Leadership On The Run

Positive leadership in a crisis

Episode Summary

Being an effective critical thinker and a strategic decision maker are vital skills for leaders – especially during a crisis. Some crisis impact the life’s of you, your team or the broader community, like Covid-19. Others, like a company merger, might impact the psychological wellbeing of you, your team and your stakeholders. Regardless of the type of crisis or its size, positive leadership is about ensuring you create a means for the business to survive and a psychological safety net for your people.

Episode Notes

The crisis management framework and practical leadership steps we discuss in this episode, ‘positive leadership in a crisis,’ are our own. They have been developed from business experience, team leadership and several evidence-based models of: crisis management, organisational psychology and positive psychology research.

The crisis management framework has two planning topics and 3 management areas: 

  1. Continuity planning
  2. Contingency planning
  3. Risk management
  4. Resilience management
  5. Communication management.

Two planning topics

To provide positive leadership in a crisis there are two main topics you need to address, plan & action immediately: continuity for the business and contingency plans.

1. Business continuity planning

Brainstorming a list of ways to ensure business continuity is quick, simple and easy to organise at short notice. You may choose to involve your team. If your team are not involved in the brainstorm, advice when it is occurring, ask for any ideas they would like you to put forward and report back to them as soon as the list is produced.

The continuity list is divided into keep doing, start doing and stop doing so everyone knows what to do and what not to do during the crisis. E.g. start working from home, stop Friday lunch BBQ or keep taking client phone calls.

2. Contingency planning

Drawn from the brainstorm list above, the list of contingency actions lets the team members know what actions are being considered, if what they are currently doing doesn’t work. 

Having the contingency items visually displayed allows team members to become familiar with possible future actions and makes actioning the contingency plans (if needed) much quicker and less hassle as team members have already prepared for the possibility of actioning them. A great way I have seen this is in crisis planning rooms where there are dynamic data screens showing the objective, decisions and actions and the statistics and data. These types of visual tools also help people stay rational when planning and deciding.

The research suggests you make a list of pros and cons to help with your decision making and some also suggest you add consequences and place risk weightings on them. 

In a crisis there is an 80% rule, you will only ever have 80% of the information you need. 

During a crisis things change quickly and leaders need to  accept they will be making daily decisions and changing the decisions often - as new or more reliable information becomes available. 

3 areas to manage

1. Risk

Focusing on solutions is a key feature of positive leadership, however, a defense strategy is as equally as important as focusing on solutions and opportunities during a crisis.

List and assign people to manage the risks.

2. Resilience 

Leaders are tasked with producing results and ensuring their teams, the people in them, are coping. 

During a crisis this remains true. To ensure your people are remaining calm and not being overwhelmed by the crisis is to create an environment where positive practical thinking is encouraged. Leaders need to role model rational conversation, logical, innovative and creative thinking and demonstrate how to positively respond to ‘fear mongering and ‘fake news’.

 Positive steps a leader can take to create an environment conducive to psychological safety and business survival during a crisis include:

3. Communications

For leaders to step up to the mike and lead people through a crisis they will also need to keep an open and flexible mind, be optimistic and rational and maintain their own sense of confidence and calm. 

The best leaders among us develop their people to take responsibility and make solutions happen……pre, during and post crisis.