For most of us, the days start the same way. You turn over, turn off your alarm, and then check your phone or email notifications.
Most of the time, the notifications you find are the typical daily intrusions or distractions.
But imagine this. One day you read the email, urgent text chain, social media feed, or news story and you discover that your organization has found itself in a crisis that has the potential to jeopardize the future of the organization. A future you and your colleagues have worked so hard to create.
Maybe it is a crisis you had foreseen.
Maybe it takes you completely by surprise.
But in that first moment, you feel the walls coming down around you. For many, a heavy feeling hits them in the gut and weight compresses their chest. A question inevitably sets in:
What are we going to do?
The feelings of fear and desperation are real. In that initial moment, panic quickly sets in and it may feel like the end of the world.
That feeling is okay. In fact, it is natural. In another blog, I will explain the neuroscience behind what’s happening to your brain and your body, and why you feel what you feel during a crisis, including the immediate inability to make rational decisions. (Check back on our site for the release of this blog.)
In the meantime, I’d like to talk through some things you can focus on right now, so you know how to move past that initial flash of panic and gain ability to make decisions. The goal is that in that moment of crisis you are able to move forward and respond to what is happening calmly, clearly, and effectively.
The key to doing so is readiness.
Readiness determines how an organization responds to a crisis. The common misconception is that the severity of the inciting incident determines the response. However, when properly prepared and applying the right mindset, your level of readiness will be the deciding factor of whether or not the organization will get through a crisis unscathed and stronger than before.
Most organizations have some structures of operational readiness to respond to a crisis. But the truth is that well-built structures alone are not enough in moments of crisis. That is why so many companies that have well-built structures of operational readiness still fail to respond to a crisis effectively and suffer meaningful harm as a result.
The key is combining operational readiness with mental readiness.
Effective crisis response is a combination of both operational readiness and mental readiness. This combination equates to the ability to make smart choices quickly and execute them well in a crisis. Mental readiness helps people faced with crises respond calmly, think clearly, and make smart choices when it matters most.
Mental readiness consists of three parts:
Emotional Discipline. The ability to regulate your emotions to execute decisions well in moments of crisis. In a crisis, making smart choices in timely ways is not always easy. Sometimes there is no good choice, free of pain or discomfort. Sometimes there is only the least bad choice, which may involve discomfort to you but will ultimately serve your stakeholders (those who matter to your organization) the most. Discipline and practice is required to remain calm and make the difficult, but necessary choices.
Deep Knowledge. The understanding of the patterns that drive effective and ineffective crisis response, including why some actions always work while some other actions never work. By studying as many different crises as possible, you are able to learn from others’ mistakes without having to live those mistakes yourself.
Intellectual Rigor. The ability to think clearly and ask the right questions in the right order in order to identify the problem accurately and understand the best course of action forward. The ability to remain focused and ask the right questions, rather than letting distraction take hold, enables you to make smart choices quickly.
By building your mental readiness for moments of crisis, you will be able to foresee crises that are foreseeable. You will be able to assess unforeseen crises and respond effectively as they arise. And you will be able to move past that initial moment of panic when the crisis breaks to lead your team through what needs to happen next.
This is part of a series of blogs on crisis response principles. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series.
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About Maida Kalić Zheng
Maida is an Advisor at Logos Consulting Group and a Senior Fellow at the Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership, where she helps corporate leaders maximize presence and enhance communication skills to become more effective in managing both their reputations and relationships. She also serves as the Chief of Client Services.
About Logos Consulting Group
Leaders change the world. But they don’t do it alone. They ignite others toward a common cause. At Logos Consulting Group, we believe in this world and we see this world in the work that we do. Our mission is to build a better world by equipping people to become leaders who ignite change in the world for the good. We do this by helping our clients inspire those who matter to them to make a difference in their own industries and communities, and the world at large. We advise and coach our clients in three key areas: crisis management; crisis communication; and executive coaching.