As the world gets used to its new normal, we all must operate differently than we ever have before. As the leader of a large, nationwide, multisite operation, my team is used to spending about 50% of their lives solving the unknown and about 10% solving a crisis.
When the paradigm shifted in March, about 95% of my team’s day was then dedicated to solving a crisis, and they went into overdrive. In very short order, we worked with schools across the U.S. that were closing with little to no notice and partnered with them on the optimal solutions for serving their students.
It wasn’t by accident that my team was able to quickly and seamlessly shift into problem-solving mode. There are key things to have in place prior to and during a crisis that allow a team to adjust in the most stressful of times:
1. Don’t panic. Take a deep breath, and remember that if your processes are in order, even when strained, they will still get you through. There’s no need to redefine everything once a crisis hits. Instead, see where small adjustments to your current operations and processes can ensure that you are meeting the needs of your customers in the best way possible.
2. Divide and conquer. Ensuring that you have clearly defined roles before a crisis will get you through the difficult times. Your team should know who is responsible for what, who to talk to in order to get things done, what they are empowered to decide on their own and where they need to take key approvals. Don’t wait until a crisis to create this clarity for your teams. If it exists before, teams will sail seamlessly into handling crises without confusion.
In addition, once your team is in crisis mode, it’s important to make sure that the clarity continues. One way to do this is to institute a daily morning huddle to ensure that everyone is on the same page with the priorities for the day and week. Also, seek out team members who might need help and support to keep their parts moving along as needed. Setting aside dedicated time to ensure clarity is key and will allow your teams to feel focused and supported during the most difficult of times.
3. Communicate often. Communication is key during moments of uncertainty. Even if the crisis doesn’t force a remote-working scenario, make space in your day to check in, and keep the same open-door policy that you have when there isn’t an imminent crisis. Think about daily huddles and group chats, and check to see if anyone needs help or is confused or unsure about how they can play an integral role in the managing of the crisis or issue.
4. Have empathy. Remember, everyone handles crises differently. Whether it’s your customers, stakeholders or staff, all constituents have different perspectives, needs and emotions during a time of crisis. Coming at situations with empathy for all of those involved will help solutions come more seamlessly. Doing this year-round will ensure that teams address everything with an empathetic mindset to start, and it will be no change for them to keep that culture when it’s needed most.
In short, having great team members and a great culture, coupled with solid processes, will make you successful not only year-round, but also in times of need. Ensuring your team members have clarity, practice clear communication and are high functioning on a day-to-day basis will lead to teams that perform at their best when they’re needed most.