Any crisis is characterized by two traits – unpredictability and uncertainty. It is the mark of a true leader to not dwell on yesterday's developments but to look ahead and plan for a more secure tomorrow. A predefined response plan is always less effective than assessing the real threat and taking measures to minimize the risk to their employees, as well as the company.
A pandemic does not warrant a predetermined emergency response. Leaders need to recognize the threat and the potential crisis it can cause. It demands the adoption of a flexible mindset based on authentic information and the assessment of the situation the company or team is currently in.
Here are the five prudent responses every leader in any industry and sector should consider in the face of the growing crisis –
Well networked team tackling the crisis
In typical emergencies, a company can ensure the maximum result and minimal risk by sticking to a command-and-control structure. However, during a pandemic, the same infrastructure of response will prove to be highly ineffective. Leaders barely have the understanding or familiarity of the crises arising from the threat of COVID-19 spread and infection.
It is impractical for one or a small group of company executives to collect, and process all the information regarding the imminent threat of COVID-19 infection in their area or among their staff. Leaders can mobilize the solution by appointing response-leadership teams, action teams, internal and external communications teams, colleague outreach personnel and tech management teams for the effective collection, comparison, verification and circulation of data and memorandum within the company.
Organizing a network of teams can help avoid the chaos that often results from the panic. A network of teams consists of multiple assemblies of groups working towards the same goal, with clear compartmentalization of their responsibilities.
Adaptability and flexibility: Major factors to fight the second wave
The traditional hierarchy of an organization might not be effective in containing or managing the crises. Senior execs need to be ready to offer more responsibility and liberty to make decisions to their network of teams. The members of these network of teams have the updated information necessary to direct the crisis response of an organization.
It is the responsibility of the senior leaders to ensure that they offer the responsibility to the correct people, who can make correct crises-responses. Making the right decisions at the right time is crucial during the times of an unplanned emergency. At the very hit of a crisis, the senior leaders should make the effort to direct the response of a crisis.
With the evolution of a crisis, the team leaders may need to appoint more decision-makers from the network of teams or replace the ones affected by the situation. Having a plan to appoint new temporary leaders among the network of teams during an unpredicted emergency can perpetrate confidence among the employees and promote the deliberate calm that can keep operations running irrespective of the location.
Balance necessary: Bounded optimism
Bounded optimism is a term used in the field of crises management. It is the result of combining reality with optimism and confidence. Exhibiting excessive confidence despite the dire situation can cause leaders to lose credibility and trustworthiness.
Bounded optimism comes into action when the company leaders show confidence that stems from research data, demographics and temporary company plans or policies that can tackle the crisis. Only when leaders project confidence as a result of collecting the latest data and recognizing the threat, the optimism becomes more beneficial for the team and the senior executives.
Awareness required for decision making: Fetch, Evaluate and Foresee
Making decisions is a big part of the job of any senior executive, but as the traditional hierarchy becomes inept to handle immediate crises, waiting for a full set of facts to emerge is not a luxury they can have! They need to authorize the team leaders to act based on the data available to them at a time. Since an emergency like this can involve an umpteen number of uncertainties and surprises, taking longer to make a decision can cost a company heavily.
The right decision making involves the power to assess current situations and to anticipate their impacts. Although leaders cannot afford to wait until new data stops emerging to make their decision, they need to be ready to collect information constantly to determine the traits of the crisis. That is the only way to understand how their responses work.
Be kind: Empathize
The final responsibility is to deal with every human tragedy with empathy. It might be difficult for senior executives to reach out to individual employees to extend their emotional support, but that is exactly what is most necessary during these trying times. Questions like "will this hurt me? Will I fall sick? Is my family in danger?" will be more frequent than you believe right now. And no matter how many times an employee comes to express their concern to their team leader, their questions deserve to be answered honestly, but with empathy.
It is not good practice to redirect them to the legal team or communications team. It is time for the CxOs to show their human side. Even a simple encouraging email each day, sharing precautionary tips and managing work-from-home infrastructures are all part of a true leader’s job.
For all leaders out there handling the second wave
The Covid second wave has claimed thousands of lives. It is the leader's responsibility to find out how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting each of their employees and to take measures to help them. At the same time, leaders should take proactive steps to keep themselves safe and healthy.
Leaders should be the embodiment of deliberate calm and bounded optimism as the threat knocks at their doors. Following these 5 steps can help you keep yourself and your office environment safe, composed and productive in the days of the spreading novel coronavirus infections. Keep your communication channels open and be sure to send regular updates to everyone in your team even if they are working remotely.