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A Time to Lead

Leadership Tips During a Crisis

Whether you are in the pivotal first five years of opening your practice or have been in business for decades, there will come a time when it feels as if calamity has taken up rent free residence in your office. Your decisions have resulted in adverse effects, a severe change in your industry sweeps like a tidal wave and affects your business, or an unseen, natural event takes place that grips the entire nation and your business in its palm. You are the leader, the person who is responsible for the success or floundering of your business and the individual your staff expects to set the tone for the business and make crucial business decisions. Heavy is the hand that holds the scepter.

As a business owner, the buck stops and starts with you, and your role as a leader is never more vital and tested than when times of crisis appear. Author and journalist Jeanette Walls once said, “Sometimes you need a little crisis to get your adrenaline flowing and help you realize your potential. Tough times can bring the best out of us if we shift our minds to look at storms as opportunity rather than becoming weighted down by the pressure and uncertainty they bring.

Managing crises come with the role of leadership.  Here are a few tips to remember and employ next time you or your employees must batten down the hatches for a storm.

Stay positive

This tip is the most important because your morale affects the morale of your employees. We all have emotions, but it’s essential that during times of crisis that you don’t allow them to get the better of you. Meltdowns are the equivalent to the trickle-down theory in economics. If you begin to panic, then your employees will do the same. Your fear spreads to them, and nothing is more demoralizing for an employee than to witness their leader losing self-control. Staying positive will not only assist in boosting the team’s confidence, it can also aid in staying productive through the crisis. As you brainstorm with your team members, your positive attitude will become contagious and can help them to push past present circumstances and open a stream of problem-solving solutions.

Display empathy

You’re all in this storm together, showing empathy towards your employees will be greatly appreciated. A great leader knows their focus should be on those who depend on them. Looking through an empathic lens will help you to communicate effectively. Your employees need to know that you’re there for them as much as they are there for you. Questions like: ‘How are you coping?’ helps a great deal in showing your employees that you understand that they’re stressed as well. Creating time to spend with your employees to engage in non-work-related activities, such as a meditation session or crisis management training, can foster the team dynamic and help them cope with their stress.

Remain honest

A crisis is uncomfortable, and while you’re in one it’s only natural for your employees to desire for the uncertainty and stress to end, hopefully sooner than later. A good leader manages expectations. It’s okay to convey the seriousness and the potential impact of the crisis to those who are affected, and let your employees know it may take some time until the storm passes. Your words prepare them for the hard battle ahead. Honesty also means taking ownership should a decision cause an error or an unforeseen problem.

Embrace rapid change

During a time of crisis, situations might change daily. Great leaders can quickly process available information, decipher the priority items, and make solid decisions. As you define your business’ priorities, focus on the three to five most important ones and make course corrections as events unfold. Be aware of your trade-offs and make sure to make smart ones. Use the priorities you’ve identified to create a scoring mechanism to force trade-offs. Empower your employees to make decisions when possible and state what needs to be escalated. Make sure to identify who owns what for your employees to avoid confusion. As you navigate through a crisis expect mistakes to occur, but don’t let fear of making missteps compel you to stand still. Failing to act can be much worse.

Ask for help

A leader doesn’t mean hero, and even sometimes a hero needs assistance. “Rich Dad Poor Dad” author and businessman Robert Toru Kiyosaki wrote, “One of the biggest defects in life is the inability to ask for help.” Shame is a negative emotion and has no place in your office during a time of crisis. A great leader realizes they need guidance and lots of input and advice to traverse through a difficult time. To ask for help shows strength and the boldness to admit that you don’t know something and are willing to learn something new. One day you can pay it forward by guiding someone who may need your expertise.

As crises in your business arise, the most important aspect to remember is to fight. So, show up and keep on fighting because the storm will pass.

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