All organizations are at risk for unforeseeable challenges, threats, and crises. You can’t control everything, but here are 10 ways a leader should act to mitigate the damage and start the healing process.
Gather your rapid response team. Appoint people to this team before a crisis happens and make sure they know their respective roles. It should include all senior leaders and leaders of key functions such as operations/logistics, security, finance, HR, communications/PR, facilities, etc.
Allow the leader in charge to delegate. You need a central commander to manage response activities such as assigning personnel, deploying equipment, obtaining additional resources, etc. This leader must be fully present, visible, and available in the heat of crisis.
Have the team report to the command center. This is a predetermined location (physical and/or virtual) for monitoring and reacting to events. You should also select a code word that puts the rapid response process into action.
Gather relevant information. In a crisis, it’s critical to centralize information, facts, and data. What’s known? What isn’t known? The goal is to organize and coordinate response activities, ensuring that the most pressing needs are met and that resources are properly allocated.
Promote a unifying message. It is vital to deliberately shape and disseminate a message of unity. Make sure your message is one of “we are all in it together.” This helps people transcend the impulse to split into factions.
Stay visible. Leaders must be highly visible and take the lead in communication. Don’t hide behind a spokesperson. Communicate quickly and clearly to reduce ambiguity.
Become “in it together.” Double down on messages connected to team building, camaraderie, purpose. Acknowledge fears and worries as normal. Let people know what to expect.
Be transparent. Align leadership in how they see the external environment and make sure everyone agrees on what “success” looks like so messages are cascaded consistently. Don’t create voids by waiting to communicate. Tackle rumors head on. Share bad news the minute you have it.
Stay accessible. Use all modalities (video, email, intranet, text, town halls, etc.) to convey messages from the senior leader. Have a central repository/FAQ where people can get info and ask questions between regular communication sessions.
Keep listening. Ask questions and leave room for inquiry. When listening, stop talking. Resist the temptation to just listen for what you want to hear (your job is to hear and deal with the hard stuff too).