7 Steps of Crisis Leadership

It happens.

A crisis.  A major problem.  A disaster.

If it hasn’t happened to you, my guess is that it will.  Most all of us will find a time in our careers when we are right in the middle of it.

Several times in my career, I’ve found myself in difficult situations.  For me, I find it may be stressful, but also energizing at the same time.  At least a crisis is a reason to take quick, decisive action because a lot is on the line.

What do you do when you find yourself in a really tough situation?

1.  Breathe.  When you get bad news, don’t react a split second later.  Take a deep breath.

2.  Assess the situation.  How bad is it?  What impact will it have?  What’s the worst that can happen?

3.  Communicate.  How will this impact your business?  How could employees be affected?

4.  Be visible.  Walk around the office.  Be visible on your social networks.  If you blog or tweet, don’t disappear from social view.  Attend conferences.  Visit customers.  During a crisis, if a leader is not visible in the office, online or at conferences, it undermines confidence and starts rumors.

5.  Assemble the leadership team.  This is not necessarily the top people on your team, though often it is.  You want to assemble the team that will guide the organization through strategically, with customers, with the media.  I’ve always been fortunate enough to find amazingly talented people in all levels of organizations.  And they are willing to step up in a crisis and make a difference.  You don’t need to be a CEO to find people who can be on a crisis team.

6.  Hold small town hall meetings.  Get the tough questions on the table.  The questions that are being thought, but not voiced.  Tackle the tough questions directly and encourage open communication.

7.  Deputize key leaders.  Leadership is not doing it alone, but finding talented people.  For example, human resource leaders may know of appropriately talented employees and be able to reach out across the organization.  Sales leadership may reach out to customers faster.  Let others get involved.

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