All About Crisis Management

CoachHub · 17 November 2021 · 10 min read

Crisis management plan: what attitudes to adopt before, during and after?

Do you think you’ll never have to deal with a crisis? We might as well tell you the bad news right away: any business, no matter its size or field of activity, has to face a crisis one day or another. And whether this arises as a result of an internal or external element, then your only objective will be to keep the company and all stakeholders afloat. Managers play a crucial role in times of crisis, taking decisive action. How can they effectively ready themselves for a crisis and ensure unity among the team? What mindsets should they embrace to excel in crisis management? And what valuable insights can be gained from resolving a crisis? Discover comprehensive answers to these inquiries!

What is a crisis situation?

Crisis situation examples

We talk about a case of crisis when an internal or external event disrupts the proper functioning of a company, and this, in the long term. This sensitive situation, if not taken care of properly, can then lead to serious consequences, including bankruptcy. In order to avoid such a finality, local managers then come into play and set up what is called crisis management. This crisis management strategy is then divided into three stages, three times of crisis:

  • Preparation to spot the first signs of a crisis
  • Swift and effective action to stop the phenomenon before it gets worse
  • Lessons to be learned from this event further to optimize the crisis process

Let us take a concrete example. The coronavirus or covid-19 crisis has shaken the labor market with dramatic economic consequences. Many companies then found themselves in a significant crisis situation. Companies with a spirit of innovation and an operational crisis management team were then able to use tactics to survive this period and draw conclusions for years to come.

The different types of major business crises

Today, eight major risks can harm an organization.

Types of crisis:

  • Strategic: in this specific case, the turnover of the company in crisis is stagnating or even decreasing. The problem is usually the result of a poor understanding of the market and its needs or a poor communication strategy.
  • Health: public health problem (pandemic) threatening the health of company employees. If no preventive and limiting measures nor any business continuity plan are put in place, the consequences of this health crisis can be dramatic.
  • Meteorological: potential loss of turnover due to temperature, precipitation, wind … In short, unfavorable weather conditions, even a natural disaster.
  • Social: situation of opposition between the employees of a company. However, well-being at work and good understanding are key elements of a performance. Conflict management must therefore be immediate and effective.
  • IT: a technological crisis can result from a failure or cyber-attack threatening the performance of the company
  • Media: scandal, bad buzz tarnishing the image of the company and therefore its reputation with a potential public relations disaster. A social media crisis requires strong internal and external communication.
  • Organizational: buyout of the company, change of management, profound organizational transformation, so many events that can negatively impact a company, if the crisis management system is not optimal
  • Economic and financial: extraordinary and brutal crisis whose impacts disrupt finances on a national or global scale.

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Crisis management skills: preparation and anticipation

Build a crisis management team

The direction and management integrating the crisis unit must present specific skills and soft skills. In particular, they are expected to demonstrate leadership and realism. But they also need to be optimistic and see the chance for business transformation. “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty,” said Winston Churchill. Indeed, line managers and directors are invited to see the crisis from a perspective they had not necessarily envisaged.

Set up a crisis management plan

As we have seen previously, there are different possible crisis scenarios. Therefore, it is important to anticipate potential crises by creating a realistic and effective action plan for each of the typologies. To achieve this, managers and decision-makers determine the new milestones that will mark the progress of crisis management. They also define the internal and external crisis communication plan to be put in place, as well as the people to contact. The clearer the crisis plan is, the more employees feel confident about the strategy being implemented. Reassured, they remain motivated and engaged.

Preparing this action plan upstream allows the crisis team to focus on implementation during a major crisis and no longer on the decision-making aspect that can be influenced and disrupted by the critical situation. Indeed, managing an emergency situation is much more complex without a prior business continuity plan because panic takes precedence over any rational aspect.

Carry out crisis simulation exercises

Through simulations, the crisis management team can verify that the action plan is operational and effective. It also makes it possible to test the responsiveness and seriousness of all employees, such as during an evacuation drill in the event of a fire.

The 6 essential objectives for good crisis management

Stay focused

During the crisis, managers must keep their cool in order to analyze the situation appropriately. At this point, their mission is to apply the action plan to exit the crisis and achieve the unchanged corporate goals.

Refocus on the values ​​of the company

Any business is based on a number of values: authenticity, innovation, respect, mutual aid. So it is essential to refocus attention on these moral and social principles during a crisis. And for good reason, during these sensitive situations, the benchmarks often fly to pieces. But those are the times when teams need a branch to hang on to, and trust in management is especially essential.

Communicate better and more

Collective intelligence suggests that communication in business is essential, and even more so in times of crisis. And for good reason, the unknown can cause fears and concerns. The role of managers, directors and leaders is then to inform their employees about the current situation, the “why” and the “how” of the actions taken, as well as the expected results. A frank and transparent discourse remains essential to keep the teams in a dynamic geared towards collective success and strengthening cohesion.

Knowing how to communicate is also essential in order to avoid misunderstandings and misunderstandings. In addition, it helps to prevent conflicts, or at least to resolve them as quickly as possible. Remember that in this kind of context, tensions appear quickly: a word, a gesture, an attitude can ignite the powder, distracting employees from the common goal. Clear guidelines are vital.

