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  5. Leading Through a Crisis – Part One

Leading Through a Crisis – Part One

A red metal emergency pull lever

What happens when you are in charge during a major crisis or incident at work?

As in, you’re the boss, the leader, the manager - the one in charge. You make the decisions and call the shots. The buck stops with you.

That feels daunting, doesn’t it?

Whether the crisis is caused by a workplace accident, a product recall, natural disaster, global pandemic or loss of critical systems and data, you will need to act quickly and think differently.

And you will face some unfamiliar territory.

Crisis communication training – like that provided by our sister company Media First - and emergency response testing will massively help. It will enable you to communicate with compassion and authority to everyone affected internally or externally.

But what else do leaders need to respond effectively and lead their organisation through a crisis?

Dan Boniface, our head of training, believes senior leaders must have a decision-making framework to fall back on when the worst happens.

“Often the mistake leaders make in a crisis is to make an assumption and we think they know what the answer is when they don't,” he said.

“Gut instinct is a good decision-making tool and is often right.

“But in a crisis, leaders need to check it is and that they have the information needed to make a sound and decisive decision of how to move forward.”

Dan believes a framework called the ‘golden hour’ helps leaders make better decisions during a crisis.

It begins with the ‘activation’ phase, which lasts around 15 minutes. In this period, leaders need to establish the facts of the incident, ensure the organisation is responding quickly and that danger is being prevented, and decide how ‘business as usual’ operations can continue.

“The key here is to act with energy,” Dan said.

“We need to be assertive and try to push things forward.

“If people see leaders jumping in and acting with energy, it rubs off and builds confidence that things will be ok.

“It is a cheesy cliche, but when you enter a room, you're either a radiator or a Hoover. Do you radiate energy? Or do you suck energy?

“In a crisis, leaders need to radiate energy. If they do that, typically they'll get positive responses from people, get them on board, and get what we need to get out of this crisis.”

The next 45 minutes is the consolidation phase.

This is about continuing to communicate - Media First will tell you that you cannot communicate too much during a crisis - setting expectations and delegating tasks to the right people.

“Everyone should know their role in the crisis response team,” Dan said. “But are there other experts we need to bring in?

“We also need to ensure we are leading with compassion. In a crisis, people will feel the strain and can feel overwhelmed and under pressure.

“Leaders need to show they understand the situation and how people feel. And offer support. Reassure them you will get through this difficult time.

“Alongside this, you need to show that you are taking action to try to resolve the crisis and either keep things running or return to business as usual as soon as possible.”

As a leader, you also need to continue to be a source of energy.

“It is also really important to keep the energy up,” Dan said.

“If you do things with energy, you are more likely to get a positive response, and people will stay on board.”

The third stage takes us beyond that crucial first hour and into a period of control and review. This is about monitoring the situation and keeping business as usual running. Are things running as you would expect? Is there anything you should change?

“This is also a good point to build in some check-ins with your team,” Dan said.

It might be a five-minute catch-up. It could be regular WhatsApp messages to make sure they're okay. It might be a longer meeting with them on an individual basis.

“You could also point them to any support mechanisms you have in place.”

Dan believes a model - called PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) - should also be used at this stage.

“This is about making plans to move away from this crisis and considering what you can do to reduce the chances of it happening again.

“We make plans, test them, check the results and then put them into action.”

This is the first in a three-part series exploring how leaders can lead their organisation through a crisis. In the next post, we will look at the role of different leadership styles and how leaders can overcome the barriers to effective decision machining.

Need more help in the meantime? Speak to us about our bespoke leadership crisis training courses.

We also have a new range of online training courses.

Our online First Line Manager training course has been created to help them make the first steps into management. It is ideal for assistant managers, supervisors, office managers, foremen or shift managers – anyone who has been asked to make the leap from high performer to manager.

Have you got leaders with management responsibilities but no formal training, who are serious about developing their essential skills and abilities? Our online ILM Level 3 Leadership and Management course will help them lead people through organisational change, budget cuts and other pressures. And move up to the next level of management.

Our ILM Level 5 Certificate in Leadership and Management online training is created for senior and middle managers. It will help them develop their skills and experience, improve performance of themselves and the organisation, be able to understand and affect a positive cultural organisation, and innovate and implement change.

And our new online ILM Level 5 certificate in coaching and mentoring course is perfect for those who want to provide coaching - and mentoring - for others. A skilled coach or mentor is increasingly crucial for every organisation as work moves away from command-and-control styles.

The BCF Group has been helping organisations develop their talent, inspire their people and overcome obstacles and challenges for the past 25 years.

We deliver training that makes a difference. Find out more about our business coaching, management training and interpersonal skills options.

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