Leadership in a Time of Crisis

September 24, 2020

 

Updated: Jul 16

By David Casey & Meg Knight 

 

Successful leadership in a crisis situation is a matter of both mindset and a specific set of actions. While it is a challenge, it also represents an opportunity to exhibit the values that your company considers important. It’s a chance to show the values in action. 

 

This blog explores five tools that worked for us as leaders as we led our teams through change and adapted to many of the current crisis situations.

 

 

 
COMMUNICATE

 

  • Heighten levels of communication to support times where anxiety runs high. This includes as the crisis is beginning to develop, and employees are starting to sense a challenge. With the management team being transparent with what is happening, even before final decisions are made, keeping the team feeling part of the process is possible.

 

  • Be aware of the importance of personal and individual check-ins, e.g., ask employees frequently, “How are you doing”? “Is everything all right for you?” What can we do to assist?” Be an active listener during crises and come up with suggestions/solutions to allow team members to feel heard. 

 

 

 
KEEP THE VISION ALIVE 

 

  • Acknowledge the challenge—with increased communication, it’s helpful to be realistic about what is going on and acknowledge your team member’s current mindsets. It’s enormously helpful to recognise the wins and positive aspects of how the company is responding. 

 

  • Focus on the now and getting the now right to protect and guarantee the future. Much of the challenge lies around individuals not knowing what the future holds. By actively dealing with both scenarios, the team will feel a sense of security that you are doing everything you can to protect the team’s future.

 

  • Be flexible as new and sometimes contradictory information will become available as the crisis unfolds. As a leader, act accordingly—apply informed and calculated decisions, and continue to communicate often.

 

 

 
COLLABORATE FOR SUCCESS 

 

  • Keep a pulse on the organization—listen when blockers are identified and ask for suggestions/improvements across teams. While leaders need to be decisive, they also need to have a deep understanding of the organisation and the general sense of people.

 

  • Look to managers and teams for solutions. Your managers have a detailed understanding of how the crisis affects different parts of the organisation, so bring them into decision-making as much as possible. This will help them take ownership of any eventual decisions and actions required.

 

  • Manage and anticipate. Understand both the current normal and what the future new normal will look like—get buy-in from across the organisation as the situation changes so that you can pivot as needed.

 

 

 
BE VISIBLE AND PRESENT 

 

  • Stay visible and remain present. Key leaders need to be available to teams as a resource in order to instill confidence in the leadership team.

 

  • Understand the ways that you can be present. Being present could include official messages and informally joining meetings, having an “Open Office” (either in person or virtually) where employees can pop in for informal discussions that are not officially scheduled, and ad hoc emails.

 

  • Provide forums to listen and encourage individuals to ask questions. Hold a “Town Hall” with the entire company, or major parts thereof. This is specifically useful for those team members who do not usually gain access to senior leadership.

 

 

 
LISTEN THEN SHOW ACTION

 

  • Begin with small steps. Small actions can count a lot in a crisis as teams look to have visible evidence of leadership.

 

  • Be open to applying feedback and suggestions (even small ones), e.g., too many meetings = reduce daily all-office meetings. 

 

  • Take demonstrable action based on team concerns to demonstrate active listening.

 

Remember that time will allow a new normal to be established—this specifically applies to a new cadence of meetings and re-evaluated accountability across the organisation. As leaders, we need to be here for the long haul as the crisis passes through, and we need to establish new priorities that will support the well-being of our teams and all individual team members.

 

 

AUTHOR
 

David Casey - Chief People Officer, Construct

 

Meg Knight - Chief Operating Officer, Construct (Cape Town)

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