Panic ButtonPanic in the executive suite during a crisis – or really anytime — can lead to chaos that almost always will negatively impact your employees and your company. The first step in successfully coping with a crisis begins with recognizing what type of crisis management leader you are and where you fit on what I am calling the “Urgency Scale.” There is the complacent leader on the left, the panicked leader on the right and the flexible leader more or less in the sweet spot. A complacent leader is delusional about the reality of the situation. This type of leader continues doing things that have worked in the past, truly believing they will work again. But since conditions have fundamentally changed, they fail to address critical problem or market shifts in time to prevent serious consequences. The panicked leaders, on the other hand, understand that they are facing a problem and start to conduct business in a frenzy of activity, micro-managing and obsessing about little things. A panicked leader tends to work harder but not smarter. As a result they begin to lose rationality leading them to make poor decisions or to grossly overact when relatively minor course corrections could have been sufficient. When we meet with companies where the leaders are on the panic side of the equation, we can hear how they are dealing with the situation just from the way they talk – their voices are pitched slightly higher and stressed as though they are working on their third double-shot Americano in the last hour. The flexible leader takes a different course. They recognize the reality of market change, and have the confidence to try new things in response. You always hear humility in these people talking about not knowing what they don’t know with a willingness and openness to all ideas. Most importantly, flexible leaders are able to take a mental step back to focus on the greater purpose of what their team’s overall effort is trying to accomplish. I recently had a chance to work with six companies over the past six months. Two were on the complacent end of the scale and were largely ignoring reality. Two were panicked and making decisions that could be characterized as bizarre. Finally two were able to find the “sweet spot” between these extremes. Those who found the sweet spot were able to progress through the crisis smoothly and systematically, by changing what they have done in the past and adapting to the new circumstances. Unfortunately, things were shaping up to be much more difficult for the other four. The lesson here is clear. Simply boosting up the fear level is not an effective way to get things done, and neither is ignoring the reality of your situation. If you want to come out on top during a crisis or a change in market dynamics, take a step back for a second, breath, assess what needs to be done and have the confidence to calmly try something new. Which type of leader are you?]]>

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