Today we will talk about how to lead in times of crisis.
How can you control the chaos? How you can stay calm and positive with in the storm and how can you engage the hearts and minds of your people in tough times.
Sounds interesting? – Read on!
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I am writing this in the beginning of April 2020.
It is unclear whether we are in the middle of the crisis or just at the beginning. Our public life is becoming increasingly restricted due to the corona virus. There are shutdowns, lockdowns and we all have to reduce our social contacts to a minimum.
Governments worldwide are trying to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on healthcare systems to slow down the spread and save time. Will it work? I hope so, but nobody really knows.
What does that mean to us?
How can we control the chaos?
Can we control the chaos?
I believe, you can’t control what comes from outside, but you can control how you react.
Let me give you my 3 ideas how we can deal with the chaos.
1. Self awareness
I believe it is most important that you have a clear understanding of your personal strengths and values. It’s important that you have your own compass heading in the right direction.
You need to be clear on: What do you stand for? What motivates you? What is really important to you? If it is money than think twice.
And I also mean if you think money gives you security. Be careful. How much money do you need? 10.000, 100.000, 1 Mio, 10 Mio? What will happen if we suddenly face an hyper inflation? Your money is gone like that. Will money really help? What happens if you become ill and there aren’t any beds in the ICU’s for you?
I personally believe: What really is important: that’s people. Take care about others. Take an active role and help others especially in times of crisis. So, think about what is most important for you and what do you stand for?
2. Have an infinite mindset
My next impuls I got from Simon Sinek
“Have an infinite mindset! You are in for the long term.”
What does it mean?
Times like this are especially tough for people who love clear structures and high planning security. They love to have a detailed plan and a clear goal, for example reaching sales of 1 million Dollars. That’s the opposite: It is a finite mindset.
In times of crisis this thinking doesn’t help. You need to be much more agil and you need to think in the long run. Having an infinite mindest means that you have aclear why. Why you are doing what you are doing. You know what you stand for and you have a vision. A vision is always emotional and it is vague. It is a great picture of a better future. It is not a clear plan.
In times of crisis this helps a lot. In that way your mind can adapt more quickly and is not bound to your detailed plan. You may work with a short term plan and change depending on the situation, but with your vision you have an understanding where you want to go.
3. Think in scenarios and have contingency plans.
We don’t know, what happens in the near future. But we can think about different scenarios.
What we know can do is to prepare for these different scenarios. We have plans for the different scenarios and we assess the regularly short term, which scenario becomes more likely to happen – and based on that we adapt our actions.
In crisis it matters most how you think and feel. Do you believe you are in survival mode? Or are you in a reinvention mode?
You can ask youself:
“How do I get thru this?”
or you ask:
“How do I gone a change to get thru that?”
A German collegue of mine – Lars Vollmer – was on spot when he said:
“Change is great – but to be changed is terrible!”
So, in times of crisis it is better to have an active role and accept to change, change what we do, change goals – not the long term vision and change business models.
A good example for this is the German entrepreneur Wolfgang Grupp. A few days ago his company Trigema changed a big part of the production from producing shirts to producing respirators. With this change he helps our healthcare system and it helps his company to survive this crisis.
My piano teacher changed his business model from teaching in school rooms to teaching online.
How can you stay calm and positive with in the storm?
Last Sunday I send an E-Mail to my German E-Mail list of about 8.000 managers and entrepreneurs. I asked them: “What is your biggest challenge today in this crisis?”
Several hundred of them answered with partly very detailed comments.
There were 3 major types of situations they were describing:
- The problem working at home and leading out of the home office. This is a struggle, but their jobs are still save.
- Right now working around the clock. Very stressful because things inside the company need to be organized. But the company is still doing ok for the next 2-3 months.
- Survival mode. These people, mostly entrepreneurs or solopreneurs don’t know how to pay the rent. There business model collapsed. Their sales is zero and they don’t have savings. They don’t know how to proceed with their business in the next weeks.
The more you are in the situation of category 3 the more you need to stay calm and positive in order to be able to see opportunities and in order to find other business models.
For them I have the following tips, I try to use for myself as well.
Get enough sleep!
