How Do You Successfully Manage a Crisis?

How Do You Successfully Manage a Crisis?

In the face of adversity, it's the response of executive leaders that can turn the tide. From implementing efficient succession planning to proactively responding with clear communication, we've compiled the key strategies from nine CEOs and other leaders on navigating through crises successfully.

  • Implement Efficient Succession Planning
  • Foster a Champion Mindset in Teams
  • Select a Bright Communicator During Crises
  • Build Strong Relationships for Tough Times
  • Maintain Composure and Strategize Calmly
  • Prepare and Plan for Potential Crises
  • Streamline Processes for Swift Adaptation
  • Adapt and Innovate During Industry Crises
  • Proactively Respond with Clear Communication

Implement Efficient Succession Planning

I’ve been involved in managing several tough crises in my career. In my experience, there are some fundamentals of crisis management that people need to follow to manage this tough time correctly and make the right decision at the right time.

The resignation of an employee who possessed significant information on the company’s operations was one of the most unexpected crises I have experienced. Therefore, the major aspect that dictated the successful management of this crisis was the existence of an efficient succession plan. Our succession plan entailed the documentation of important SOPs and a clear definition of roles. This made it possible, within a short period, to source and recruit a better candidate to fill the position, thereby lessening or avoiding any major impact on the company's business.

Preplanning and having contingencies in place meant that, while we did not necessarily avoid the numerous issues that can crop up in a crisis, we were able to concentrate more on the administration of the crisis instead of being bogged down by other complications. Nevertheless, by following key goals in case of a crisis, we can successfully continue the management of business activities and overcome the crisis not only without losses but by turning it into a win-win situation.

Dominic Murray
Dominic MurrayCEO & Independent Financial Advisor, Cameron James - UK & Expat Financial Planning

Foster a Champion Mindset in Teams

In every career, we face a major crisis. You know what I mean—those gut-wrenching moments where you can taste the fear. What makes a crisis difficult is that often there are no good decisions to be made. So how do you handle that moment, when your options are limited and the outlook looks bleak?

The mindset of a cohesive team is a funny thing. People know when a situation is hopeless, but superior leaders can galvanize teams to do incredible things. Great leaders see the world differently, just like clutch athletes. When the situation is hard, that's when the champion emerges. Your mindset will shape the team's mindset. Put the force of your will to the test when you face a crisis and be the leader who creates a legacy. The champion stays positive and projects confidence... and teams will follow.

Bryan HeathmanCEO, Made for Success

Select a Bright Communicator During Crises

Every crisis is unique and requires intelligence and bright ideas to resolve. Back in 2019, I was involved in crisis management for a bank. The first thing I did was identify who the brightest and best communicator in the room was—the person with the most knowledge and aptitude to communicate quickly with facts. Once selected, we got a fact sheet together and found every media contact we had and spoke with them, on the phone and in person. Staying silent is death in a crisis.

Brook Zimmatore
Brook ZimmatoreCEO, Massive Alliance

Build Strong Relationships for Tough Times

For recruiters and recruiting firms, COVID-19 brought a busy market. Increased turnover meant more hiring, and for the first time since launching, Bemana had more contracts than we could handle. Bringing on new recruiters was a necessity, but also part of a bigger issue—candidates were lacking. Workers had dried up as more and more people opted for time off.

For a moment, I faced a scenario where not only did we not have the workforce to juggle our clients, but we also couldn't guarantee them a normal number of applicants. It risked becoming a multi-level failure.

But one key factor kept our head above water, and that was our dedication to long-term partnerships. Not only had Bemana spent years building connections in multiple industries, but we'd also partnered with the educational sector, bringing our expertise to college campuses regularly. Leaning on these associates brought us shared sources and a steady stream of fresh graduates.

It was a good reminder that strong relationship-building pays off in tough times.

Linn Atiyeh
Linn AtiyehCEO, Bemana

Maintain Composure and Strategize Calmly

The key to managing a crisis is to keep your composure. Analyze the situation methodically and avoid reacting impulsively, as this can exacerbate the issue. Take a clear, thought-out approach to understand the cause of the crisis and developing potential solutions. Consider how each solution might play out and consult with other business owners or confidants who have faced similar situations. Learning from their experiences can help you avoid pitfalls and find effective resolutions. It's important to resist the urge to overreact and instead focus on a calm, strategic response.

Don WinterCEO, EMG Media Group

Prepare and Plan for Potential Crises

A crisis will not turn into a crisis if it finds you waiting for it, i.e., you have planned and prepared for handling it. My role at the Centre for Fundraising, where we consult with clients to raise investment for their business, throws us into situations that are tough. Our mechanism for handling is a simple four-step process. Firstly, prepare and plan; thereafter, detect and respond at speed to avoid collateral damage; thirdly, communicate to both external and internal audiences; and lastly, action and containment of the damage.

Kunal VermaCEO, Centre for Fundraising

Streamline Processes for Swift Adaptation

A few years ago, our firm faced a monumental challenge when an unexpected tax policy change significantly impacted our corporate structuring guidance to clients. Swiftly adapting to the change was crucial, and our streamlined processes proved to be a key factor.

I immediately formed a response team, selecting members who were both knowledgeable about the new tax policies and well-versed in simply explaining the legal jargon. Our first step was to conduct a thorough audit of the advice we had given our clients, after which we reached out with revised legal insights. While this process was intense and required extended work hours, we made it a priority to facilitate regular team check-ins and to ensure our digital meetings were a source of support, not extra stress.

Every crisis is an opportunity for growth, and in our case, this circumstance not only fortified our team's resilience but also strengthened our relationship with our clients, based on the transparency and efficiency with which we handled the situation.

Andrew Pierce
Andrew PierceCEO, LLC Attorney

Adapt and Innovate During Industry Crises

In the vehicle transport industry, unexpected crises aren't uncommon. One instance comes to mind: during the initial COVID-19 outbreak, my team faced a massive challenge—a sudden drop in demand due to travel restrictions and safety measures. With my 20 years of experience, I steered my team at Nationwide United Auto Transport through this unexpected storm.

The key factor that helped us navigate this crisis efficiently was our ability to quickly adapt and innovate. Rather than downsize, we diversified our services, tapping into new areas like the transport of emergency vehicles and large-scale medical supplies. We amplified our focus on customer communication, reassuring them of safe and timely deliveries. Furthermore, we leveraged technology and digital platforms to maintain seamless operations despite lockdowns. In crises, leaders must be flexible, communicate effectively, and leverage innovation to keep business afloat.

Chris Estrada
Chris EstradaCEO & Founder, Nationwide United Auto Transport

Proactively Respond with Clear Communication

In my role as General Counsel and Head of Finance at Sage Company, I once faced a significant crisis when an unexpected regulatory change posed a threat to our business model. Our ability to operate was at risk, and the stress levels within the team were high. The key factor in managing this crisis was a swift, proactive response combined with effective communication.

We immediately formed a task force, including key company leaders and external legal and finance experts, to assess the situation and strategize a response. We ensured full transparency, keeping our employees, investors, and clients regularly informed about the situation and our actions. This helped maintain trust and confidence amid the crisis.

In addition, we worked to diversify our business operations, lessening our reliance on sectors heavily impacted by the regulatory changes. This actual event served as a potent reminder of the importance of adaptability, clear communication, and strategic planning in crisis management.

Jonathan Feniak
Jonathan FeniakGeneral Counsel, LLC Attorney

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