Crisis Leadership: Purpose-Led, People-Focused

Leadership and Empathy

A “purpose-led, people-focused” leader is what your company needs the most at these uncertain times, Matt Dale, principal of ICP Human Solutions, wrote in Balancing the Tightrope of Empathy & Performance. This Covid-19 pandemic has tested the world but more so the leaders and their brand of crisis leadership.

Crisis leadership

“Anyone can lead when the plan is working. The best lead when the plan falls apart.”

Crisis leadership is most needed now

Our lives were greatly disrupted when the severity of this pandemic we are now facing forced our governments to abruptly shut down schools and most businesses. Because of the lack of preparedness or because we were taken by surprise by the dramatic changes around the world, many businesses were left grappling with how to continue to operate taking into consideration the safety of employees and clients. There is a crisis and crisis leadership is needed.

“Teams are now settling into the groove of remote working, for some, it might be seamless, for others, some direction and accountability may be required. You and your leaders need to help them adjust, make sure they are connected to each other and the strategy, and then it is important to show them the way forward,” Incorporate Psychology wrote in an article about crisis leadership.

For many, this will be the first time they would be working from home (WFH). While some may find the WFH set-up convenient as most are allowed to work in their pyjamas, other workers are also finding themselves unproductive with the new set-up especially those workers who are also trying to balance homeschooling their children. In addition to these, there is the added burden of not being able to freely move around to continue with personal habits, such as getting your favorite cup of coffee from your favorite coffee shop or eating out for lunch. The new challenges in the workplace and the business environment also pose new challenges to crisis leadership.

These are tricky times and ICP believes good crisis leadership is one where the leader should walk the fine line of “ensuring team and individual performance, whilst navigating the minefield of personal circumstances and emotions.” Despite the difficulties of navigating this crisis, our businesses still need to produce work, and thus, employees still need to be efficient. Understanding, empathy, and support — these are the values leaders should have for successful crisis management. 

ICP suggests the following framework of crisis leadership to keep employees focused: 

  • Clarity on role & expectations. Create a team plan outlining clearly the roles and responsibilities of each team member, taking into consideration the practical realities of each team member. It is also a good idea to revisit the team plan once employees are have adjusted to the new work set-up.
  • Keep things as normal as possible. It is best to stick to the usual office work schedule. Make it business as usual for everybody, including yourself. It is easy for everyone working from home to fall into inefficiency especially when there are new adjustments to make and new distractions to face.
  • Set reasonable goals. Goals are important, but it might be a good idea to adjust the timeline of the goals given current circumstances. As in giving clear expectations, leaders should also set reasonable goals to be achieved within a reasonable timeframe.
  • Remember to lead. Leaders are not immune from personal worries, but your team members will look to you for leadership most especially at this time. ICP suggests doing “self-care” and maintaining a healthy balance of conversation with the team. Leaders should try not to be micromanagers in order not to add personal stress to an already stressful business environment.

As performance management tips, ICP instructs that crisis leadership should focus on people and supporting people, secondary to target goals. Should employees lose focus, a leaders should remind the team of that there is work to be done and the team needs to deliver on its responsibilities despite and in spite of the challenges. Here at The Insolvency Service, we guide business leaders, particularly, directors, on the steps to take at these unprecedented times.

Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash

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