Sounds obvious, but is so important: “Get enough sleep!” Only then, you are able to think properly.
Take an active role.
Don’t stay passive. Even if you think everything collapses, stay in the driver seat. That means have a clear structure or your day. Get up at the same time.
Don’t watch Netflix all the time. Help others. Work on things which you always wanted to do. Get in touch with others.
Don’t listen to the news all the time. Habe maybe 1 hour a day to watch the news and scroll your facebook feed, but then stop that. Go to work or do something productive.
Regularly take your time to keep the overview. Where do you stand? Think about the different scenarios and watch out for opportunities. Then go back to work, focusing and and talking with others to get inspired.
And on last impulse her:
“Things are mostly not as bad as they seem!
How you can engage the hearts and minds of your people?
During a crisis like this, there is uncertainty. And for many people uncertainty leads to fear.
Fear that relatives could get infected, fear of losing the job. What is going to happen? What is going to happen to me now, to my family?
In addition, there are all sorts of news: special programs on TV, real news as well as fake news on social media channels and, and, and. Uncertainty and fear are growing.
In fact, nobody knows what’s coming. Will the crisis be over in 2-3 months and everything goes back to normal? Or will it take years and there will be a great depression like in the 30s?
Nobody knows. Everyone is looking for answers.
What do your employees need the most?
So what do your employees need the most now – in this situation?
It’s trust. Trust in you as a manager. Trust that you take on responsibility, that you speak openly and honestly, and trust that you make decisions to the best of your knowledge and belief and that you are there for your employees.
How can you build trust now?
Take care of your employees. If possible, speak to each of your employees.
It is about dealing with fear and uncertainty and stilling your employees fears wherever possible.
Ask your employees how they are doing, what they need right now. If you work at your home office, make a call or skype.
Take the time to respond to fears, whether private or work related. I know it’s not easy, especially when you don’t know how to proceed. When you are afraid and feel insecure yourself.
Now it is important for you not to hide and not to stay in the background. Take on the role of the one who leads, who helps others. If you actively take on this role, it will also help you to better deal with your fears.
Explain to your employees what your view on the situation is and which decisions you are making or will be making and above all: explain why you do these things.
What matters now?
- Don’t shy away from telling the truth. Don’t beat around the bush.
- Only promise things that you can keep.
- Be totally clear about what you know and what you don’t. At the moment everyone is looking for answers.
- Explain scenarios: With regard to the future, explain possible scenarios and how you and the company are likely to respond to them. Also clearly state what that would mean for your employees. Don’t downplay the situation.
- Take responsibility for your decisions.
What does taking responsibility mean?
You are now making a decision to the best of your knowledge and belief. In retrospect, it can turn out to be wrong decision. That can happen, but it is always better than not making a decision at all.
The important thing is: take responsibility for your decision but also apologize afterwards:
“Yes, I made the wrong decision ..”
Try to be a bastion of calm.
If you act like this, then you are credible. Then you have a great chance that your employees will trust you. If you are totally clear about what is going on when you address the fears, it will help your employees to deal better with fear and uncertainty.
Are all of your employees going to trust you this way?
Probably not. In a time of crisis we can distinguish between 3 types of employees:
There are employees who have always put complete trust in you. They are your promoters. They think the same way you do and they have the subjective conviction that you are doing or will do exactly the right thing.
2. Skeptics and doubters
The second category, those are skeptics and doubters. They are unsure as to what extend they can trust you. It is particularly important to get these employees on board with you and to convince them that they can trust you during this crisis.
Theoretically, you can do whatever you want. You will never convince them that you are the right person, that you are doing the right thing and that you can be trusted.
If you work in a small company and have a good working atmosphere, there is a good chance that you will not have a Category 3 employee. This is unlikely in larger organizations.
You will have to deal with all three categories, but focus on the Skeptics and Doubters.
If you want to be a leader…
If you’re a leader, don’t hide, but take responsibility. Help your employees and be the one they can trust. In times of crisis the true character of a person is revealed – or, put it that way, a crisis builds the character.
The inspiring quotes
“Everything is going to be fine in the end. If it’s not fine, then it’s not the end.”