5 Keys to Leading Your Team Effectively Through Crisis

workplace meeting

Nearly all organizations will face a crisis at some time. For leaders, a workplace crisis can be stressful. However, it also can serve as an opportunity for personal and professional growth. Whether the issue is in-house or something that affects the company’s public image, leading through a crisis is a skill worth mastering. Find out what it takes to provide effective leadership during difficult moments. 

Get All the Facts Before You Act

Instinctively, many leaders want to jump in and provide an immediate solution to a problem. While approaching issues head-on can be good, rushing to judgment or failing to get all the facts before responding can take a crisis from bad to worse. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a delayed leadership response also can be detrimental. Taking too long to strategize means the crisis continues (and can worsen) while the leader contemplates his or her next move. Difficult conversations must be had and decisions must be made in times of crisis. Simply doing nothing or waiting for the crisis to blow over can be as harmful as acting on impulse.

Rather than take one of these extreme approaches, approach a workplace crisis with rationality. Take a moment to breathe so you can process what is going on and make a plan to lead through the crisis. 

Be Open to Different Viewpoints

While time is usually of the essence when managing a crisis in the workplace, it is important to get input from those directly impacted. Look to other c-suite executives and middle management personnel for differing viewpoints to help you better assess the situation. 

According Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning, the most successful leaders understand that to be effective, they must prioritize teamwork. A great leader is open to alternate points of view, and is willing to switch gears as more information is gathered about a particular problem. 

Communication Is Still Key

Effective leaders know that clear, concise communication is a critical leadership characteristic. During a crisis, open, honest, and transparent communication becomes even more crucial. Depending on the nature of the crisis, information may update rapidly – sometimes several times a day – so keeping lines of communication open is imperative. As a leader, your direct reports must understand the status of the crisis and what each person must do to reach a solution and control the situation. 

Avoid hiding important details or trying to minimize the severity of the crisis. Keeping staff in the dark is counterproductive and can make it even more difficult to lead.

Check Your Emotional Intelligence

Leading through a crisis requires analytical skills that can sometimes push compassion, empathy, and emotional intelligence to the sidelines. No matter how monumental the crisis, never forget that humans keep an organization running.

A crisis can take its toll on employees as well as the company. As a leader, you must be sensitive to the pressure staff may feel surrounding the current crisis. For example, if the company is in the midst of a crisis that could result in budget cuts or layoffs, be sure to understand how this may affect employees mentally and emotionally. Do what you can to encourage healthy dialogue and be aware of the signs of burnout.

Stay Focused

During a crisis, time management is more necessary than ever in order to streamline resources toward a solution. Being more aware of everyone involved and everyone’s role will help leaders navigate the highs and lows of a crisis. 

Always keep the big picture in mind and do not allow yourself or your organization to be completely consumed by the crisis at hand. It is imperative to keep business running normally, while also taking the time needed to prioritize tasks that will help you resolve the issue.  

Leading through a crisis is about balancing your emotions and the company’s needs. Do not allow a crisis to proliferate as you ponder the next steps. Enlist the help of other leaders and be open to all plausible resolutions. By taking the steps outlined here, you can successfully navigate a crisis while minimizing the lasting effects of a company crisis.