If we have learned anything over the last few weeks of this Corona Virus Pandemic, it is that Crisis Management is key to communicating with others. We have seen people rush to stores to horde toilet paper and other essential items simply out of panic. We have seen a ton of misinformation thrown out through traditional and social media outlets. It seems timely that our theme this month would be Crisis Management for your business. Through our research we have uncovered 10 Key Characteristics for Crisis Leaders written by Pat Rowe. While they pertain to the global financial crisis, we feel they apply to any leader in any industry, especially during these traumatic times.

According to Pat Rowe “when observing the leadership behavior of successful crisis leaders, 10 critical characteristics emerge”. The first characteristic is being able to see things for what they are. Rowe says “strong crisis leaders live on the front end of reality. They recognize events and their significance and do not shy away from the consequences of what they see. Intellectual integrity is a key component of their DNA; they think of what is best for the organization, not their own personal gain”. Being able to put others, or the whole, before self is a key thought process for crisis management leaders in any organization. We are seeing this now with businesses temporarily closing or Employees working from home. We have recently seen the CEO of a major national restaurant chain state he would forgo his salary in order to pay his workers.

The second leadership trait that Rowe provides involves seeing the big picture by being able to develop strategy and having attention to detail. The ability to see all moving parts and understand the cause and effect, along with digging deep into details without being mired in it enhances a leader’s capacity to view the problem realistically according to Rowe. I know there are times where I experience paralysis by analysis and can easily become overwhelmed by details being thrown at me for a particular problem. It is usually when I have a chance to step away and look at everything from a 10,000-foot view that I can make informed and targeted decisions to a problem.

Just as there are often many different routes to take to reach a destination, there are often multiple solutions to a problem. Rowe recommends “engaging others in brainstorming potential solutions”. I am personally a big fan of this with our team, as it allows all of us to contribute and own the solution. If each team members voice is heard they are more likely to participate in the final choice. Oftentimes, our team will come with an idea that those of us in management did not think about or consider.

To be decisive one must take ownership of the solution. While one must consider multiple options, at some point they must make a choice. A leader will often use a “combination of real time data along with wisdom built on years of experience”. Being decisive may also require a leader to sell those that are hesitant or not open to the idea or solution. There may be resistance. A leader must recognize that resistance and be prepared to go all in on the decision.

As we mentioned previously, whatever the solution is it requires the input and involvement of many other groups and individuals. Bringing others together to brainstorm solutions can also incent others to see the solution through to resolution.

Many of us remember the viral sensation that swept the nation a few years back about what color this dress was. Some saw one color while another saw a different color. One of the great things about us as humans is that we all bring something different to the table. It is ok to listen to advice or ideas you may not agree with. In fact, it is one of our biggest problems with politics and religion throughout the world. If we all agree or have the same point of view, we are going to miss out on an opportunity, or we are going to be blindsided by something we did not prepare for. Taking all aspects into account is important in crisis management and leadership across the board. By the way, the dress is white and gold.

It is acceptable to be nervous and scared on the inside. But like a duck on water your team needs to see you as calm, courageous and positive when leading through a crisis. Be calm when delivering bad news. Be courageous in belief that the decisions you are making are for the benefit of everyone within the organization. Be positive and have energy that inspires others around you. It is easy to be angry, cowardly and negative. However, those traits are not going to inspire those around you.

Even though a leader may exhaust every resource in coming up with a plan or strategy to a crisis, there may still be a sense of unknown. Leaders often take risks in the face of risks. There are questions to which no one knows the answer. We are living through that time right now with the Corona Virus being a huge unknown. Sometimes, we have to take risks to reach our goal or resolution. The military does this all the time. Innovative business leaders do this all the time through new product launches or platform changes. Sometimes the risk pays off, sometimes it doesn’t.

Leaders are often making decisions without all the facts or information in front of them. They have to choose what has the greatest benefit to the organization or whole. As Rowe said, “making an imperfect decision can often be better than making no decision at all”. I previously led an organization that had a member that often referred to “hide and watch”. While I believe this to be a strong strategy at times, I also believe a leader will take the information at the time and make a decision with it to lead the organization with some contingencies in place based on information that may surface down the line.

Because we are human, we are going to make mistakes. It is just part of our nature to be imperfect although we should always strive for perfection. A strong leader will always admit when they made a mistake and own any decision that they made. A strong leader will often stand in front of the team and deflect any criticism thrown their way whether it was warranted or not. In crisis management, it is always a good idea to look back on a situation to review what worked and what did not so as to learn what can be done in the future to prevent problems or alleviate situations before they occur.
There are many lessons on leadership available. Ultimately, one can study and prepare all they want but when the time comes the cream rises to the top to lead through a variety of situations. The characteristics provided are a guide to help you and your organization through times of crisis, similar to what we are going through right now with the Corona Virus Pandemic. We hope the information provided was helpful. If you or your organization need any assistance during this, or other crisis’ you may be facing please contact Tate & Associates at 208-765-5432, info@elkpt.com, tateaccounting.com or through one of our social media channels.