We all experience disasters. Catastrophic events like damaging weather or fire can present immense challenges. People-created debacles involving our workers or competitors can catch us just as off guard. How we react as leaders either compels others to follow us or sends them careening off. These split-second choices determine our reputation as decision makers. Ultimately they impact our career and the financial well-being of the company.
Whether it is a random day-to-day frustration or major upset, how you handle it creates others’ perceptions of your capabilities as a boss and leader. Inappropriate action or a complete failure to act only creates more of a crisis. The same happens if you take your frustrations out on others or allow your ego to run the show. In the midst of mayhem it is essential to remember: A crisis isn’t about you! It’s about your ability to make sound decisions certain to impact the lives and livelihood of others.
Understand you can’t control it. You can only control how you react to it. Tornados, ice storms or other natural disasters will cause disruptions to day-to-day business. Create a well-planned disaster response. Promote it comprehensively so everyone knows what to do. Have practice drills every few months to remind everyone how to do it. Stress the difference this plan can make in saving lives and important business data. Have a plan in place to relocate the business to reduce business interruptions and limit negative financial impact. Track that all staff are consistently taking the necessary day-to-day actions (e.g., backup of data, keeping backup off-site, etc.) every day without fail. Make this priority training for new hires.
You did what!!?? When employees make a serious error in judgment, get the facts from them first! Figure out what happened by asking clear questions of everyone directly involved. Too often, bosses conduct incomplete inquiries, collect hear-say and leap into action before they have the benefit of facts. Delaying reaction intensifies the damage (e.g., on-the-job injury, harassment, etc.). Waiting will reduce the value of fresh information. If you’ve handled the matter inappropriately, others may hold back, sharing only limited information in an effort to distance themselves from you.
Act promptly with clarity. Once you have the facts, act immediately. Waiting for all the details can limit your effectiveness. Develop a plan with your team members supported by the facts and SOPs (Standard Operating Policies & Procedures). Act with confidence, even if you don’t feel it. Remember, you’re the person-in-charge. Others will take their cues from you and if you don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill, they won’t either! If Plan A doesn’t work, move to Plan B. Be prepared to change strategy if circumstances change and new information requires it.
When your only course of action is damage control, be calm and deliberate. Your confidence and leadership is the best disaster insurance.
©Jeannette Seibly, 2011