This crisis is not easy for anybody. What we have right now affects all companies of every size.  

Before this, my own company was on track to have our best year ever. But the coronavirus threw a wrench into our plans. I’m sure many of you can relate. 

How do we continue to display leadership in this time of crisis? 

When it feels like the sky is falling, leadership doesn’t stop, it becomes more critical. The consequences of our decisions are heightened. Our teams need us more than ever. 

My team and I went through the recession crisis in 2008 and honestly, I made a lot of mistakes. But because of those mistakes, I learned some valuable lessons and have since grown as a leader. 

The reality of this situation sucks. But depending on how you and I lead, we can make it suck a little less! 

Here are five lessons I’ve learned about decision making during crisis: 

1. In times of crisis, the WAY we make decisions is often more important (or as important) as the decision itself. 

Back in 2008 as the markets began to crash, I started thinking about the next moves my company needed to makeAfter crunching the numbers myself, I knew what needed to be done and where we needed to make cuts. I then walked out of my office and made it happen.  

Eventually we bounced back, but there was a real fallout stemming from the WAY in which I delivered and executed my decisions. I lost the trust of a lot of people within the organization, and the impact lasted for years 

So, what was the problem? I delivered my decisions without any warning to the team. I didn’t give time for discussion about other possible alternatives. Big decisions were made behind closed doors and I created an environment of fear. It was probably the worst thing I could’ve done. 

Fast forward to our current circumstance. This time I took a different approach. 

  • I prepared the team for what could happen. As soon as I got wind that things were starting to slow down, I brought the team together. We began having the conversation about the impact we may feel at our business. 
  • I shared with themI gave them the options that we were considering if certain things happen. This way, they could have time to process and prepare their own backup plan if need be. As leaders, we often make the mistake of coming in like a bull in a china shop saying, “here’s what’s happening. It’s crucial that we give our teams time to process and anticipate what may happen next. 
  • I listened to them. Together we discussed the ideas we had that could help the organization. I was shocked at the number of individuals that came to me with proposed solutions and self-sacrifices they were willing to make for the betterment of the entire team.

2.  In times of crisis, your decisions don’t make who you are as a leader. They REVEAL who you are as a leader. 

I’ve heard many professionals say “there’s nothing else I can do” when it comes to delivering bad news. If you have that attitude, then you’re revealing that you’re simply incapable of making decisions. You’re saying you were “forced” to make that decision; that it’s “out of your hands.” 

Take a step back and think what you’re revealing about yourself as a leader during this time. Are you stepping up for your team by responding appropriately, or are you saying you don’t have a choice in your actions? 

Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to follow a leader that doesn’t have a choice. We all have choices. We can’t control what happens to us, but we can control our response to it. We’re making tough decisions now to set us up for success in the future. Own your decisions! 

3. In times of crisis, your decisions should be based on the purpose of the business. 

As humans we have the general tendency to only look out for ourselves. But in crisis there needs to be a hierarchy in how you make decisions. As leaders, we cannot act selfishly.  

From a military perspective, the number one thing they compare their decisions against is if it supports their mission. Secondly, they consider what it means for the team. Of course, nobody wants to lose a team member, but unfortunately there are times when it’s necessary in order to accomplish the mission. Lastly, they consider what it means for themselves as an individual. 

I know the panic is real right now, but are you making decisions to support the purpose of the business? Or are you focused solely on yourself? 

4. In times of crisis, failure in decision making is determined by where you choose to stop. 

Us leaders need to be willing to act on our decisions and not worry so much about failure. 

It doesn’t matter who you are, every one of us makes bad decisions. But the difference between failure and success is the willingness to course correctIf a decision is leading us in the wrong direction, reverse course. In a situation like this where things are rapidly evolving and changing, the ability to quickly adapt and change course is vital. 

Failure only happens when you stop trying. Success comes to those who never give up trying to make it right. Don’t be afraid to fail forward. 

5. In times of crisis, communication is key. 

I know that sounds like a simple concept. But it’s an absolutely critical component to keeping the team together.  

We need to be considerate of HOW we’re communicating, how OFTEN we’re communicating, and how MUCH we’re divulging when we communicate. 

The quality of a leader’s communication directly impacts their team’s willingness to stick together and make sacrifices for each other. 

Displaying leadership during crisis is hard, but it’s not impossible. 

Hopefully these lessons on decision making will inspire you in your own journey as a leader. If you’d like to learn more about how to lead effectively through crisis, I invite you to check out my on-demand webinar series on Leadership Through Crisis. 


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