A crisis is a threat.  Crises can range from an organizational predicament to a local, regional, and even national catastrophic emergency, as we are currently facing.  For leaders, it is an opportunity to demonstrate effective leadership and make your organization, community and family stronger.  Yes, I also said family!  Leaders come in many places.  We lead businesses, churches, hospitals, community organizations and most importantly our families.

In times of crisis people feel anxious, afraid and a loss of control.  They’re looking at you, their leader, to be their beacon of light and hope to guide them  and help them navigate through and out of this difficult time.

Ineffective leaders make a critical mistake: When they don’t know what to say, so they stop communicating. When you do this, you send a message to your people that you’re just as lost as they are.

Your #1 goal is to relieve the anxiety

Our Brain is a remarkable machine.  Neuroscience research tells us that the brain is a “prediction engine.” It craves certainty and routine. The turmoil and chaos created by a crisis is an assault on the brain.  People become unproductive precisely at a time when you need them to be clear thinking, agile and resourceful.

In a crisis situation, your number one goal when leading people is to relieve the anxiety that virtually stops them from facing difficulties and challenges at 100% capacity.

The key to relieving anxiety… have a plan!

Team Effectiveness Research shows that when teams face high-stress situations, there is potential for a breakdown of communication, understanding and problem-solving capabilities.  Stress can cause a group of highly competent people to abandon sound business and personal planning and communication that can lead to a series of bad decisions and mistakes that cascade into chaos.

The solution is to provide the team with what, Team Effectiveness Researchers call, a “shared mental model”.  A shared mental model is a well-defined plan that facilitates the communication and teamwork that can decrease the level of stress resulting in mistakes.  What is the vision of success?  How will we navigate and arrive at the desired, post crisis, place?

Leaders need to create and clearly communicate this vison, this “word picture” that defines and depicts our life (organizational, community and personal) when the crisis ends.  It is critical to get back to normal, or the new state of normal, in all aspects of your life as soon as possible.

The 4 Elements of An Effective Crisis Plan

An Open and Honest definition the current reality

Be real. Be genuine. Start by saying that you’re facing a serious threat and there’s a rough road ahead.

Share the Details

People respond negatively to poorly or unexplained events. You must emphasize that your plan is based on thorough, accurate, factual data and analysis. Be specific with the details

Share the Vision

Create and clearly communicate the Vison, this “word picture” that defines and depicts our life (organizational, community and personal) when the crisis ends. Then lay out a series of critical success factors that must be completed to ensure the safest possible journey for your team.

Communicate, Communicate, Then Communicate Some More

Communicate the plan many times and in various venues. In person is always best.  Use our incredible technology to stay connected with everyone (at all levels) by video, email , text and on social media sites.

Remove barriers to achieving the critical success factors.  Enable people to succeed during this time of crisis.

Squash rumors if they start.  Assume they were triggered by a communications oversight.  Take the hit yourself.   Address the rumors.  Fill the communication gap immediately with accurate information.

Conduct regularly scheduled briefings including Q & A from all team members.

Leading in a time of crisis takes time and effort by the leader.  The leader must be consistent, steady, reliable, genuine, truthful, and tenacious.

Always remember, they are looking to you, their leader, to be their beacon of light and hope to guide them and help them navigate through and out of this difficult time.

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