Conduct crisis management interviews

Likewise, group meetings and individual interviews should be intensified. During these points, managers assess the feelings of employees and collect their observations. To do this, it is important to help employees verbalize their fears and answer their questions with empathy and honesty.

These moments are also an opportunity to check that employees have entered the instructions and objectives. Be careful; there is no question of judging or sanctioning them, but of course, to support them as best as possible. So yes to conflict management through trust!

Lead by example with a positive attitude

As a manager and primary spokesperson, your role is not just to develop an action plan. You must also adopt a proactive and positive attitude in order to preserve your team. Be careful; this attitude should not hide the reality of the situation but help overcome this ordeal more easily.

Take care of yourself

As underlined a little above, these contexts give rise to tensions. Managers are under a lot of pressure. It, therefore, remains essential, in order for you to be able to carry out your missions, to take a step back from the situation experienced. Preserving your health is vital. To do this, give yourself moments of relaxation with family or friends and recharge your batteries with positive energy by practicing meditation, a sports activity or any other leisure activity.

Adopt at least one psycho-body technique:

Among other stress management strategies, the following techniques (to be completed during training) may be useful:

Here are some more suggestions your team may find beneficial:

Exercise, knowing that walking (30 minutes a day) may be enough.

Adopt a physio-relaxing technique.

There are techniques based on one of the five senses, depending on your preferences: listening to the music you like in peace, taking a scented bath, etc.

Mindfulness meditation. Very “trendy”, this consists of practicing a total concentration on the here and now, without, contrary to what some believe, accessing spiritual thoughts (in the sense of things of the spirit). The challenge is to let go of the mind and the ruminations.

Diaphragmatic breathing techniques (known as stomach breathing) or cardiac coherence can also be very effective.

Finally, forcing yourself to laugh and smile naturally activates pleasure hormones that counteract those of stress.

The post-crisis phase

This last step will close the event, it goes through three distinct stages:

  • Demobilization
  • Hot debriefing
  • Experience feedback

Every crisis has an end, but it must still be formalized by a real demobilization which will mark the end of this tumultuous period. This is usually accompanied by a hot debriefing with the entire crisis team. This decompression airlock is a privileged time for all members to discuss the strengths and areas for improvement perceived during this crisis management.

Finally, and to close the crisis, feedback (cold debriefing) can be organized within one month after the crisis with all the initial actors. This time, often neglected, also makes it possible to build an action plan to strengthen the company, making it more resilient and more responsive in the event of a new event occurring.

What are the lessons to be learned from the crisis?

Once the crisis management is finished, the managers take stock: were they reactive enough ? What attitudes have they adopted ? Were the strategies appropriate to manage the crisis ? Several lessons can be drawn from this feedback, and it seems necessary to mention them, both to realize the progress made and to determine the positive points as well as the areas for improvement – this is change management.

Mastering non-violent communication, learning to manage priorities, developing confidence in oneself and others or even gaining leadership are some of the skills to be acquired or developed so that management is able to cope with a crisis or any unexpected situation.

In order to have a chance to emerge from this crisis intact, or at least with the fewest scratches, it is therefore essential that managers are well supported and trained upstream. Coaching makes it possible to equip them with the tools to gain agility and develop better listening to themselves and others. Nevertheless, the stakes remain high since the attitude of managers in crisis management depends on the commitment of the teams and, therefore, the company’s performance.

Coaching vs training

The links between coaching and training are sometimes unclear. For example, training refers to general instruction. On the other hand, professional coaching can make a remarkable difference and enable new thinking and the development of best practice.

Coaching is a partnership that helps clients to achieve their fullest personal and professional goals. A coach is a partner rather than an instructor – in thought, accountability and as a change agent who guides clients toward clarifying their aims.

Coaches enable clients or consumers to plan the route to achieving these goals and delivering favorable results. A coach will work with an individual or team and guide them through the understandable states of fear and anxiety towards an openness to new and positive opportunities. A professional coach is trained to recognize if additional support, such as trauma treatment or counseling, may be necessary to lead the team through a crisis.

In extraordinary times, it is easy to focus only on what’s happening right here, right now. However, by consulting a coach, organizational leaders can look further ahead, deal with the immediate emergency, and prepare for the inevitable changes.

Crisis leadership demands the capacity to predict what’s next and prepare the groundwork to stay ahead of it. A professional coach can challenge assumptions and help leaders re-chart their organizations’ future. That makes professional coaching an essential investment in effective crisis leadership for today and tomorrow. Executive coaching is the perfect solution to help to resolve the issue or supporting the companies in addressing the mentioned stakes.

Training body and consulting firm in the organization, risk and crisis management, health and safety at work, CoachHub provides training for crisis units, helps to draw up the crisis management plan (CMP) and assists you to stay operational in a crisis.

There are numerous benefits to employing the services of professionals to designing and implementing an achievable crisis management plan bespoke to the needs of your specific organization, and this is where CoachHub is in the best place to help.

To learn more about business coaching and professional coaching and its organizational benefits, visit CoachHub.

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