Demonstrating Calm During a Time of Crisis

As leaders, we have a responsibility to lead by example during a time of crisis and change – whether that is through a shift in the market or a recession, the sale of our business or a global pandemic like COVID-19.

Teams look to their leaders during these times to determine how they themselves should respond and react. Here are a few keys to demonstrating calm during a time of crisis:

  1. Make Employees Feel Safe.
    Recognize you are responsible for making employees feel safe at work. This is your responsibility as a leader even in the best of times, but it can be particularly challenging during crisis. Your job involves helping others feel as safe as possible, no matter the circumstances. When employees don’t feel safe at work it brings out the worst in them. Employees who don’t feel safe go into self-protection mode and tend to look out for themselves which means blaming others, taking all the credit, and advocating only what is best for themselves.

    When people feel safe at work, they look out for each other. They acknowledge when they have made a mistake and they give credit where credit is due. They look out for the best interests of the team. As a leader, you can make people feel safe by communicating consistently and being transparent. Tell people what you know, what you DON’T know, and what you are doing to get more answers.

    Make it clear that you will let people know where they stand and that you have their backs. Your team needs to know that you are all in this together.

  2. Demonstrate Confidence and Realism.
    It’s important for leaders to demonstrate the combination of confidence and realism. In times of crisis, leaders must be confident, but not cocky. They must find the difficult balance of being sure that they and their team are going to work through this and prevail in the end, while also acknowledging the real challenges and reality of the situation.

    Leaders cannot pretend everything is perfect during this time. We may have to acknowledge that our remote work setup isn’t perfect because we were totally not prepared for this. We may have to acknowledge that there could be some temporary layoffs depending on how this situation unfolds. We’re going to let people know the reality and the possibilities. We’re also going to let them know what we can and can’t guarantee and what we are doing to try and get to the best possible outcomes.

    You are leading by example through this crisis. Demonstrate that you are confident in your business and your people, but also acknowledge the realities of working from home, especially for those with kids needing homeschooling support, etc.

  3. Help Your Team Focus.
    Help your team focus on what is in their sphere of control and influence during this time. There are a number of distractions and many things that are out of your control right now, which can feel very stressful. Help your team focus on what you can change or impact – how you deliver to customers, how you communicate with each other, how you connect informally and formally during this time.

    Help focus your team on what you know and what you can impact, and what you can find answers to. Build plans for moving forward to eliminate some of the noise.

  4. Have Empathy
    Be compassionate about what the individuals on your team are going through. Always consider the human side of the changes and messages you are sharing. Make sure your team is in the loop on things before you share news with the general public or your customers.

    Employees may be stressed about working from home, their finances and/or getting sick. You have an opportunity to build relationships with the people on your team and show that you care. Your job here is to listen and provide support where you can so people can do good work.

Finally, don’t forget to take care of yourself during this time! Ensure you are doing the things that keep you at your best as a leader so that you can stay calm and be an intentional leader. This is an incredible opportunity to really build your team through this time. If you handle this well – if you build trust, demonstrate calm and show your people you have their backs… you will have built incredible relationships and loyalty with your team that will serve you well in the future.

Acuity HR Solutions

Acuity HR Solutions

Acuity HR Solutions is an HR Consulting firm with a focus on customized HR projects, workplace investigations and leadership training and development. We support organizations in strengthening leadership and elevating their workplace cultures to increase engagement and get results. Visit our Acuity HR Solutions website or our learn more about our Intentional Leadership Training Program.