may be circulating amongst members of your team.

Although it is likely that you cannot share the complete ins and outs of the situation, you can be professional and upfront by providing information for your team members that alleviates brewing speculation and fear.

Action: Remember that in a crisis situation people like to be reminded that action steps are being made to return the office to normal. Upon learning about the issue begin by laying out the beginnings of a recovery plan. Next, address your staff with the issue and the possible solutions. You don’t have to be able to provide a complete solution, but just knowing that something is being done and they are being thought of is often all that is needed to restore team morale. Finally, don’t forget to update your team with any progress on the issue. It will remind them that they are part of the team and they deserve to know what is going on.

Be open, but set boundaries

While honesty is very important to navigating a crisis, there is something to be said for setting boundaries with your team in the midst of the issue. It is important to maintain the honest and open approach mentioned previously, but you need to be aware of the fine line between being inclusive and over-divulging.

There is no hard and fast rule to follow here. The best way to ascertain what you need to discuss with your team and what can be left behind closed doors is to ask the question: ‘Is this information absolutely pivotal to pass on to the team to improve the immediate situation?’ If the answer is still unclear, you will need to come to a consensus amongst management about what is appropriate to disclose and what isn’t.

Action: It is likely that individual team members will come to you throughout the crisis period with separate enquiries about details you cannot disclose. Ensure you set up a process early in the crisis period to deal with this inevitability. If some staff members request an individual meeting, make sure you offer the same opportunity to each team member. Finally, remember it’s ok to not have all the answers straight away for your team.

Take action to improve morale

Your team will be remarkably astute to the most minor of changes to daily routine during crisis time. It will inevitably be a more tense time than usual with long meeting times and extra work being thrown at everyone in the office.

While it won’t be possible to control these changes in day-to-day happenings, you can take some minor positive actions to help even briefly alleviate some of the more pressing anxiety and tension in the office environment at this time. Some of these include maintaining a consistent attitude and demeanour to promote positivity and teamwork in the face of adversity.

Action: Take a regular walk around the office and check in with your team. By taking 5-10 minutes out of your day to reassure your team of your continued presence, even if you are less visible than usual, you will greatly increase general confidence in the office. Cast forward to how you could celebrate the closure of crisis time. The promise of a relaxing break or party at the end of this trying period can do a lot to motivate your team through this rough patch.