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🆘 Operating in Crisis
Navigating scary and unpredictable world events with your team.
In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Israel, it has become increasingly vital for CEOs and company leaders to take a proactive stance in ensuring the well-being of their organizations and the people who make them thrive. In times of crisis, we must remember that our teams are made up of humans, not robots. These events can have a profound impact on our mental health, productivity, and overall work environment. It's essential for strong leaders to step up, acknowledge these challenges, and guide their teams through these scary and unpredictable times.
Acknowledging the impact of a crisis internally is not only about immediate productivity but also about fostering a culture of safety, security, empathy, and compassion. It's about creating an environment where everyone in the organization cares about each other as fellow human beings. All of us should be fostering this kind of environment at work which is, by the way, ultimately very good for productivity.
To help, I pulled together a short cheat sheet outlining how I’ve seen great leaders approach supporting their teams during times like these. I hope it’s useful.
To effectively navigate a crisis, CEOs must begin by comprehensively assessing its impact on three pivotal facets of their organization: Team, Technology, and Traction.
Team: Initiate by evaluating how the crisis directly affects your team members. Determine if any employees are working in the affected region, if your partners or vendors have a presence there, and whether any team members have family or friends directly impacted by the situation. Conduct a thorough audit to grasp the personal and professional implications for your team, including the mental health and anxiety implications.
Technology: Next, delve into how the crisis could disrupt your technology stack or operational capabilities. Organizations rely on a complex web of tools and systems to function efficiently. Identify components of your technology infrastructure that might be vulnerable to the crisis, and assess how these vulnerabilities could affect your ability to carry out essential tasks.
Traction: Consider how the crisis might influence your organization's traction in the market. Conduct a meticulous market analysis to gauge the effects on your target markets and customer segments. Evaluate the impact on your supply chain logistics, operations, financial position, and cash flow projections. Develop contingency plans to address potential challenges and uncertainties.
Effective communication during a crisis is paramount, and silence is the worst option. While it's natural to fear saying the wrong thing, your team needs to hear from you. Here are some best practices for communicating during a crisis:
Communicate immediately: Don't delay in acknowledging the situation. Provide reassurance and guidance promptly.
Acknowledging a crisis does not require taking sides or making divisive statements. If there is a side to take and a moral high ground to stand on, I encourage you to take it. Leaders are forged by strong opinions and taking a stand. That being said, the world is complex and if you’re unable to navigate the nuances of what’s happening with empathy and grace, sometimes it’s better to simply acknowledge that a challenging situation has arisen and that many people are suffering and struggling.
Communicate thoughtfully: On that note, take the time to craft meaningful messages that address the concerns and feelings of your team members. Show empathy and understanding in your communications. This is not a time to “wing it” with your words. Write talking points and stay on message so you leave no doubts or questions in the minds of your team members.
Communicate consistently: Keep your team informed and engaged throughout the crisis. Regular updates help alleviate anxiety and uncertainty.
One effective way to communicate immediately, thoughtfully, and consistently is to anchor your communications in the work you’re doing to evaluate and react to the crisis. Clarify how the situation affects your team and guide them on how to approach work in the immediate aftermath.
In addition to communication, accessibility is key. Make yourself more available to your team during times of crisis. Schedule open forums, virtual town halls, or one-on-one meetings to address questions, share updates, and offer support. Being accessible demonstrates your commitment to guiding the organization through difficult times, and garners goodwill that will last long after the crisis is over.
Reacting to external events is an essential responsibility of any CEO. The recent terrorist attacks in Israel and the invasion of Ukraine serve as stark reminders of the unpredictable nature of our world. By diligently evaluating their impact on the company, communicating responsibly, and remaining accessible to the team, a CEO can position their organization not only to survive but also to thrive in the face of adversity. This, in turn, creates a workplace that people are proud to be a part of.