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9 Decisions that Define Your Leadership During a Crisis

Executive Summary

Even in the middle of a crisis, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Managers will be remembered for the leadership decisions they make during times of instability.

  • During new challenges, it’s important to remain calm despite the uncertainty of outcomes.
  • There are a series of decisions, big and small, leaders can make every day to ease the anxieties of their employees and customers.
  • The last thing managers want to do is take an action that might exacerbate the negative aspects of a crisis. At the center of every decision should be an enormous amount of respect and empathy, as well as thoughtfulness and hesitation.

If you are over the age of 30, you have lived through 9/11, the financial crisis, Ebola, SARS, MERS, the “great recession” and many other events that, at the time, all seemed earth shattering and life-changing. But something amazing happened with each one, they ended— nobody expected it. We learned a tremendous amount from each event that helped us to go forward. The event we find ourselves in now is no different, this too shall pass. Yes, there will be some difficult decisions to make. With each decision point we must put the long-term implications into perspective.

We have a major opportunity right now if we're willing to be seen as the voice of calm, confidence and reason and when we do it will be amazing at how we are able to connect. Whether you're goal is to attract and retain customers or engage and soothe employees, a mindset shift must inform your leadership decisions.

The one charge we have all been called to do is remain calm and confident we will get through this trial. When the captain of a boat is in unchartered waters and facing a major storm, he relies on what he does know. The storm may be new and unexpected but the skills to navigate the storm are not unfamiliar. You are the captain who has the experience to guide your ship either safely to harbor or out to open calm waters. Let’s look at some tangible leadership decisions you can make to steer effectively:

Leadership DecisionS that improve Crisis management

#1. Institute check-ins. 

Evaluate everyone's temperature 2x weekly. I’m not talking physical, I’m talking their mental temperature. Things are changing rapidly and the person who is optimistic one day can easily become negative and be sporting a survivalist mentality the next. Engage personally with each person, these need to be one on one conversations with each person.

#2. Don't tune out, lean in.

Monitor customers closely. Rumors can spread rapidly, and it can be easy for a salesperson to get caught up in something they heard. First news is never the most accurate news— this is where you as a sales leader need to be on top of things by watching closely the industries and geographies you operate in.

#3: Keep the focus on the long-term. 

Be careful of short-term decision making for both you as a sales leader and with requests made by customers. The quick policy changes you’re about to make can come back to haunt you should things not turn out the way you expect them to.

#4: Play the long-game with your planning.

This means yes, we all hope things turn around in 30- 45 days but they may not. Be prepared to have your team in this mode for 90 days or worst case even longer.

#5: Do not forget employee reviews and raises.  

Trust me your employees are not! You may have to adjust and do these only as a last resort. Time and space may not allow you to do the type of review you want but do let them know where you’re at with the process.

#6: Develop and maintain relationships.  

Your employees may all be working from home, but that does not mean the break room is closed. Send them lunch, or a food item once a week. If you normally recognize birthdays in the office, make sure you still do so virtually. Your people have to continue to feel the personal touch. If they don’t feel the personal touch things could get very awkward when you open the office back up.

#7: Express interest and show concern. 

Ask each employee how everyone else in their home is doing. Let them know how your family is doing. This pandemic is personal, and we need to be open with our people.

#8: Make time for personal connection.

Rally the team in a group video call minimally once a day. Make it a time for each person to share the big beautiful event of the day. It might be a neat sales call, or a new sale. Celebrate daily!   Do not let your team feel isolated.

#9: Focus on motivation, clarity, and recognition. 

Studies consistently show this daily memo makes a huge impact on people in helping people feel motivated and engaged. Yes, it can be over communicating but you would much rather be blamed of over communicating than under communicating. Each morning, email your team a note with four things:

1. A funny meme.

2. An uplifting quote.

3. The list of things you’re working on and expectations for the day.

4. Recognize an employee for something awesome they did the day before.  

Stay calm, we’re all in this together and together we will all get through it. A key takeaway we have the opportunity to see is the significant growth of your leadership skills as a manager. I remain very optimistic and encourage you to do the same. We will come through it and be better off because of it. Reach out anytime; we are all in this together.

Bring It Home

When I think about leading during times of uncertainty, I think about the timeless children’s tale about the tortoise and the hare. We all know the lesson: the tortoise who took its time won the race. In terms of management, the leader who carefully considers events, environments, and emotions will come out ahead when businesses are going through major upheaval. Focus on your team’s and customers’ health and well-being and consider how the policies you implement today could impact your team tomorrow. The leadership decisions you make on a daily basis define your management and how well people respond to your choices. What decisions are you making right now to alleviate the affect of change on your organization?

Mark Hunter

With an extensive background in sales and marketing for Fortune 200 companies, Mark Hunter "The Sales Hunter" left his corporate role in 1998 to show companies and salespeople how to maximize profits by prospecting more effectively.

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