In business, a crisis lurking right around the corner could hit without warning at any time. Because such events are, by definition, unexpected—often impossible to imagine, much less predict—leaders need to develop solid strategies for quickly responding to any crisis that might arise to ensure that their businesses can survive and continue to thrive.
Crises can come in so many different forms that creating a comprehensive plan to deal with every issue you might encounter isn’t a viable option. Fortunately, smart leaders understand how to build a flexible crisis management strategy that can be adapted to meet the needs of swiftly evolving situations.
Here, 14 members of Forbes Coaches Council discuss steps you can take to design and implement an effective crisis management strategy for your company.
1. Learn Resilience And Accept Vulnerability
To overcome a crisis, leaders need to be agile and learn resilience. This includes making difficult decisions with limited information and being prepared to lead through the outcomes that arise based on these quick decisions. Gaining the confidence to lead your organization and team will be imperative. Embracing vulnerability is also essential, as you must recognize that not all decisions will lead to the desired outcome. – Reena Sharma, Agilis Executive Consulting
2. Practice A ‘What Would Happen If…’ Exercise
Preparation is key. When I was in a former airline role, our crisis management strategy was to not only document our plans, but also prepare for crisis or disaster by practicing a “what would happen if…” exercise. For a business, that may mean ensuring a pipeline for succession, acknowledging that, as important as process is, people matter even more. During a crisis, act quickly, reassure the team and do what is right, even if it’s not easy. – Denise Russo, SAP
3. Change According To The Times And Your People
Business leaders need to acknowledge that crisis management affects everyone in the company. When developing a strategy, it is important to understand the times you are in and the people you serve. The strategy cannot be based on a situation that occurred 20 years ago because business personalities and the makeup of companies have changed, and so should the approach. – Tonya Fairley, TS Fairley Leadership and Personal Development Co
4. Form A Crisis Management Team
Form a crisis management team made up of stakeholders from various departments, product lines and locations. Include someone gifted in communications, an IT leader, someone representing your talent and someone close to your clients. Gather that group to brainstorm a list of potential crises you may face. Then, prioritize those to identify the most likely crises this group should plan for first. – Jennifer Wilson, ConvergenceCoaching, LLC
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5. Identify Your Key Risks
The primary step toward developing a solid crisis management strategy is determining where you are at risk. In today’s environment, the way we conduct business has introduced a far greater field of risk, but it’s also brought more options. If you know your key risks, you can create a solid strategy that will keep you in business and out of long-term recovery. – Kathi Laughman, The Mackenzie Circle LLC
6. Prioritize A ‘Crisis Focus’ With The Team
Meet with your team to create a “crisis focus.” Leaders typically juggle too much, and a crisis sucks up attention and resources. This causes balls to drop. Decide what your priority needs to be throughout the crisis. Keep it in line with your long-term vision and values. Identify what balls you will drop or set down and how. Clarify the steps needed to accomplish your priority objectives. – Christian Muntean, Vantage Consulting
7. Forget Traditional Hierarchical Barriers
Rip up the organizational chart and remove traditional hierarchical barriers. Pull in the leaders with the knowledge, experience and passion for the work that needs to be done, regardless of their titles or roles. Then, create a flexible strategy that empowers everyone to do what needs to be done to address the crisis. – Tonya Echols, Vigere
8. Outsource The Development Of A Framework
Outsource the creation of a crisis management framework to experts in the field. This is not your company’s core competency. Invest in a framework and a plan, and then get your organization’s input. Your teams can provide more detail, identify more potential crises, and help ensure that the plan will meet all stakeholders’ needs. Finally, task an internal team with rolling the plan out to all levels of personnel in the company. Be sure to update the plan annually. – Dana Manciagli, Job Search Master Class
9. Plan On Adjusting To Many Unknowns
A solid crisis management plan needs to cover many dimensions. Ensure that you are evaluating critical infrastructure needs, process impacts and people impacts. Recognize that you cannot plan for everything. A good plan includes monitoring how the crisis itself shifts, and then replanning as details are uncovered. It’s not just about the actions you’ll take, but also how you plan to adjust to myriad unknowns. – Faith Fuqua-Purvis, Synergetic Solutions LLC
10. Document Processes And Do Drills
Asking tough questions to see what is on the other side of the mountain is essential. Ask yourself about every possible pitfall, problem and detour that can (and will) happen, and then plan for them. Document workflows and processes, role play and do spontaneous drills involving a variety of team members who will take on different lead roles in the crisis to boost their problem-solving momentum and critical thinking. – Shelley Smith, Premier Rapport
11. Work Backward On A Plan To Fail
Define everything you need to fail. Then, determine with your people what’s needed to avoid those things that would lead you to fail and work backward. Then, move forward into actions to avoid failure. Watch how your people’s creativity helps your efforts soar to success. Then, watch how your team comes together as a result! – Jay Steven Levin, WinThinking
12. Share A Communication Plan With All Teams
Creating a solid communication plan that clearly identifies the team members involved and their roles is one of the most important steps to take in crisis management. This plan should be integrated into an overall contingency plan, and it should be shared with all team members. The desired outcome happens so much faster when you focus on finding effective solutions. – Izabela Lundberg, Legacy Leaders Institute
13. Take Responsibility For Any Crisis
Take responsibility for any crisis that is happening, could happen or might happen. Procrastination and neglect will be costly. Developing a crisis management strategy involves research to inform preparations, leadership and team building to ensure responsiveness and resiliency, and systems and processes to implement the strategy and maximize talents. – Lori Harris, Harris Whitesell Consulting
14. Stress-Test Your Strategy Regularly
A solid crisis management strategy should be stress-tested at least once a year. Have organizational leaders and/or a crisis team review the strategy by conducting a “fire drill” to spot any gaps in the plan. Also, ensure that all new employees, managers and leaders are trained on the key components of the crisis management plan you put in place. They should understand what their roles will be in the case of a business disruption. – Karan Rhodes, Shockingly Different Leadership