Steer your team through a crisis

Leaders step up in a crisis. Their calm, sturdy attitude boosts everyone’s spirits as they lurch toward a solution.

To maintain grace under pressure, start by framing the situation clearly. Explain the crisis to employees in simple terms.

Organize your thoughts in threes. Identify the three key challenges your team must address—or place the crisis in a broader context by summarizing the problem, its causes and possible solutions.

Communicate the same message to everyone. Confirm that all your managers characterize the crisis in the same terms so that there’s no ambiguity or confusion among your workforce.

In some crises, leaders isolate themselves from the troops. They huddle with attorneys and consultants behind closed doors while neglecting to update the very people who are most impacted—their employees.

Tough Talks D

Rumors spread when people feel left in the dark. Morale suffers as staffers assume the worst and brace for disaster.

Adopt a learning posture, even if you think you understand the full scope of the crisis. Invite others who are close to the problem to articulate it from their vantage point. Solicit their input and promise to inform them of new developments.

Accept that you’ll need to make hard decisions without all the information you’d ideally like. After collecting feedback from key stakeholders, shift to decision-making mode.

Waiting for more data can prove foolhardy—and jeopardize your ability to lead effectively amid uncertainty. It’s better to call the shots and try to stop the bleeding; even if your moves don’t pan out perfectly, people will appreciate your courage under fire.

— Adapted from “Grace Under Pressure: 8 Critical Steps to Leading In a Crisis,” Lisa McKale,