How To Manage A Crisis

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Let me begin by stating that the best way to handle a crisis, is to prevent one.

So when it comes to things like network and computer failures, it behooves you to: use reliable computer systems; employ the best possible technical staff to keep your network trouble-free and respond to problems; make back-ups of your data and software (at least daily); and adopt industry best practices, such as security practices. The same goes with all your plant and equipment.

Nevertheless, disasters happen. Natural disasters. Terrorist attacks. There are some things that are simply unforeseeable.

So the second best way to handle a crisis, is to be prepared for one. This might sound contradictory -- how can you prepare for something that you can't imagine happening?

Well, firstly, there are things -- like natural disasters -- that you can imagine happening (even if they seem remote). You can and should develop policies and procedures to deal with these. Depending on where you live, such policies -- such as those regarding the breakout of fire -- may also be mandated by law. And you should regularly conduct drills so that you and your people are familiar with what to do in the event of a disaster.

Also, develop policies and procedures for dealing with disasters regulators haven't considered worthy of legally prescribed policies and procedures. This doesn't mean spending an inordinate amount of time working out a policy for escaping the outbreak of a deadly disease in your building; it may be as straightforward as placing a list of important phone numbers (of health authorities) in the staff kitchen.

Secondly, you can prepare for how you will react to a crisis. As a manager, your staff will likely look to you for guidance when something bad happens -- even though you may not be any more qualified than they in dealing with the disaster in question!

So, what should you prepare to do? To remain calm and use your judgment. Yep, that's all.

And really, keeping calm and using your judgment are interrelated. Staying calm let's you tap into your inner wisdom -- your instinct, or intuition, or gut feeling -- about what to do. You have been developing this since you were born. Consciously and unconsciously, you have been feeding it with all kinds of ideas and information about what to do the moment a disaster strikes. Let it guide you.

After all, what choice do you have? If you don't stay calm -- and become hysterical instead -- your thinking is likely to be at its worst, and you could endanger yourself and the team. And guess what, although you can't prepare for every single kind of crisis, you can train yourself to keep calm and to use your judgment when trouble hits.

How? From now on, when anything bad happens -- from the most trivial to the most serious -- try to approach it in a calm way. Take some deep, deep, deep breaths, and tell yourself that this is an opportunity to train yourself for a much more serious crisis. Then, remaining calm, try to think clearly about the best way to respond. And then respond!

So what are you going to do the next time your car breaks down? You're going to use it as an opportunity to practice how to remain calm and use your judgment for an even bigger problem.

(Which, of course, I hope never happens!)

Anna Johnson is the author of the How To Manage People System, including her book, How To Manage People (Even If You're A Control Freak!). Get Anna's FREE 12-page report, How To Be An Outstanding Manager - The 8 Vital Keys To Managing People Effectively:

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