Companies face minor emergencies every day. A key employee calls out sick; an angry customer lashes out—these are things you’re pretty well prepared for. But what if the genuinely unexpected happens? How do you handle a major crisis that threatens your company’s long-term reputation?
During a crisis, senior leadership has to step up. You need to be able to explain what happened, why, and what you’re doing to keep it from happening again. This has to be communicated clearly to your employees, the media, and other members of the public.
This takes a lot of time, attention, and focus—which can take quite a toll if you let it. If you find yourself leading your organization through a crisis, here are three rules you need to follow to manage stress:
Prioritize and delegate. One of the marks of an excellent leader is seeing the bigger picture and delegating roles and responsibilities to a team. You can’t handle a significant company crisis alone. It would help if you had leaders from the various departments inside your business to help you analyze the issue from all angles and develop the best possible plan. You also need team members to help you accurately assess the damage to your company—whether physical, financial, or reputational.
Surround yourself with supportive people. You need a support system in any crisis—both in the office and at home. Strong company leaders can provide the expertise that you might not have. For example, suppose your company is facing a cybersecurity threat. In that case, you’d consult closely with your Chief Information Security Officer to make sure you have a good handle on the issue and the best way to mitigate you may need to consult with the head of IT to understand better the scope of the problems and ways to prevent them from recurring. You may need a “right-hand man” to support and help you tackle the more significant tasks and ask for advice. When you surround yourself with supporters, it will be easier to face the crisis proactively.
Don’t listen to outside criticism. When your company is in the media hot seat, you will likely be bombarded every day with professional attacks, threats, or general negative opinions from outside commentators. While you must acknowledge these opinions, you shouldn’t let them into your personal life. Unplug from the press, and keep your focus on solving the issues rather than brooding over them.
Most importantly, remember to leave your work stress at the office rather than bring it home with you. Leadership roles come with significant responsibilities, but you also have many other aspects of life that shouldn’t be upset by a company crisis.