Managing Crises

Friday, September 13, 2013 - 07:50

By Leon Gettler

Crises happen. They happen in every organisation and to all managers. They can happen in people’s professional lives or they can happen in their personal life. A crisis can change the entire trajectory of a manager’s career. That’s why they need to be managed carefully.

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, John Baldoni says managers need to step back and figure out what’s going on. They should also act promptly but not hurriedly. There is a difference. “A leader must provide direction and respond to the situation in a timely fashion,’’ Baldoni says. “But acting hurriedly only makes people nervous. You can act with deliberateness as well as speed.’’

He says managers should keep their composure. And most importantly, they should manage expectations of the people looking up to them as managers. That’s important because it keeps your own levels of stress and panic at a minimum, and at the same time, you are helping others do so, all the while maintaining productivity and morale. “When trouble strikes, people want it to be over right now — but seldom is this kind of quick resolution possible,’’ he says. “It falls to the leader in charge to address the size and scope of the crisis. You don’t want to alarm people, yet do not be afraid to speak to the magnitude of the situation.”

Jessica Taylor at the Daily Muse says managers need to be open and honest. “Even though you probably can’t share every detail of what’s happening, providing your team with information in a timely and professional manner will reduce their speculation and fear,’’ Taylor says. “Also be sure to allow people to ask questions and share their concerns with you. When things are changing quickly, the one thing that helps us maintain a sense of control is information.”

Specialists say managers have to be prepared for any sort of crisis, make sure employees are trained on crisis management and procedures, make sure the business is properly insured and finally, accept that a crisis will happen.

The Ivey Business Journal says managers should set down guidelines for crisis prevention and early detection. They have to make sure they communicate quickly when stuff happens. When there’s a crisis, managers need to gather the affected team members, key decision makers and problem solvers together as soon as possible, avoid spin and focus on what’s really happening unpleasant as it may be. It’s important to identify and verify the issue so that they can soothe the affected parties and solve the problem.

“It is the nature of business that a crisis will happen at some point. Projects and innovations increase the level of uncertainty in our operations, yet it just isn’t possible to account for all the uncertainty inherent in our risk management. An effective crisis management plan and preparation will distinguish an organisation as a company that manages well in those situations that do happen, whether it’s a result of an internal fault or one in the supply chain, or just plain dumb luck. Forewarned is forearmed.”