Covid sucked. For some, it was a life and death situation. For many more, it sparked a variety of crises – financial, marriage, mental health, you name it. “Feeling all the feels” suddenly took on a whole new meaning that wasn’t saccharine wall art. The current economic situation is creating a different type of crisis for many. It takes different skills to lead in these types of crises than in “normal” times.

While some crises put you in the growth zone, some take you so far out of your comfort zone, you go straight past the growth zone and into the “Ring of Fire.” This is where you are experiencing stress, anxiety and even panic. “Paralysis by analysis” can happen in the ring of fire. This isn’t where we ever want to live, but sometimes are forced to go.

Unfortunately at the time, though fortunately for the future, I’ve lived through several organizational emergencies and crises. Several things are going to happen in the ring of fire:

  • There is no road map.
  • It can be hard to see the forest for the trees.
  • People can be more emotional than usual.
  • Mistakes will be made.
  • We will get through it.

There are several best practices for leading in a crisis.

  • Be available – understand not just the facts of the situation, but also people’s reactions to it.
  • Empathize – understand that people are freaking out. (You may be, also, and that’s why you have your own support team, right?)
  • Name the problem. We are a linguistic species. Defining the problem de-powers it and gives us a sense of control.
  • Communicate – factually, often, and clearly. Dispel rumors.
  • Reassure – let people know what is easily manageable, what will need more time and resources, and eliminate as many doubts and insecurities as you can. Address how basic needs will be met.
  • Focus – re-evaluate your priorities. Put the crisis first. Contain the issues and the focus to managing the crisis. To do this, some other things will not get done. Give yourself and your organization permission to let some things slide that you normally would never ignore.
  • Re-evaluate your leadership team and your advisors. Some people freeze in a crisis or need too much time or information to make decisions. Others that may not be part of your regular team may be the perfect “sprinters” and quick decision-makers that you need to get through this phase. Bring in people with expertise or points of view that will help you make the best decision you can. These are not necessarily permanent leadership changes, just your action team for the crisis.
  • Empower you action team – working to solve a problem makes everyone more confident in the solution, more optimistic about the future, and less anxious and stressed. The more your team can reach out into the organization to tap people resources, the greater the surge forward.
  • Take action and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You won’t get through the crisis by standing still. You have to move forward.
  • Model and incent the behavior you want to see. Talk to your people. Congratulate those who are focused on the issues, developing creative solutions, taking quick action, helping colleagues, communicating clearly, and involving others.