During a crisis, the leadership of a company is under the microscope. Everyone is watching them closely to see how they handle the problematic situation. Do they rally the company and its stakeholders to come together? Or do the pressures of the crisis take over?
Here are some best practices in crisis leadership:
See the bigger picture.
One of the hardest things to do in a crisis is to step back from handling the immediate, urgent problems and consider the bigger picture. You can’t put a band-aid on a major crisis. You have to look for the root cause to see what went wrong and how to avoid it in the future. Collaborate with team members from across the organization to understand the problem, why it happened, and how to make sure it can’t happen again.
Give your employees hope and confidence, not fear.
During a crisis, employees are already worried. In times of stress, leaders need to instill confidence in their employees. Make sure they know they are valued, and that they need to continue to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities during this difficult time. Consistently share information with the employees about the crisis, especially as you reach conclusions on how to keep a crisis from happening again in the future.
Delegate decisions to people with the most knowledge, not the most power.
The CEO may be responsible for its long-term success, but it’s not realistic to expect them to make all decisions during a crisis. Delegate decision-making power and responsibilities to those with experience in the areas affected. The CEO needs to remain informed and make significant decisions, but others can and should help throughout the organization.
Deliver consistent messages and time communications appropriately.
What you say to all your different stakeholder groups—employees, vendors, investors, media, others—should be consistent. But it doesn’t have to be the same. For example, your employees will typically want more detail about what happened, and you should provide all that you can. Also, communication with employees is the highest priority. Think about the employees at the center of a circle with all other groups in concentric rings around them. Once you’ve completed your employee communications, widen the process to the next group until all groups have received the proper information.