The 4 Steps Good Leaders Need to Take in Times of Crisis

There are many ways to measure a good leader’s influence and actions; perhaps no better time to do so is during a crisis.

Back in May, I wrote an IdeaXchange blog on how bottlenecks in business usually occur at the top and how good leaders can break that bottleneck. That blog referenced Verne Harnish, CEO of Gazelles Growth Institute, who spoke on the topic of energy management at a meeting I attended earlier this year. Verne spoke about the fact that some leaders insist on taking on too many tasks, being unwilling to delegate to others. He suggested that those leaders should focus on those areas that give them energy and excitement and they should do the same for their employees. This is an excellent way of discovering the strengths and weaknesses of both employees and leaders.

To be fair, Verne’s presentation took place at the very beginning of our perilous journey through a pandemic. Just a few weeks later, we were all facing a very different world. In normal times, leaders can focus on energy management and how it can be an effective tool in improving job performance. According to a Harvard Business Review article, that means focusing on innovation, driving revenue, and gaining market share.

But we live in different times and the focus now is on maintaining business operations and in some cases, survival itself. It’s been a trying year for everyone and we are all tired and ready to get back to normalcy. However, that normalcy still needs to be quite a distance off…so with remote working and uncertainty for the future, energy management is more a factor of relieving stress and engaging employees to keep on track. The Harvard Business Review cited above notes that “In times of crisis, no job is more important than taking care of your team. Effective leaders are understanding of their team’s circumstances and distractions, but they find ways to engage and motivate, clearly and thoroughly communicating important new goals and information.”

4 steps leaders need to take:

The Harvard Business Review article listed four essential steps that leaders need to take during this time:

  • Act quickly – Don’t wait till things get really bad…by that time, it may be too late to avoid worse consequences. You may not have all the information you would like, but make sure everything is in place to move…fast.
  • Opt for transparency in communications – Acknowledge the fear and concern that your employees are feeling and address those in any communications. Don’t sugarcoat; however, do emphasize that this too shall pass and talk about the future of the business once the crisis lowers or goes away.
  • Admit mistakes and resolve them – When the unknown hits, good intentions may lead to bad results. When that happens, don’t make excuses…make corrections. If you are criticized, don’t be defensive and don’t deflect. Address this in your employee communications, indicate what went wrong and then show how you are going to fix it.
  • Update constantly – As in the step above, you don’t know what you don’t know, so as situations change, make sure to notify your teams what you are doing. “Leaders must constantly update their understanding of prior probabilities, even daily, deliberately using strategies to elicit new information and learn rapidly as events unfold and new information comes to light. Sometimes, that might mean bringing on experts in different fields to handle these issues. That may necessitate leaders to openly admit to employees that although they still remain in charge, they are looking to others for additional guidance.

Today’s situation poses incredible challenges for business leaders, but it also provides an opportunity for them to shine and serve as an inspiration for their peers and their employees.

Read my full blog on energy management. Times will change, we will get back to some form of normal and knowing what to do at that point will take your business on the right trajectory.

Jane Clark

About Jane Clark

Jane Clark is Vice President of Member Services for NationaLease. Before joining the full service truck leasing organization, she served in executive positions with some of the nation’s top staffing and recruitment agencies.

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