A gift for proper crisis management is one of the most sought after talents in any business while simultaneously being one of the gifts we hope we’ll never have to use. While change is as inevitable in business as it is in any other facet of life, we all strive to ensure that those changes are for the better. We constantly invent new methods to save time and effort. We push ourselves to excel partly from pride and partly in the hopes that our efforts will go noticed, thus bringing in new clients (and the money that comes with them). We adapt with the times, doing bigger and better things until we’re living the dream.
Unfortunately, sometimes the changes that come are due to circumstances that are completely out of our control, and the ability to react in a positive manner to a negative situation is key to not just your work life, but life in general. That having been said, it’s good to keep the following four tips in mind when it appears that everything you’ve worked so hard for is about to come crashing down around your ears.
1) Stay On Target
The Problem: A very important piece of technical equipment was shipped out far behind schedule, got held up in customs at every opportunity, somehow ended up on a boat going in the wrong direction, and now no one is quite sure exactly what happened to it (though of course they’re all sure enough that it’s someone else’s fault that everyone along the line is refusing to replace the item or give a refund).
The Solution: Remember that there is more than one way to get to any destination. Sometimes there’s just a minor detour involved, while other times you may have to take it off-road and slog through the mud. The journey might be a little more interesting than you’d like it to be, but you and your team are fully capable of working together to get from point A to point B regardless of how winding a circuit you’ll need to take to get there.
2) Don’t Panic
The Problem: The proverbial butterfly flapped its wings in Japan, stirring up a breeze that rapidly became a gale, which then led to a hurricane smashing into the eastern coast of the United States, and now your primary call center is under two feet of water.
The Solution: Panicking will help absolutely nothing and no one. Remember, the mental state of your team is a direct reflection of your own mental state at any given time. Take a few deep breaths, count to ten, do whatever it is you have to do to calm down, and then handle it. Treat it just like any other problem. Look at your options and act decisively, then just watch as your team reacts accordingly and things fall back into place. Isn’t that better?
3) Be Flexible
The Problem: Your lead programmer managed to win a record-setting lottery two weeks ago, and didn’t bother telling you that he’d stopped working on his tasks until his purchase of a private island had been finalized.
The Solution: The old adage “hope for the best, but plan for the worst” comes into effect here. In cases like this, just trust in your intuition, keep your people up to date on any adjustments that need to be made, and keep right on moving along. It’s good to have back-up plans ready to roll out at a moment’s notice, but it’s even better to be able to snap out solutions on the fly for all of those things it may be impossible to plan for.
4) Trust Your Team
The Problem: A nightmare of a client just decided to tell you that everything they told you to do is the complete opposite of everything they wanted you to do, but they want the new version of the project to be finished by the same deadline.
The Solution: Give your team a bit of warning, change the tasks accordingly, soothe whatever damaged egos need to be soothed, and let your people work their magic. Remember that your team does know what they’re doing, and that they’re probably just as capable of flexibility and damage control as you are. After all, that’s why you picked them in the first place. Now is their time to shine.
In time, all those trials and tribulations with be a distant memory, and when the next crisis comes along, you can remind your team of that time they pulled together to overcome seemingly impossible odds and excelled, succeeding far beyond their expectations.
After all, in the words of H.G. Wells, “The crisis of today is the joke of tomorrow.”
Joseph H once used a butter knife, a roll of duct tape, a well-chewed piece of gum, and a turkey baster to fix a dehumidifier, thus proving that when you don’t have the tools you need, you use the tools you have.