This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
When faced with a crisis, we’re told to “Keep Calm and Carry On.” It sounds simple, but when faced with a crisis that threatens the existence of your business or your job, and therefore will have an impact on your team and your family, it’s easier said than done.
I’ve had to deal with many crises in my career and have developed an eight-step methodology for leading in the face of crisis. It stays true to the spirit of the saying, but provides some practical direction.
1. Take the lead
Accept your role as the leader and step up. Tackle the problem head on. Ask the hard questions. Listen to the answers and take action accordingly.
2. Stay calm
As a leader, it is incumbent upon you to keep your cool. When you are calm, everyone else stays calm and the crisis gets managed. Remember: “It’s not how we fall, but how we rise.”
3. Assemble the right team
You need to have the right people at the table to manage the issue. This team will likely change, depending on the crisis. Additionally, while one team focuses on crisis management, other team members need to continue to drive the organization, ensuring it stays operational and focused.
4. Listen to the facts
Ideally, all at once, with all key stakeholders in the same place. This helps ensure everyone hears the same thing. Gathering key stakeholders also helps reduce the effect of ego and gives empathy a chance to rise, if not prevail.
5. Identify and evaluate options
Your first option may be the right one, but it’s still worth examining to see whether there are alternatives or enhancements. All solutions should be evaluated with pros and cons or a SWOT [strengths, weaknesses opportunities and threats] analysis. This evaluation does not have to take a long time. It can be done with pen and paper in the room with the crisis team.
6. Take a walk
Literally, take a walk. After you have the options in front of you, take a break and ensure the crisis team does the same. You need a moment to think. This is a critical step; you have to stop and take stock before making a decision. Crises are unexpected and usually require an immediate reaction, but this calm moment of reflection may only delay your reaction by a few minutes or hours. Being methodical in your reaction will yield better results.
7. Communicate openly
Your staff will likely know there is a crisis, so it is important to communicate with them. Share the problem, the options, the evaluation plan, the crisis management team, the communication plan. Also outline how others can provide input, until the crisis is resolved. When you return to normal operations, communicate what you’ve learned with the team.
8. Avoid crises in the first place
Many crises can be averted with planning, strategic action and proper due diligence. In general, I am not a huge fan of heavy process because I think it can handcuff you. Still, a degree of healthy process and systems is required to keep an organization on track. I firmly believe that when you manage and control the things you can, the surprises that creep up along the way become more manageable.
Reflecting on every business crisis I have faced in the past decade, they can mostly be boiled down to imbalanced egos or a lack of empathy and compassion. Yes, there have been the odd acts of stupidity – but even these could have been averted had someone’s ego been in check. The bottom line is that business crises are driven by humans. We are far from perfect.
Thankfully, when put in perspective, the “crises” we face in business are usually “First World problems” and they can usually be resolved if we make life a little easier for each other.
Nicole Gallucci (@BOOMbanter) is the chief executive officer and president of Boom Marketing in Toronto.
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