When an emergency disrupts our daily routine, we must keep our heads in the game. A crisis is chaotic, confusing, and complicated. In today's global and interconnected world, it is not a question of if an emergency will occur, but when. I recently published research on the effects of an organizational crisis. An event came from out of the left field and threw the two merging organizations into distress. Although the coronavirus pandemic we are experiencing is different in context, there are many similarities of what we can do as leaders and followers to turn confusion into confidence.
Events gone awry are a chance for us to reevaluate our contingency plans. Things will get better, and the goal is to emerge on the other side stronger than when you entered the downturn. I am a cautious optimist. Plan for the worst and expect the best is my motto. That way, when the unthinkable happens, I don't have to overreact, I continue about my business. This resiliency doesn't just happen; it takes a great deal of work, adaptive capacity, willingness to change, and personal development. A crisis is a chance to get intensely clear on what is going on and what I need to do, not just to survive but thrive.
Small businesses are incredibly vulnerable to a crisis event. Forty percent of them will not survive, and they make up 90 percent of the American economy. In today's global and interconnected world, leaders are judged by their ability to weather a crisis. Leaders will most likely face at least one significant critical situation in their careers. The eruption of a catastrophe draws leaders and followers together in a unique manner. While normal operations can carry a degree of less than engaged members, when survival is at stake, it is all hands on deck to right the ship. When survival is at stake, followership becomes a critical component of the leader relationship due to the stress, threats, and uncertainty inherent in an organizational crisis.
Leadership is uniquely contextualized when confronting crises. Specific causations and contingencies occur that are not present in non-dangerous contexts. An organizational emergency is an emotional event. Today's high-paced, global conditions require leaders to continually “step up” to meet complex challenges and to have the requisite agency to positively influence their followers and the organization’s culture, climate, and performance. Leaders, some of your followers, are going to need a more relational approach where you present the message of hope and compassion. Other followers are going to want you to skip to the marching orders so they can get to work fighting this war. You will need to monitor the distress of the people in your organization and respond accordingly.
I'm experienced enough to have navigated through many crisis events. I have had the unthinkable happen to me—repeatedly—and lived to tell about it. Crisis events, like death and taxes, are a fact of life. In 2008, I remember returning to PA to run Tremendous Leadership (then Executive Books) when the housing market was falling apart, and the stock market was evaporating. It was probably the worst possible time to start a business. I refused to subscribe to fear and panic, choosing to see this time of uncertainty as a chance to get clear about where we were, where we needed to be, and where we are going.
For those of you told to engage in social distancing by working from home for the next two weeks, please realize this can be a great time of personal growth. While our bodies may be isolated, our minds can continue to thrive, or may even be capable of growing on a new level. To help you stay in a place of positivity, we are going to deliver to your inbox a free read for the next 14 days. You can read 14 books and be regenerated, or you can sit around reading trash on social media or listening to the often fear-mongering news and allow your brain to get even more infected. There is a real physical threat out there but don't let your body catch an avoidable disease of the mind.
Use this time wisely, and you will emerge stronger than before and ever more ready to handle the next crisis event that comes your way!
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Dr. Tracey Jones is now booking for speaking engagements for 2020 and 2021 including her most frequently requested keynotes: Ethics and Excellence, Crisis Leadership, Engaging Employees in the Age of Millennials, Women in Leadership, Making the Dream Team a Reality, Unlocking Motivation, and The Power of Books.
Contact us today if you are part of a pre-merger organization. Dr. Jones can guide your business to prevent unnecessary stress for both the entity as a whole and individuals. For more information, please contact us today.