1. Pause and breathe.
No, really. Don’t skip this step. When crisis hits, just stop for a minute, take a deep breath, and try to calm that whirlwind that is your mind.
Struggling to tame the barrage of panicked thoughts? Download a meditation app and find a quiet place for five minutes to relax and breathe. Now, you’re not aiming to achieve nirvana here – just to calm your mind enough that you can function logically and get to step two. Which is…
2. Clearly define the problem.
You can’t solve a problem until you know exactly what it is. Think it through, articulate it, get your concerns out of your head and onto paper.
A nebulous cloud of worries will consume cognitive resources in a way that’s unproductive. By clearly defining what the problem is and what the consequences might be, you’ll free up mental space to focus on solutions.
3. Rally your team.
If the crisis is severe enough (like, I don’t know, a global pandemic for example!) consider establishing a dedicated crisis response team as a first step.
This team can then help with further defining and articulating the problems you’re currently facing. As an example, it’s not enough to define your business problem as “global pandemic forcing everyone into quarantine” – get your team to sit down and list out the potential consequences, like staff having to work remotely, breaks in the supply chain, delays in delivering orders to customers, and so on.
From there you can dig down into what each of these will mean and develop strategies for dealing with each in turn.
4. Lead by example.
Panic may be contagious, but so is serenity. Set an example to others of level-headedness and fortitude, and you’ll raise up your team’s resilience.
But want to know something even more important? This is true regardless of where you sit in the organisational hierarchy.
Maybe you’ve heard the term network leadership. It refers to the fact that leadership can come from anywhere, regardless of position. So if you’re not at the top of the tree, don’t assume you can’t make a difference. You can. Let your example shine from the bottom up and across your team, as well as from the top down.
5. Communicate with stakeholders.
No business exists in isolation. So unless it’s an internal office crisis you’re experiencing (like Cheryl breaking the coffee machine, again) there’s going to be a flow-on effect.
Revisit your stakeholder communication strategy. If the crisis is impacting customers, shareholders and partners, be prompt and transparent at communicating how it will affect them. They’ll be better positioned to plan for the situation, and everyone will be happier in the long run.
6. Look after yourself (and each other).
You know what’s worse than a business crisis? Letting it spiral into a personal crisis as well.
And okay, so maybe now isn’t the time for a week-long spa retreat. Your team needs you. But for that, you also need to be in good shape.
Getting enough sleep, taking breaks, eating properly and exercising will keep your stress hormones in check, keep you operating at your highest level, and prevent burnout.
Keep an eye on others as well. Again, this is something that everyone should do – bottom-up and sideways across the team structure, not just from the top down.
In times of crisis, we all need to look out for each other.
7. Take it as a learning opportunity.
When you make it through this crisis – pandemic or otherwise – you’ll come out the other end stronger. Growth happens through challenges and adversity.
So don’t miss the opportunity to learn from what you’ve just experienced. Teams should gather together on the other side of the crisis, reflect on how things went and document learnings.
Crises happen. And when the next one lands, you’ll be in prime position to weather it out – cooly, calmly, and with minimal damage to your business and the people who run it.