Leading In Crisis – Steps To Prevent Overreaction
By Bob Mason
The car in front of you just slammed on the brakes. You could stop suddenly but you’re in a hurry and so instead, you swerve into the other lane. Your heart is pounding as you suddenly realize you were lucky there wasn’t anyone in the other lane. All this happens in a fraction of a second and at the same time you’re verbalizing some unkind words aimed at the other driver, you see why he stopped so suddenly. A child has run into the street! Now you feel bad for what you said. What if that child hadn’t stopped?
As leaders, sometimes we act like this: quick to take action before really understanding the situation, then realizing too late that there might be a reason for someone else’s actions that were contrary to our own ideas or intentions. There are several different descriptions of leadership styles that describe how a leader interacts with subordinates. There’s another factor though that can often transcend those normal styles and that’s how a leader reacts to adversity.
Unfortunately, many leaders see those unusual or unexpected situations as a threat to their own plans or even their future; a viewpoint that can cause an inappropriate and usually counterproductive reaction. Of course, such a reaction is also quite normal. The following steps can help a leader avoid that sort of reaction.
1. Realize, right now, that unexpected things will happen. Sometimes they will be minor problems that look big. Sometimes they will be big problems that throw your whole plan off track. In any case, they will happen.
2. Remember that you are a leader. Others rely on you to be the steady influence, especially when things don’t go right. When you don’t maintain a fairly even keel, you are denying others of the good leadership you are supposed to provide. Also remember people follow a leader, even when the leader is reacting in an inappropriate or counterproductive way.
3. Don’t immediately overreact. In fact, don’t immediately react at all. There are very few times when an instant reaction is really necessary. There is almost always time to stop and evaluate the situation. Even a brief appraisal of the situation will bring it into better focus and ensure a better response.
4. Always keep in mind that you are not the only one affected by the crisis. It’s easy to see ourselves as victims without considering others who may actually be more harmed by the issue. Keep in mind also, that your reaction will have some effect on others. A good leader will give this equal weight when making a decision.
5. Whatever caused the crises happened for a reason. Just like the car stopping in front of you, it might have been a very good reason. Strive to discover that reason before taking action.
The driver in the opening example was fortunate. There was no one in the other lane and the child did not continue running into the street. As a leader you may have been fortunate to have dealt poorly with a situation and not suffered any detrimental consequences. Next time a crisis arises, try these five steps.
My friend, Bob Mason, is a speaker, trainer, and author of “Planning to Excel: Strategic Planning That Works.” After 30 years of leadership experience he founded RLM Planning and Leadership to transform leadership by developing great leaders. Bob works with organizations that want to excel by training managers to lead and creating great strategic plans to keep leaders focused. See what he can do for you at http://www.planleadexcel.com .