Stress does funny things to people. The shock of the previous 24 hours was visibly etched in the very demeanour of Theresa May, after her surprise reverse in fortune at last week’s General Election No confident steps, only glancing eye contact, a faltering voice – the impact of a hard few days at the office was obvious to all.
The world of politics is not unusual, prolonged or intense episodes of highly stressful instances are par for the course in business. Business leaders, owners and managers are often expected to “lead from the front”, showing an insouciant disregard for the occasional “slings and arrows”.
Business leaders who fail to respond “as expected” can create a vortex of negative emotions within the organisation – “it’s worse than we thought” comments filling the air around the proverbial water coolers. Prolonged, this will affect staff morale and engagement, potentially seriously impacting business performance.
So what should leaders do?
How you respond to a crisis is almost as important as whatever ignited the crisis to start with. To give yourself a chance of responding appropriately do not wade straight into the fray – follow these 5 steps:
- Know yourself. Understanding how you are feeling is key. It is perfectly normal to experience the change cycle emotions – shock, anger, denial, blame (and the rest!) but it is important you recognise where you are on the continuum before you project your feelings further afield.
- Find some space. It is key that you find a space where you can process the information available and assess what other information you need.
- Collect more information. Listening carefully is never more important to help triangulate the different information sources. Quickly you need to assemble useful information that will help you communicate effectively.
- Talk it through. Replay to trusted advisors (who may not necessarily be from within the organisation) what you know and what you want to communicate. Ask them to consider the message from the listeners’ perspective and anticipate questions.
- Communicate. As soon as possible, you need to communicate to your key audiences. Be open, but not overly emotional, candid but not flippant. Answer questions as best you can – it’s fine to say “you don’t know” but let them know what is happening next and how and when you will communicate to them in future.
Chris Lorimer is a Director and co-founder of South West Growth Service, an organisational consultancy that supports businesses across the South West. For more information, contact Chris on firstname.lastname@example.org