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10 Ways Successful Leaders Skilfully Manage Crisis

10 Ways Successful Leaders Skilfully Manage Crisis

“When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” – John F. Kennedy

If you are facing a crisis, there are several to you manage it skilfully and get out alive. Here are 10 reliable ways successful leaders manage a crisis.

1. They face up to bad news

The first step is to acknowledge there is a crisis. Very often, problems are swept under the carpet until it is too late and the emergency can get out of control. The first thing to do is to assemble the team and look at the possible causes. All team members must be committed to telling the truth. Facing up to reality is the first step in overcoming any crisis. Don’t spin the truth.

An excellent example is Winston Churchill during World War II. He knew that some bad news might be filtered out and he might not be aware of it. This is why he set up a ‘bad news department’.

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2. They know that things may get worse

The successful leaders know that emergency corrective measures just may not be enough. They have to plan for the worst case scenario. This can mean taking radical action which will ensure a sustainable turnaround. Redundancies have to be made. There may be an urgent need to get legal advice and/or change public relations policy. Overall, they know that they will have to be committed, disciplined and above all, courageous.

3. They ensure that there is no breakdown in communication

Poor communication in a company can have devastating effects. Many team members may withhold or just not forward messages for various reasons:

  • Expectations are not clearly set out so seemingly minor problems are ignored
  • Misuse of data on a defective product
  • Information overload may lead to messages being overlooked
  • An ‘us vs. them’ mentality hampers communication
  • Some employees fear retribution if they mention a problem.
  • Some managers may ignore input because they know it all

The successful manager takes the lead in ‘no surprises management (NSM)’ by making sure that communication is open at all times.

4. They know when to make sacrifices

Encouraging and motivating the team to get through the crisis may mean sacrifices. The successful leader will take the initiative by making the first sacrifice and then encourage team members to do likewise.

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5. They mobilize their team by inspiring them

“Employees are expected to (be) ‘dedicated, professional, accurate, and ethical’.” – Larry Slate

Successful managers lead by example. There may be drastic changes to be made. They know how to adjust procedures, policies and objectives in line with the emergency. By being dedicated and professional at all times they will inspire and motivate their team to be the same.

6. They know how to adapt their management style

Sometimes, immediate changes have to be made and a more autocratic style of leadership has to be adopted. There are advantages in saving time and rescuing the company from disaster. The downside of this is that there will be no consultation. This may cause difficulty in building trust, respect, and dedication among the team members.

Daniel Goleman in the Harvard Business Review states that successful leaders can change their management style to suit the situation. He cites different styles from the authoritative or coercive at one of the end of the spectrum to the affiliative and democratic at the other end. Being able to switch style is the mark of a successful leader, according to Goleman.

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7. They know how to build trust

If you read Robert Papes’ book Management During an Economic Crisis, you will notice how much emphasis he places on building trust among the team. This is the mark of a truly successful leader and will stand him or her in good stead when a crisis looms. He mentions how important it is to be fair, open, keep promises, and treat people with dignity and respect.

8. They know how to communicate with the media

“There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.” – Henry A. Kissinger

Inevitably, if your company is in the mainstream, you will need to be able to communicate effectively and let the public and your stakeholders know what is happening. The wise leader will know how to answer media questions:

  • Avoid using jargon or fluffy language
  • Aim for clarity
  • Be confident and speak to the camera with strong eye contact
  • Never use ‘no comment’ as it may be interpreted as trying to hide something
  • Reduce disfluencies like ‘ah’ and ‘um’

9. They are not afraid to try new strategies

“Lead the crisis-  or the crisis will lead you!” – Alfred J. Lichte (retired 4 Star Air Force General)

Intelligent leaders know that desperate situations call for bold new strategies. They do not let fear distract them. This may involve improved systems or innovation. They know that speed will be key and are not afraid to be move decisively.

10. They are confident and optimistic

If a successful leader is emotionally intelligent, he or she will be able to lead the team with great empathy. He will be able to radiate energy with an upbeat attitude.

An example of a successful leader in a crisis was the New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, during the 9/11 disaster. He was able to demonstrate that the leadership was in control which was vital to people who were in a state of shock. He communicated clearly on a daily basis. He was visible and demonstrated a hands-on-approach which was very reassuring.

Let us know in the comments how you or your manager dealt with a crisis successfully.

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Featured photo credit: Woman manager/Pixabay via pixabay.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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