7 Steps to Successfully Manage Crisis Remotely

7 Steps to Successfully Manage Crisis Remotely

We are experiencing a global crisis resulting in millions of people working from home, many for the first time.

You may be sitting at home right now feeling confused, overwhelmed and anxious. You are not alone, and these emotions are a very common reaction to shock and crisis.

Crisis management is challenging when you are physically located with your team, but pressure is added when you now need to manage crisis remotely.

1. Manage your Emotions

Fear, fatigue and panic are not uncommon during a crisis. As a leader it’s important that you can manage your own emotions. How you present and react to others is critical. You need to be able to show a poker face and to stay as professional and positive as possible.

The statement “put on your own oxygen mask first” might be a cliché but it has never rung truer.

2. Clear Communications

You need to remain calm and clear when communicating with your team, or you will spread further panic and fear faster than any virus.

Communication is always important in leadership but comes under particular scrutiny both in a crisis and when managing remotely. The key to managing crisis remotely is to understand that the tacit forms of communication – the information by osmosis and the water cooler conversations are not possible, but the knowledge they provide is still important to people.

In a crisis everything changes very quickly, and information becomes outdated, often before it is shared. Sequence your communications e.g. have your own team communications following your communications with higher management to ensure that your team is receiving the most up to date information available.

3. Be Compassionate & Resilient

You cannot give what you haven’t got so if you’re not strong and resilient then you cannot provide it to others. Be compassionate with yourself and others. This is a difficult time for everyone, and it is ok to acknowledge that and to allow the open expression of fears and concerns.

4. Letting go of Expectations

It has been liberating to hear emotions such as fear, panic, shock and anger called out publicly as many of us work hard to mute these emotions under the guise of professionalism. Accept that this is crisis management and let go of expectations that you will be skilled or experienced at working this way straight away. The normal rules of engagement do not apply right now, as everyone is adjusting and learning together.

5. Use Technology

You need to ensure that your team is kept updated and not in an information vacuum right now. Allow adequate time for your team to discuss and ask questions when communicating using technology.

Regular catch ups with the team – one to one and as a virtual team are more important now than ever. You need to focus on retaining a strong team identity by using various forms of technology and keeping some element of fun in the meetings. Asking the team for ideas on how to run the meeting can enhance collaboration.

6. Call it out

People working remotely often report that getting simple information from co-workers can seem like a difficult task so call out these challenges regularly and give people permission to experience them and then move to collaborative solution finding. Sometimes it is the pebble in the shoe that really frustrates people and removing it can make all the difference to their productivity levels.

7. Manage Behaviours

Crisis pushes everyone to the extremes of their personality, and you may see behaviours in your team which were not obvious up to now. Some of this is a reaction to fear and stress – some people can become extremely controlling or aggressive when in crisis, others withdraw, when they would not normally behave that way. You need to call that out and remind people that adult to adult behaviour is what is expected.

Looking beyond the crisis:

It may look uncertain right now, but this crisis will pass. It’s important that when it does that you have a team that is cohesive and able to return to working in as productive a way as possible. Taking these simple suggestions on board now will make a huge difference when this crisis is a distant memory.

Mary Lynch

Mary is a senior consultant with over 16 years’ experience. Mary specialises in the areas of Organisational Development, Change Management, Performance Management, Leadership and Coaching.

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