“He who smiles in a crisis has found someone to blame.”
Like anything that humors us, this saying has an element of truth to it, no wonder I laughed when I came across the quote. Sometimes the only person thinking positively about a crisis is doing so because he has figured out why it’s not his own fault, self justification and pointing fingers do make you felt a bit better about yourself.
However, there are many reasons to think positively in times of crisis. For one thing, within every problem surely we can find the seeds of opportunity or a chance for growth. They might seem small, especially when compared with the enormity of the crisis. But opportunity exists nonetheless.
As quoted in the Holy Quran,
فَإِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْراً – إِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْراً
(5. Verily, along with every hardship is relief,) (6. Verily, along with every hardship is relief.) – Surah Inshirah verse 5&6. (
Furthermore I believe great leaders can handle any crisis with confidence and grace, because we look up to our leaders in time of crisis for guidance and steer. We might not feel like smiling, but we move forward with the knowledge that a solution is available and attainable. The key to managing crises with confidence is to be thoroughly prepared in order to make informed decisions.
If you are a leader, you know a crisis is never far away. Use the following tips to face an upcoming crisis with the maximum amount of confidence.
1. Prepare for every possibility.
Legendary University of California-Los Angeles basketball coach John Wooden said his favorite part of being a coach was the practices. When practice is perfected, the late coach said, the game becomes automatic. Conversely, when it’s game time and you slacked off in practice, it’s too late to prepare. If you wait to prepare until you’re confronted with a crisis, you’re too late.
If you wait to prepare until you’re confronted with a crisis, you’re too late.
Prepare by listing a variety of possible scenarios and determine your response to each one. Also spend time learning from experts in your industry. Ask them questions about their past crises. Chances are they have encountered the same challenges you are likely to face and can offer sound advice and strategies. One of the way that i recommend is perspective taking. Think about what others or whom you admire or respect would do if the were facing the same problem. In the case of Napoleon Hill, he used to have an imaginary board meeting with his imaginary board member about the problem his faced in his life. Well, that works wonders for him.
No one can prepare for every contingency, but you can prepare for the known possibilities. Think ahead, be prepared and practice your plan whenever possible. Then, when the crisis comes, your response will be automatic. The more familiar the scenario, the more confident your reaction will be.
2. Define reality.
Iconic management expert Peter Drucker once wrote, “A time of turbulence is a dangerous time, but its greatest danger is a temptation to deny reality.” Instead of denying reality during a crisis, an effective leader defines it. This means seeing the situation realistically.
When a crisis arrives, spend some time alone describing the problem. What is it? What caused it? How can you address it? Ask your team for their assessment. Break it down into measurable parts by separating the solvable from the unsolvable, by focusing on that you can control rather than trying to bite that which you cannot swallow. This is very important. You have to acknowledge what’s in your control to fix and focus on that. Finally, establish a game plan for solving the solvable and commit to it. A defined, measurable plan allows you to proceed with confidence.
3. Communicate often.
This goes back to defining reality. You need to do this for those you lead as much as for yourself. In the face of a crisis, it’s tempting to put your head down and focus only on the problem. But that behavior won’t inspire confidence in others. Be open and describe the problem to your team. Getting things out in the open will clear the air and let them know you are with them. Communicate the game plan for solving it. As you continue to deal with the crisis, repeat this communication process.
4. Learn to grow.
“The moment you stop learning, you stop leading.” You’ve probably heard the saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Stop the vicious circle. Instead try to learn why your method didn’t work so you can do something different next time, like the saying of the Great Inventor, Thomas Edison after the discovery of the incandescent light bulb, “I had to succeed because i have run out of things that would not work”. Intentionally reflect on the experience because experience alone is not the best teacher, evaluated experience is. Dig deeply into the tough times for all they can teach you. Also, bear in mind, even though evaluated experience is the best teacher, lesson learnt from evaluated experience of others just as good.
The difference between average people and achievers is their perception of and response to failure. The same could be said of crises. Once the crisis has passed, reflect on your leadership during that time. What did you learn, and where can you improve in leadership, communication, problem-solving and team-building? Debrief your team to discover where they think you can improve and what they learned from the experience and document it properly so that others can also learnt a thing or two from your experience.
Crises are stressful and stretch us in ways we don’t enjoy. But the reality is that difficult times and tough decisions come with the territory in leadership. But if you prepare beforehand and effectively problem-solve during, you’ll have the necessary tools to get through any crisis with confidence.
Besides, the only way to grow is to ‘stretch‘!